The COVID-19 pandemic has required organizations to form new routines.


Many crisis management team members are working remotely and have now become used to the comfort of their home office, the convenience of Zoom meetings and all sorts of other new procedures driven by defensive measures taken against the pandemic.

Our new routines certainly have benefits. However, once we become settled into our new Covid-caused routines, we’re in danger of letting our guard down.  Familiarity with our new routines can breed complacency, a dangerous mistake because we are still in very troubled, dangerous times.

Take cyberattacks, for example. When the virus first hit, hackers were quick to take advantage of the decrease in cyber security measures that were an inevitable result of widespread remote working. Covid-themed data breaches, fraud, teleconference hijacking surged, swelling to nearly a million attacks a day during the first week of March.

Luckily, many companies were able to move quickly to revamp their cybersecurity measures and bring down the number of attacks that were leveraging the Covid-19 crisis. However, they may have become complacent in their new Covid-themed routines, since other kinds of cyberattacks, unrelated to Covid, remain alarmingly high. Microsoft, for example, reports observing around 12 million cyberattacks every day, an increase of around 20 percent from February to June.

Which leads to an important question for crisis professionals: Are there other threats you are not considering because you’ve grown complacent in your new routines?

The answer lies in identifying those currently unconsidered risks through horizon scanning. Horizon scanning is a systematic examination, in close cooperation with all areas of the organization, of potential threats, opportunities and future developments. Once these new risks are identified, analyzed and prioritized they should be planned for in detail and made subjects for crisis exercises.

As Sun Tzu presciently wrote some 2500 years ago, “A victorious leader plans for many eventualities before the battle; a defeated leader plans for only a few. Many options bring victory, few options bring defeat, no options at all spell disaster.”

This quote reminded me of my time in the military. As a young infantryman, we were taught to look at a target from many different perspectives – horizon scanning. This enabled us to have as many opportunities to be successful as possible.

The same lesson applies to your organization. Covid familiarity can breed complacency, preventing us from seeing the bigger picture. A program of relentless horizon scanning followed by exercising on newly identified risks is the solution.

Rob Burton

Rob Burton

Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.