Generic vs. Incident Specific Contingency Plans: Which is Best for Your Business?

The question of whether businesses should create generic or incident specific response plans often comes down to levels of disposable funding and resources in place. More often than not, the value of a contingency plan is dependent on its quality, not its scale.

Before devising a plan, there are five key aspects of your business you should review before starting:

1. Employee Competence 

Are your employees qualified to carry out the prospective tasks included in your emergency plan?

2. Training

What additional training will be needed to bring employees up to speed on emergency practices, and is there time and budget to implement it?

3. Financial Stretch

What financial resources are available, and do they cover the scope of your emergency strategies? 

4. IT Structure

Will your emergency procedures be readily available at all times, across all locations?

5. Planning Revisions

Will you be able to revise plans on a regular basis? Your plans will need to be revisited often to ensure their durability through an ever-changing landscape. 

By reviewing these aspects of your business, you will understand whether your processes are more appropriate for generic emergency planning, or incident specific.

Deciding the Best Fit for Your Business

When it comes to emergency planning, a strategy formed with quality in mind will be more dependable than numerous simplified plans. Businesses shouldn't aim for quantity just for the sake of it, but should instead focus on providing as much concise detail per plan as possible.

Generic planning covers a broad range of potential emergencies in your business, while incident specific planning assigns procedures to various separate scenarios. 

Generic planning is slightly broader, and less applicable to all scenarios, but incident specific planning often requires more time. If you're still struggling to decide which is best for your organisation, here are some helpful deciding factors:

Generic Planning

  • Quality Over Quantity 
    When businesses are short on time, creating a contingency plan can fall to the bottom of their list of tasks to complete. This leads to the creation of rushed or simplified plans that do not have enough detail and are harder to follow in an emergency. 

    For example, if you rush the development of individual contingency plans for separate incidents, they might lack important details and your employees may find it difficult to follow them or react properly in a crisis. Even though you might have more plans to follow, the quality of these plans will be lacking. 

    Instead, it's better to focus your efforts on creating one, single generic plan that is more detailed  even if it doesn't go as far into individual scenarios as incident-specific planning. Detailed emergency plans are safer for employees to follow, and encompass more information. In a critical situation, this ensures that your processes continue as normal. 

  • Less Training
    A generic emergency plan will require less training across your business. If you don’t have the time to train people across multiple scenarios, this form of planning is best.

  • Aide-Memoire
    Generic planning can act as an effective aide-memoire – a key set of practices that your employees remember, and will influence their decision-making across scenarios. This can be ideal if you don't have the time or resources to invest in incident-specific planning. 

Incident-Specific Planning

  • Level of Detail
    Incident-specific planning can allow you to develop numerous comprehensive plans, that provide more subject-knowledge and give crucial follow-through procedures specific to the incident. 

  • Complexity
    If your business is likely to deal with complex emergencies, then incident-specific planning is a better choice. 'Complex emergencies' are incidents that require expert knowledge to deal with. Incident-specific planning can allow you to be more prepared, and help employees respond appropriately to complex situations.

  • Efficient Emergency Management
    If your company is already using an emergency management system, you will probably be reaping the benefits of organised and streamlined emergency planning. With the extra time and management, you can invest more of your resources in preparing for incident-specific scenarios.

  • Emergency Mitigation
    Incident-specific plans can be more effective at mitigating emergencies, or even identifying them before they happen. If you’ve taken the time to educate your employees and go into depth about potential emergencies, they'll be more equipped to deal with them. Therefore, incident-specific is often the most ideal.

Emergency Planning Best Practices

After you’ve assessed what form of planning is best for your organisation, it’s important to adopt best practices to get you off the ground. Here are two factors fundamental for contingency plan creation:

Risk Analysis

Risk analysis will form the basis of your emergency preparedness plan and your strategies should only address main threats specific to your business. You can’t plan for every eventuality, and it wouldn’t be sensible to exhaust all your resources on doing so.

For example, an airline should conduct emergency planning for an aircraft accident, ash cloud, or strike – whereas an oil company should not. More specifically, it wouldn’t make sense for an oil company to plan for these events, as they are low-likelihood and low-impact events for their industry.

Your risks may seem obvious, but it’s important to form a risk profile of your business in order to not miss anything important. Include key stakeholders from each department of your company in your risk analysis discussions and clarify processes and procedures if you’re not sure.

Identify Responder Action

Responder action is an important aspect of an emergency plan. Your plans should be role specific – and it’s paramount they still address what your responders should do as individuals.

To assess who should act in the event of an emergency, it’s best practice to conduct interviews within each of the key functions in your organisation. From there, you can identify their vital tasks, and plan priorities for an incident.

For businesses with the right resources, incident-specific is the form of planning to strive for. Generic planning is effective but only offers a broader strategy. By utilising smart crisis management software, your business can minimise time spent on organising emergency plans, and instead focus on creating in-depth, incident-specific strategies. 

 New Call-to-action

By Andrew Carvell

Andy is the Managing Director of One Voice’s international business, based in London and has worked with incident and crisis management solutions since 2010. He has a particular focus on the aviation and energy sectors and works closely with One Voice’s partner Control Risks to broaden the service offering of both parties. Andy has a degree in law from the University of Nottingham and outside of work, enjoys rugby, golf and outdoor pursuits.

More blog posts from this author

Subscribe to the blog