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Helping EAP Clients Prepare for the Worst

October 16, 2007
by Tonya Slawinski, PhD
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This article appeared in the October 3, 2007, edition of Behavioral Healthcare




We have been through terrorist attacks, hurricanes, shootings, and even a bridge collapse, and yet many organizations using EAP services are still reticent to develop even the simplest of crisis or incident management plans. Large companies or regulated industries may comply with the development of plans, but many smaller to mid-size clients seem to lag behind—perhaps out of fear of the cost or that it’s too time consuming. Maybe in our efforts to encourage the development of plans we have missed the point. A good plan has to be meaningful; it has to be memorable; and most of all it has to be doable. Perhaps we need to be better incident management coaches. Rather than wait for clients to develop a plan, we can prompt them to start with a few easy steps.

Begin by providing a small notebook or folder with “INCIDENT MANAGEMENT PLAN” emblazoned in red on the front. The folder should contain a “cut sheet” providing an overview or outline of steps for plan development and resources that the EAP offers to companies engaged in this process. Resources could include, but are not limited to:

* Weekly e-mails with tips or suggestions to include in the folder under headings such as crisis communication, teamwork, practical assistance, resources, and support.

* Regularly scheduled online chat room sessions where they can ask questions as they build their crisis management plan.

* Expert 1:1 discussions via teleconference or online chat rooms for companies that need specific advice.

Consider offering incentives to clients that have actively worked on their plan. A good crisis management plan saves the EAP time and money. When working with a company that “gets it,” valuable resources are utilized more appropriately. A small bonus in the form of financial savings or “limited free services” might stimulate clients into action. Crisis management planning requires thinking outside of the box. All companies can benefit by having a plan in place, and EAPs are in a unique position to introduce a user-friendly approach to crisis management. EAPs can make it meaningful, memorable, and doable by creatively approaching this complex topic. The benefit to the EAP is having a competitive edge when courting new clients and renewing old contracts, along with providing clients with best practices in crisis management.

Tonya Slawinski, PhD, is President of Supportive Solutions, Inc., a crisis-response consulting firm. She can be reached at