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Covid-19 and untapped emergency expertise: A call to arms 

Right now, there is a huge vital resource at the UK’s disposal – a pool of trained and available independent emergency, crisis and organisational management consultants who are ready and waiting to assist, writes CRJ Advisory Panel Member Rob McAlister

Yesterday the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the fight against Covid-19 will take everyone in the UK to play their part. This is a laudable message and one that should be listened to, especially by the Government itself.

The Government has said that up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic in the UK, according to its latest plans. Matt Hancock commented that we should: "Plan for the worst and work for the best."

Currently there are potential plans for the National Health Service to recall retired doctors, nurses, and industry is being asked to diversify its efforts and production lines towards making ventilators. Hotels are being identified and made ready to turn floors into makeshift medical triage centres, as are other hospitality venues.

Every superstore is being impacted by panic buying, which is overwhelming supply chains and stocks. Thousands of staff from airlines and other areas of the tourism and leisure industry are being laid off and the cruise industry is having the same issues.

So, what type of additional resources and expertise might be needed right now to assist, support and guide these industries and sectors that are struggling?

Perhaps people who have previous crisis experience, or people who are trained in emergency planning or business continuity can be of assistance. Crisis communications or disaster preparedness may be equally essential skills and knowledge that would benefit businesses that are struggling to cope with the crisis.

In the UK we have a wealth of this type of expertise and a great deal of this talent, which throughout the year, usually plies its trade – training or advising overseas governments, organisations or businesses in the art of crisis management, emergency planning an response as external consultants.

In fact, it’s fair to say many foreign governments and organisations are now far more capable, prepared and resourced than the UK, because of this external expertise strategy and professional resource over many years. Think about the years of experience being utilised to accelerate planning and preparedness time and effort, often eliminating all those mistakes made and money lost from valuable lessons learned. 

So as the UK faces this current threat, most of these resources that are based in the UK cannot travel or have planned work stalled owing to the pandemic’s effects on business travel or global organisations locking down. So right now, there is a huge vital resource at the UK’s disposal – a pool of trained and available talent that is ready and waiting to assist.

Have these consultants and experts been considered or mobilised?

The vast majority of these consultants have more than 30 years of experience, many of which have been spent in the services that will be overwhelmed as this crisis ramps up over the coming weeks and months. Many of them have previous public health experience and expertise, along with a corporate memory of large-scale crises and useful insights and abilities just waiting to be released.     

When the current tier one personnel have been burnt out, impacted by the virus themselves or having to stay at home looking after loved ones or children off school, where will the new trained and experienced human capital come from?

Part of the solution could be the hundreds of independent crisis, emergency and organisational resilience consultants that are currently going untapped right here in the UK today.

In Ireland, the government is providing businesses with ‘consultancy grants’ to allow struggling organisations to bring in specialists to bolster and stabilise management teams and put in processes, procedures and capability to mitigate the impact and effects from the pandemic. This will help to protect the economy in a very cost effective way.   

The UK Government, industry, and businesses should now be thinking differently and actively reaching out to these consultants to create resilience and draw on their knowledge, skills and experience. This does not need to be complicated; there are many industry associations who could act as single points of contact. Sadly, for whatever reason, some of these have not been as vocal to date as they should be.    

It’s time for a call to arms for those experienced and talented resources out there, experts who can hit the ground running and deliver quickly while there is still time to prepare, and to ensure front line resilience as the UK moves into further phases of this crisis.

Crisis Response Journal is happy to act as an intermediary and focal point for advice. If you are an emergency consultant and wish to help, or a company that needs advice, we can put you in touch. Contact us here

Robert McAlister 

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