Crisis Communications Checklist

“There can’t be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”
- Henry Kissinger

It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” a crisis is going to occur. Healthcare organizations are always involved when a crisis of any magnitude occurs. By definition, when people are hurt or are sick or are impacted in anyway that is harmful, healthcare is at the forefront. Knowing your audience, internal and external makes huge difference in the outcome.

The below is a modified diagram on a crisis communications checklist from Parris Communications. Most is considered standard protocol that any company can adapt and utilize it for their uses. Part of what determines success in a crisis is the level of preparedness in anticipation of different crisis scenarios. When the wave hits, speed and accuracy of information in response is paramount.

Incident Command Action Steps

  • Receive initial briefing from Incident Command.
  • Activate a hotline and implement the “Emergency Management Plan”
  • Notify the switchboard to transfer all disaster related calls to the hotline
  • Determine the need for a media center
  • If phone lines are needed, call IT
  • Obtain power supplies from your facility operations department if needed.

Internal Communications Action Items

  • Notify Marketing team and Communications groups of the situation for development and/or execution of communication strategies.
  • Push immediate messaging to associates through internal electronic messaging and coordinate with the hotline.
  • Work with Incident Command to decide on what information to release and discuss with the community and families. Remember, it’s important to give only the facts. Do not speculate on anything and repeat your key messages.
  • Identify a spokesperson who can handle calls from the public and communicate with stakeholders.
  • Identify a person who can answer questions from healthcare professionals, if appropriate.

Internal Messaging

  • Develop internal messages for the incident.
  • Request appropriate literature for dissemination to health care personnel, patients and contacts. Check for existing FAQs and other materials from relevant organizations.
  • Communicate internal and external messaging to the hotline.
  • Draft messaging from leadership; deliver via email or internal newsletters “Special Alert” edition.
  • Information on each floor with each unit.
  • Require video/seminar on the issue.
  • Keep appropriate hospital audiences updated (boards, donors, physicians, the state regulatory bodies and neighboring hospitals if appropriate).
  • Work with internal department heads and clinicians to prepare and vet internal communications.

Public and Media

  • Post signage in the hospital reflecting the key messages.
  • Every communications piece should be tagged with the hotline and crisis response website information.
  • Understand outside public notification triggers — i.e. the national weather service or governmental health agencies.
  • Coordinate release of information so hospital maintains control of the message.
  • Preparation of Key Messages:
  • Regret
  • Responsibility
  • Reform
  • Restitution
  • Prepare and disseminate media statement:
  • Key spokesperson
  • Fact sheet
  • Hold press conferences as appropriate
  • Determine media center location
  • As appropriate, send morning and evening media clips

Social Media

  • Develop an appropriate and sensitive hashtag for the public and media to easily track information
  • Facebook post with hotline and website updates
  • Condense the information for Twitter posts in re-tweetable format.
  • Possible video messages on your YouTube Channel
  • Daily updates through social media channels


  • Activate your crisis website with a standby message. This should be your “dark” website that is prepared in advance of a crisis. You might have more than one — data breach, natural disaster, water main break.
  • A message from the CEO
  • Post message on the homepage during the height of the crisis
  • Fact sheet posted with key facts and FAQs

Originally published at HEINTZSIGHT.