How an Organization Can Survive a Disaster

3 things the Thai cave rescue teaches us about a crisis

Like many around the world, our team woke up this morning to celebrate the news that the brave Thai Navy SEAL members, who led an elite team of international divers, delivered the final member of the Wild Boars boys’ soccer team safely to land.

Since going missing on June 23, every eye has been focused on efforts to find and free the 12 trapped soccer players and their coach.
 

As we have followed this evolving story, we couldn’t help but be reminded of three things all organizations experiencing crisis can learn from the Thai cave rescue:
 

1) Time is of the Essence

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The Thai soccer team was trapped in the cave for 17 days. From the beginning, the situation was escalated because of the pending monsoon season in Thailand. On several occasions, rescuers had to suspend efforts due to rising water and flooding in the cave.
 

The first divers were not able to reach the boys until July 2, nine days after they first entered the cave, and it wasn’t until July 8 that the expert team entered the cave and began the rescue mission, which took a full three days – much faster than experts originally thought possible.
 

The clock was ticking on getting the boys and their coach to safety. The same is true of any crisis. Time is not your friend.
 

Organizations in crisis must show they have control and are taking steps to swiftly correct and refocus, resulting in a restoration of trust from the watching world.

 

2) Bring in the Best

While some people criticize organizations that hire a crisis communications team to help them navigate the waters of a difficult situation, the Thai cave rescue is a perfect example of how trained professionals are critical.
 

Thai Royal Navy SEAL divers, the best of the best, led the efforts for the rescue, but they were not alone. When experts warned of everything that could go wrong, especially given the boys inability to swim, their weakened physical state and the treacherous conditions, people from all over came together to support the rescue mission.
 

Approximately 1,000 army & navy troops along with local volunteers joined the initial search for the Wild Boars and rescue specialists from at least six countries, including the U.S., the U.K., and China, flew in to help.

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Billionaire Inventor Elon Musk even tasked his team of expert engineers with building a “kid-sized submarine” to help move the soccer players through the cave’s narrow passageways.
 

When a crisis hits, wise organizations enlist the help of others who can provide a third-party perspective and unique value-added expertise beyond the capabilities of their own team.

 

3) Don’t Get Discouraged by Setbacks

One of the most disheartening elements of the Thai cave rescue happened on July 6 when Saman Kunan, a former sergeant in the Thai Navy SEALs who was volunteering on the dive team ran out of air underwater while delivering oxygen to the stranded team, and died.
 

At that moment, it would have been understandable to lose hope and back away from the risk, believing the boys, their coach and other divers wouldn’t survive the journey considering a trained expert had perished.
 

Thankfully, lessons were learned from the tragedy and instead of letting fear overtake them, rescuers rallied to find solutions to the problem and continue their efforts. Four days later, the last young boy on the Wild Boars team was pulled out of the cave.

In a crisis, unexpected developments will inevitably happen, requiring courage and perseverance through any escalation.
 

Organizations that develop and implement strategic contingency scenarios and plans in advance and learn from their mistakes will survive a crisis.