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Incident Response Plan Template

There are good reasons why an incident response plan is important in project management. No matter how many precautions you take, it is impossible to foresee all potential workplace incidents. A single moment of carelessness on the part of an employee or a member of the general public visiting your premises can easily escalate into a life-threatening incident.

That is why we recommend developing and implementing a set of protocols to help you contain the crisis with minimal damages. A timeline can be an excellent tool for this purpose because it utilizes a linear time progression and clearly showcases all the steps that need to be taken, thus eliminating any confusion from the get-go.

What is an incident response plan?

Simply put, the incident response plan represents the protocol (set of instructions) designed to help your staff detect and deal with the incident, as well as recover the affected systems and restore the normal workflow within the organization. The incident response management team will typically institute distinct guidelines for the:

  • Cyber incident response plan
  • Security incident response plan
  • Ransomware response plan
  • Data breach incident response plan
  • Cyber attack response plan

How to create an incident response plan that really helps

Considering that incidents tend to unfold in a series of subsequent phases, we believe that the best framework to use is the timeline format. On a side note, you can even create an incident response timeline template that can be adapted to particular types of events. An incident response timeline can be broken down into six distinct phases, each with specific requirements, and they are as follows:

1. Preparation

This is perhaps the most crucial step for any coherent incident response plan example out because it sets the stage for your team to address the issue effectively. In short, it means ensuring that the staff receives regular and up to date training on their role in dealing with the incident, that your execs have approved and funded the response protocol and that the current procedure is tailored to your company’s system. Conducting mock incident drills is a great way to keep everyone up to speed with their responsibilities, as well as to determine where flaws in the plan exist.

2. Identification

Identification is about determining the point of origin for your incident, the scope of the compromised systems and its impact on operations. As there may be multiple areas affected, be sure your incident response plan includes a sweep to locate every single one.

3. Containment

During the containment phase of the incident response timeline, your team’s priority should be to find short and long term means to deal with the disruption, activate redundant backup systems to restore and keep operations running and disconnect the compromised parts of the system to prevent further contamination. For a cyber security incident response plan, this stage also mandates a company wide update of passwords and credentials.

4. Threat eradication

Once the backup systems are up and running and the issue has been contained, the next step involves tracking down the root cause of the incident. This can entail updating security protocols, patching the vulnerable entry points into the network, and even enlisting the help of 3rd party services to perform an independent audit of the systems. Any undetected threat can still represent a liability.

5. Recovery

At this point on the incident response plan timeline, the focus should fall on restoring your systems using trusted backups. It’s also vital to keep monitoring the integrity of the data and patch the parts of the system that have failed to ensure they’re ready to use when the next incident comes around.

6. What have we learned?

For a company, incidents are unfortunately an inevitable part of life. Think of them as free lessons in operational security. As of such, it would be unproductive to play the blame game with your staff. A much better approach consists of analyzing the incident response plan to find out which of the tactics yielded positive results and where the protocol fell short. Come up with a new incident response steps that eliminate the ineffective strategies and address the newly discovered vulnerabilities to ensure that the same type of event can no longer happen.

How to use this incident response timeline template

The incident response timeline template was created using Office Timeline, the perfect PowerPoint companion for anyone involved in planning or project management. Quickly create amazing and intuitive timelines, Gantt charts or swimlane diagrams that will impress your audience and ensure your message gets through every time. Check out the free version or take advantage of all its features by downloading the Pro+ Edition. In conclusion, the best preparation for tomorrow is start planning today.

Frequently asked questions about incident response plans

Let’s have a quick look at some common questions and answers about incident response plans.

What is an emergency preparedness plan?

A workplace emergency is an umbrella term covering a broad array of situations where the staff, customers, general public and/or normal business operations are at risk due to unforeseen man-made or natural disasters. If you’re looking to develop an emergency preparedness plan, a good place to start out is the OSHA website.

Once you are familiar with these standards and have conducted a hazard assessment, you can start working on the step-by-step implementation protocols. This can entail staff training sessions, role assignments in the event of an emergency, etc. You should try to list all the crucial activities on a timeline, which will make it easier for upper management to visualize and approve.

What does an emergency response plan establish?

The objective of an emergency plan is to minimize or negate the impact of a workplace incident. Or, more specifically, to:

  • Prevent injuries and fatalities;

  • Reduce damages to the infrastructure and equipment;

  • Safeguard the environment and structures in the vicinity;

  • Speed up the recovery and resume normal operations ASAP.

To do so, it’s important to conduct a vulnerability assessment and determine the likelihood of certain types of incidents. Also, take into consideration the availability of means to stop them from escalating and the steps to take in each scenario.

Which General Staff member prepares Incident Action Plans, manages information, and maintains situational awareness for the incident?

Creating and implementing Incident Action Plans are tasks that fall to the Operations Section Chief. This role is uniquely positioned to organize training sessions for the staff, assign roles in various scenarios, allocate resources, supervise the internal response teams, and liaise with external services.

What is the ICS?

The Incident Command System (ICS) represents a standardized set of protocols for the control and coordination of emergency responders. The ICS also details the temporary management hierarchy during a crisis, making it flexible enough to meet challenges such as:

  • Jurisdictional restrictions and conflicting levels of authority;

  • Melding interdepartmental personnel into a quick response unit;

  • Eliminating duplication of effort to increase the effectiveness of the response;

  • Providing logistic and administrative assistance to the responders.

