One mistake many companies make with regards to crisis management is the failure of adequately implementing existing risk management protocols and processes. Many crisis are in fact preventable or foreseeable and could be avoided had adequate risk management procedures been implemented and followed. An example of a major crisis that could have been avoided is the Sewol Ferry disaster that happened in Korea one year ago.
On April 16, 2014 the Sewol Ferry left Incheon heading to Cheju Island. Most of the 476 passengers were high school students going on a school trip. At 8:52 am , a high school student on board the Sewol issued a distress call. At 8:58 am the Sewol Ferry finally issued a distress call ( though not though the normal distress channel) on its own. From 9:00 am to 9:30 am the Crew issued announcements to the passengers to stay put. The Captain was informed by the Coast Guard that he needed to make a quick decision whether to evacuate the vessel or not which he failed to do. At 9:32 am the first Coast Guard vessel arrives at the scene. By 10:39, the Sewol Ferry sinks leaving more than 300 people trapped inside the vessel.
As details surrounding the sinking of the vessel and the incompetent rescue mission became known, it became clear that there was a complete disregard for risk management processes. Among the risk management mistakes were:
Besides the crew violating a number of laws as well as maritime policies of helping passengers to safety, the crew admitted a lack of training. Somehow, however, the crew and vessel had passed inspection despite a complete breakdown in regulations, policies, and procedures, that had they been followed would have avoided the catastrophe.
It is obvious, that the Sewol Ferry is a typical example of a risk management failure as well as a failure in crisis management. It also signifies another potential problem that some companies face- a false sense of security though processes and standard protocols are not being followed or are followed on a haphazard or ad hoc basis.
The Sewol incident highlights a major fact- many major crisis can be prevented or resolved if the proper risk management processes and procedures are properly implemented and adhered to. For businesses following risk management procedures or regulations on a haphazard basis a major crisis is only a matter of time. To proactively manage a crisis, risk management processes must take center stage.