A positive crisis impact
From a crisis management perspective, COVID-19 has in many ways had a positive impact, as governments, companies’ & people´s understanding of the importance of crisis prevention and preparedness has increased. As a whole, we are now better prepared and equipped to prevent, prepare for and manage future crises.
Now, there is a general understanding of crisis and crisis management and a new awareness and interest that I hope that we take advantage of and take the lessons learned from and prepare ourselves – families, societies & businesses– and prevent & prepare for the next crisis – in whatever shape, size or form it comes.
Prevention is always the best – and cheapest – option. That is the premise. As business leaders, it is our duty of care to emerge in a better – and safer – place post-crisis and allocate budget to crisis management before the next crisis hits.
We can emerge from this crisis, preventing future crisis
As a security specialist, my duty is to voice the inconvenient truth. That is the nature of the security, intelligence and surveillance world and my role. I did my duty in the Danish media in early February 2020, warning against a virus and later a pandemic hitting Denmark. When we don´t prevent a crisis, it hits harder. That is a reality whether we want to face it or not. A virus can turn into a pandemic, a risk into an emergency. I work with risks and they are constantly changing, while new are arising. In my industry, we do surveillance, intelligence and crisis management. We work with surveillance and prevention to avoid a pandemic, crisis and breakdown. We do this in order to contribute to a safer business environment and to save lives.
After a long career working with security, I felt it was my duty to democratise and share my knowledge and recommendations, not only with governments, companies and other clients, but with the general population. Last year, I published my first book that had been in the back of my mind for years – ‘Prepare yourself best for the worst’. It is he first Danish crisis guide and a modern, urban survival guide for you and your nearest and dearest to prepare for a crisis, emergency or disaster – a cyber or terror attack, national catastrophe or something as simple as a power failure.
The keys – as business leaders and citizens – are prevention, preparedness and awareness. The purpose of my book and work is that people gain a crucial awareness of potential threats and an understanding of what we can all do to prepare ourselves, and why and how we can take responsibility in order to better get through current and future crisis together.
This guide does not ask you to go into the wilderness or build a taller fence around your home or office, but rather to take matters into your own hand with simple steps in case the authorities are not able to assist you. It is essential that we as citizens and leaders are prepared for a crisis on all levels and all aspects.
I have now written an international version of my book, which is released this summer.
Mental health: strengthening our response
Mental health is increasingly mentioned when it comes to crisis management and leadership. It is of great importance, as stress and fear can cause irrational and damaging behaviour for yourself, and the people around you both personally and professionally, and filter into society. The COVID-19 crisis has shown how citizens and employees have reacted to different phases of this global crisis and how differently we have handled the recommendations and restrictions from authorities and leaders across borders and sectors.
In crisis management, public awareness, transparency and openness are key. When we as citizens have an understanding of threats, we react in a more constructive and responsible manner.
The same goes with crowd management at big events. It is easier to guide a crowd who is informed and understands the risks and consequences. This is a key area in PACTESUR, where I am on the expert Advisory Committee. The aim is to empower cities and local actors in the field of security of urban public spaces facing threats, such as terrorist attacks. PACTESUR federates local decision makers, security forces, urban security experts, urban planners, IT developers, trainers, front-line practitioners, designers and others in order to shape new European local policies to secure public spaces against threats.
Competitive parameter & risk radar
In my world, a risk is a risk. It has no gender, but it does have a colour – red, yellow or green. I meet very few female business owners like myself within the security sector globally, but we do see an increase in female analysts and ‘supporting roles’ within the industry. But the reality is that crisis doesn’t care about gender, plans or deadlines.
During a crisis, we reassess physical, strategic, and financial vulnerabilities and out of the box thinking is crucial.
We are seeing how crisis management has taken on new urgency in these recent unsettled times with terror and hacker attacks, natural disasters and pandemics. We might develop vaccines and have crisis plans, but no one is immune to this new reality of constantly changing threats. Step one is to accept that a crisis is inevitable. The other keys are preparation, implementation, mitigation, lessons learned evaluation & recovery.
There is a growing interest in having threat protection as part of a business development plan. Businesses are increasingly using this as a competitive parameter in running their business. We also see how companies are increasingly spending resources on risk assessment – I call it ‘The Risk Radar’ – in order to truly understand what risks, they are potentially facing, how they can prioritize and mitigate them.
In an age of pandemic, terror, cyber threats, fraud etc. a crisis is not a question of if, but of when. And the best time to prepare for the next crisis is now.
To me as a business leader and security specialist, it is not about withstanding a crisis or getting through it. It is about going beyond crisis preparedness. It is about thriving and rising.
About the Author
Susanne Skov Diemer has an extensive career dedicated to security, intelligence, crisis- and risk management, a security specialist and expert on advisory boards and consultant for global companies, CEO of Praesidio Group – a global intelligence and security company headquartered in Denmark, the author of a modern survival and security guide and a keynote speaker.
Having spent important parts of her career under the radar in England and the U.S., she is recipient of various U.S. Government awards for her work with the U.S. Department of State – Diplomatic Security and has received special training as a first responder within Weapons of mass destruction and pandemics by U.S. Department of State – Diplomatic Security.
She serves as a security and intelligence expert within the private, public and cooperative sector, organisations and communities. Among others, she is an expert on the Advisory Committee for the European Forum for Urban Security – the only European network of local and regional authorities dedicated to urban security, bringing together 250 cities and regions from 16 countries. She also services as advisor for a global philanthropic charitable organization focusing on global virus and pandemic.
As an event and crisis advisor, she, and her team, has participated in protection, security management & coordination for state visits, Denmark’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, NATO Head of State Summit, COP15, International Olympic Committee Meeting, among others.