Crisis Management Exercise – Also Known as “Just More of That FSI Crap”

That’s what apparently one ambassador called it within hearing distance of the staff. The ambassador is a career Foreign Service officer.

In the aftermath of the 1998 twin bombings of our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the State Department expanded its crisis management training program to allow most Foreign Service employees to participate in an exercise each tour.  If memory serves us right, the CME is part of the recommendations of the ARB Nairobi/Dar.  According to a recent OIG report on FSI, posts that have experienced civil unrest, terrorism, and natural disasters in recent years reported that the exercises were invaluable in preparing them for real crises.

Even a small post like the US Consulate in Ponta Delgada in the Azores did one last September:

The U.S. Consulate conducted a Crisis Management Exercise on September 4, 2012.  The training exercise, designed to practice crisis management procedures in the case of a major natural or man-made disaster type scenario, stressed the importance of emergency planning and preparedness.  Visiting U.S. Foreign Service Institute training facilitator Ruth Abramson covered emergency planning fundamentals, guidance regarding crises, and led participants through a series of fictional yet realistic disaster situations.  This year’s exercise included host government officials which greatly enhanced the scope of the training and accentuated the importance of communication in times of crisis.  Principal Officer Rafael A. Perez highlighted the need for all American Citizens living in the Azores to register with the U.S. Consulate in Ponta Delgada – especially dual citizens.

CME at the US Consulate Ponta Delgada (via USCon Azores)

CME at the US Consulate Ponta Delgada (via USConsulate Azores)

A chief of mission who considers the CME crap sends a signal to his/her staff that the exercise not only lacks merit but is also a waste of time.  And if the person at the top does not take it seriously, how can anyone expect the rest of the mission to take it seriously?

We thought we might update this Crisis-Prepared Vs. Crisis-Unready list extracted from the FAM.  We added the last two items on the list for um, clarity.

From the lessons learned over time and in numerous crises, from natural disasters to terrorist bombings we have developed a strong concept of what NOT to be or do. If you and your colleagues can assure yourselves that the following characteristics of a crisis-prone organization do not describe you or your consular section, you should be able to tackle whatever crisis you encounter .

If the following describes your post, then you need some serious help:

♥ Does not know where it is at risk

♥  Does not routinely communicate internally or externally

♥ Has not considered how to respond

♥ Has not identified key managers

♥ Has unclear policy guidance

♥ Has no emergency procedures/checklists

♥ Has an uncertain/unclear media policy and strategy

♥ Cannot anticipate

♥ Is concerned more with liability than results

♥ Chief of Mission refers to CME as “just more of that FSI crap”

♥ Chief of Mission has been heard on more than one occasion hoping for the Ambassador and DCM to “get killed in the first few minutes of the exercise” so they can leave early.

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