What is the ICS form 201?

The Incident Command System (ICS) utilizes a range of standard forms that provide guidance for achieving objectives and ensuring the optimal flow of communication during an incident. With respect to the ICS 201 form, this document contains:

  • Basic description of the incident;

  • Resources allocated towards resolving the situation;

  • Steps taken to negate the impact of the crisis.

In short, it is a briefing document for the Incident Commander and the Operations Sections chief, along with the general staff involved in handling the incident.

What are the primary functions and which position is always staffed in ICS?

Within the Incident Command System (ICS) framework, you can always find five critical management functions:

  • Incident command: decides the incident management goals and sets their priorities, has ownership over the handling of the event;

  • Operations management: oversees tactical operations based on the plan, assigns tasks and manages resources;

  • Planning: collects and evaluates information about the incident and resource status, and documents the Incident Action Plan;

  • Logistics: handles support and services required to meet the incident goals;

  • Finance and administration: monitors costs, provides accounting and deals with procurement.

Out of the aforementioned functions, the Incident Commander position is the only one that’s always staffed in ICS applications.

What is an emergency response plan?

Emergency response plans are documents that detail a series of steps to take in a crisis situation, which can be anything from an active shooter threat to hazardous chemical spills or a fire. These plans are tailored to individual scenarios and have the role of eliminating the guesswork on who is assigned a role in the management of the crisis. Since time is of the essence, having an emergency response plan can definitely minimize or completely prevent injuries and property damage.

What is a description of a good emergency action plan?

Simple emergency action plans are good enough for offices or small brick and mortar storefronts, where evacuation is rarely a problem and you aren’t dealing with hazardous materials or processes: the alarm rings, and the employees and visitors exit the premises in an orderly fashion. On the other hand, organizations with large office buildings or that deal with potentially toxic/flammable chemicals will require detailed, scenario-specific emergency action plans.

Here are 5 steps to follow to make sure you develop a set of foolproof security protocols:

  1. Perform a risk assessment to determine the most probable threats and review any pre-existing policies to deal with said threats;

  2. Determine the resources available in an emergency and liaise with public emergency services (police, fire department, etc.) to learn their response time to your facility and their ability to deal with an emergency on your company’s premises;

  3. Check if there are regulations specific to your type of operations, and ensure your plan adheres to them. Ensure there are life safety protocols in place (shelter, secure rooms, lockdown, evacuation pathways);

  4. Create hazard specific procedures for threats identified during the risk assessment and create coordinated emergency plans with public services;

  5. Ensure your company’s personnel receives the proper training for responding to the emergency. Conduct regular drills and exercises to practice handing various types of incidents.

What is a cyber security incident response plan?

Cyber crimes are on the rise, according to a report from Cisco, that anticipates a 75% increase in the number of cyber attacks in the 2021 to 2025 interval. Another report by the UK government states that 39% of the organizations in the country suffered a data breach in 2022. Therefore, creating a cyber security incident response plan – a document that outlines the protocols your organization needs to follow in the wake of such an event – is a must.

Typical cyber security incident plans follow these 6 phases:

  1. Preparation: creating the plan and training the employees in role specific information security;

  2. Identification: discovering the intrusion, labeling it as a security incident, and evaluating the scope of the breach, the source, and the impact on operations;

  3. Containment: mitigating the damage and blocking the access of the intruder (this may imply taking the systems offline);

  4. Eradication: removing the vulnerabilities that have made the intrusion possible in the first place;

  5. Recovery: testing the data infrastructure and getting systems back online;

  6. Learn from the incident: reviewing the incident, evaluating the steps taken to mitigate it and finding out how the security protocols can be improved for future scenarios.

What is the difference between a threat, a vulnerability, and a risk?

The concepts threat, vulnerability, and risk, which are part of the cyber security jargon, tend to get mixed up sometimes, leading to confusion. Understanding the differences between them will help you communicate easier with the IT department (or external contractors handling your company’s information infrastructure) and give you a better grasp of cyber security technologies.

Here are the major differences between risks, threats, and vulnerabilities:

  • Risk: the potential for data loss, system damage or even complete destruction that could result in the event of a cyber-attack; the risk profile of an organization varies in accordance with internal or external factors, and while it can never be fully eliminated, you can take actions to reduce it to an acceptable level;

  • Threat: any factor that increases the chances of a cyber security crisis, from malware and ransomware to hackers and DDOS attacks;

  • Vulnerability: any weakness in your data infrastructure that could allow a threat to penetrate security and expose your systems and assets to an attack.

You can frame this explanation as a formula: risk = vulnerability + threat.

Conclusions about the incident response plan template

External threats and accidental hazards are an unfortunate and unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared. With a clear and fully actionable plan, you can be sure that everyone knows their role and responsibilities in a crisis. Using visuals such as timelines and Gantt charts rather than asking your personnel to memorize stuffy safety manuals guarantees that you won’t be caught on the wrong foot.

The incident response timeline template was created using Office Timeline, the perfect PowerPoint companion for anyone involved in planning or project management. Quickly create amazing and intuitive timelines, Gantt charts or swimlane diagrams that will impress your audience and ensure your message gets through every time. Check out the free 14-day-trial or take advantage of all its features longer by purchasing the Pro+ Edition.

In conclusion, the best preparation for tomorrow is to start planning today.

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