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Lessons learned: implementing a crisis management plan

Larna Jodamus, compliance manager, CCS Logistics gave a presentation at the GCCA Africa Risk & Insurance seminar in Johannesburg earlier this year. She is the GCCA Global Next Generation 2022 Award recipient. The following article is derived from her presentation, edited by Eamonn Ryan.

Larna Jodamus, compliance manager, CCS Logistics. Image supplied by ©Eamonn Ryan | Cold Link Africa
Larna Jodamus, compliance manager, CCS Logistics. Image supplied by ©Eamonn Ryan | Cold Link Africa

Lizelle van der Berg, director, GCCA Africa, opened the presentation by introducing Jodamus: “She has over 10 years’ experience in the industry and extensive knowledge of implementing programmes designed to enhance compliance culture. She is actively involved in the industry and currently serves as the chairperson of the GCCA Food Safety and Compliance committee. Some of her most recent contributions to strengthen the compliance culture within the CCS group includes implementation of a monthly initiative that set out to create a positive association with near-miss reporting; the gamification of SOP training; and emergency scenario testing by the crisis management teams.”

With my presentation today, I’ll be sharing some practical steps for implementing a crisis management plan. While most organisations have a documented plan in place, the question that we should be asking ourselves is ‘How comfortable are we that every single member of the crisis management committee is clear about the contents of the plan’. Would they know what is required of them in their assigned roles. An emergency plan is a complex document and not always an easy read, and we all know that reading and practice is not the same thing. So, to ensure that your well thought-out action steps are put into effect to save lives and reduce losses associated with any crisis situation, we need to ensure that people are well-versed with the document.

Lizelle van der Berg, director, GCCA Africa. Image supplied by ©Eamonn Ryan | Cold Link Africa
Lizelle van der Berg, director, GCCA Africa. Image supplied by ©Eamonn Ryan | Cold Link Africa

Why test the emergency plan?

  • To assess the readiness of a depot to respond to emergencies
  • It gives the opportunity to improve the procedures and controls
  • It helps identify gaps

Back in 2020, CCS launched a compliance initiative linked to emergency preparedness. We tested the response of the teams by providing emergency scenarios for testing. My objective was to ensure that the crisis management team and all other employees are familiar with emergency protocols. I knew we needed to find a way to engage the teams on the topic to really get them to work through the plan as opposed to just reading it. Therefore, we set out to create emergency scenarios that the depo teams were required to re-enact. There was quite a bit of preliminary groundwork that needed to take place first.

This initiative comprised four stages:

Stage 1: run the review and layout of the emergency plan

Stage 2: prepare the teams for testing and obtaining buy-in

Stage 3: the actual scenario testing, which was done at the depots

Stage 4: updating the emergency plan with the learning shared to close the loop


Before you start the testing exercise, you need to ensure that your emergency plan is well structured, and that it has been reviewed by a multidisciplinary team – and not just one technical person. A few of my insights are as follows:

  • Consideration must be given to the safety of the people, facility and product.
  • Using people’s job titles or names instead of their emergency appointment titles increases the onus of ownership on a person.
  • Include action steps to be taken post disruption. This usually includes action steps relating to recovery and salvage, internal reporting, product testing, plant start-up, etc.
  • An explanation of the process is not required.
  • The plan should give clear, direct instructions on actions required or what should be considered for action to be taken.
  • The index should list emergency procedures in alphabetical order, and it must include contact details for emergency services authorities as a crisis management team.


Stage two involves sharing the plan and objectives of the exercise of the management deals. This is where to obtain people’s buy-in. Schedule the briefing session with the depot management team to convey the purpose and the objectives of the exercise and ensure that the executive team is present in this meeting. The support of the senior management team was instrumental in the success of this initiative.


implementing a crisis management plan, Stage 3

Stage three was the actual testing that was done at depo level. The teams were required to re-enact or ‘walk the scenario’ as far as possible. When the trigger event refers to a specific location, the teams were required to meet at that specific point and discuss the scenario more effectively in the relevant surroundings. Each depot has a different environment, different set of circumstances and situations. The teams were required to meet at a specific location and complete a post-incident evaluation form which prompted them to identify gaps.

These gaps either related to the procedure, equipment or facilities. Thereafter, in their succeeding monthly emergency planning meetings each depot was required to present their findings with the full executive team in attendance, and with a Q&A session at the end of each presentation. The learnings shared between the teams were invaluable and often sparked some great conversations on improvement plans.


Stage four was the final step at closing the loop: following the testing stage, another document review was triggered as a result of the gaps identified. Action plans arising from the sessions were assigned to the various people and progress majors reported on them in the monthly management meetings. Some of these findings related to procedures and others related to training, facilities and equipment.

The same process should apply in the event of an actual crisis. The plan must be reviewed and updated with the learnings – learnings from real life experiences are crucial. Neglecting to update the plan can be costly and even fatal. The emergency plan is an important document that shouldn’t be gathering dust.