5 essential questions for the first 15 minutes of a crisis

At the onset of any crisis, organizations must determine the answers to these questions promptly.


It has been said that the first hour of a crisis is called the “Golden Hour.”

It is in this hour that key decisions are made and important actions are taken. What may be determined during this time is whether a company or organization’s crisis response will be effective or will fail.

So while you may know how important the first 60 minutes are, have you considered the first 15 minutes? Those “platinum minutes” are the time when the essential facts are gathered and the crisis team gains crucial information that will shape the next hours or days of the crisis response.

In a time of potential crisis, there are questions that should be promptly asked within those first minutes:

1. Focus on the most immediate and pressing issue. Is there any current danger to human beings? That clearly should be a subject that is immediately addressed. Was anyone hurt or injured? In the farming community, the same questions can be posed for animals involved in a farm crisis; or for a food company, whether there is damaged product in the market.

2. Get the facts. Know the time the crisis began, where it happened, and other pertinent topline details.

3. Determine who is involved and who needs to be. Are public safety or law enforcement officials on site? Do they need to be notified? Who from within your company or organization is engaged?

4. Identify the community impact. Does the crisis pose any threat to the community? What about neighbors or those residences or businesses that are nearby?

5. Know where the media stands. Is media already on-site? Have there already been stories online or broadcast? Are reporters calling your company or organization? Is the crisis conversation happening in social media channels?

As we always advise, the best defense in crisis communications is preparedness. So when a crisis hits, don’t panic. Keep your cool, gather the information, engage as necessary, and leverage those first few minutes to ensure you are ready to face the crisis that lies ahead in a way that enables you to manage through it and get back to business as quickly as possible.

Hinda Mitchell is vice president at CMA (@CMABuildsTrust), a national public relations agency based in Kansas City, Mo. A version of this story first appeared on the CMA blog.

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