In Case of Emergency, Try CAKE

When I entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, one of the first things we were taught was Battle Procedure.  Whilst there are a number of definitions for the aim of Battle Procedure, perhaps the most straight-forward is:

 “to ensure that the soldier is launched in to battle without waste of time and with minimum fuss, knowing exactly what they have to do, how they are going to do it, and what fire support they are going to be given.” 

In an emergency, the same broad requirement is true for responders; where time is critical, responders must know what needs to be done, by whom and with what support.  The British Army’s list of principles to aid the delivery of Battle Procedure follow the pneumonic CAKE and are readily transferable to a wide range of situations:


Doing things in sequence takes time and must be avoided wherever possible.  For example, when cooking, the chef doesn’t wait for one thing to be completed before starting the next, he or she will have multiple things happening at once that all come together to deliver a meal.  The same applies to an emergency response – get activity started ASAP so that the various elements can be brought together to deliver the best response.  Some examples during a response might include: 

  • Who might need to be assembled to form the response team – get them briefed and moving.

  • What information do you require and where will you get it from?  Don’t sit idly whilst waiting for an update, delegate someone to be the lead point of contact whilst you focus on something else.

  • Which interested parties need briefing – can these initial calls/emails be delegated to one of the team?

  • What plans, schematics, maps etc are required – get someone to pull them together and identify any check-lists that list immediate priorities and actions.


Once you are notified of an incident, you must be proactive and THINK.  Sitting quietly and telling the Team Leader that no-one asked you to do it, so you haven’t, is likely to result in a very brief, one-way discussion and at worst, risks lives.  You are the master of your brief, act accordingly.  For example:

  • What resources might be needed and if so, where are they, are they available, what is the process to acquire them?

  • Who else might need to be informed and if so, in what format and under whose authority?

  • What could Third-Party contractors support and how are they mobilised?  Can paperwork be prepared now to save time later?

If you can save time by lining up capabilities so that when required/authorised they are ready to go, you will be helping to deliver a timely, efficient and effective response. 



Having a thorough understanding of the overall response framework and where you fit will ensure that you avoid operating in a “silo” or “stovepipe”.  Knowing where to find up-to-date resource availability, key contact details, plan or procedure overviews, company policy etc all save time during the initial response phase.  For example:

  • What are the cross-Department dependencies?

  • What external support is available?

  • What are the various roles and responsibilities of different team members?

  • How do the various communications assets in the Response Centre work, from teleconferencing to photo-copying?


You will be one of a team of professionals, who have hopefully all read the plan and undergone role-specific training.  However, to deliver the best response requires more than an awareness.

  • Whilst achieving “muscle memory’ might be unrealistic, is each member of the team sufficiently practised at an activity that they are proficient and won’t need “on the spot training” or short notice revision?

  • If user interfaces aren’t intuitive, how often does a responder use them to achieve familiarity?  For example: 

  • We can all make a phone call, but how do you forward the phone to another number during a team briefing?

  • How do you complete a paper logsheet or update the electronic log?

  • How do you record decisions or prepare a situation report for the CEO?

Efficiency comes with practice, however, if the time for practice is not available, consideration should be given to easy to find worked examples or guides.  For example, many organisations have a pre-formatted “Holding Statement” which is designed to ensure a prompt response in the event of an enquiry – where else could this approach be used?

In sum, the British Army is very experienced in delivering soldiers to the battlefield with the information and resources they require to achieve success.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, why not consider training your responders to think CAKE, so that the team delivers the most effective response possible?

Matthew served for 27 years before starting his second career as a Crisis Management and Business Continuity consultant.  In 2015 he founded Inverroy Crisis Management Limited. For more information about how Inverroy can help you prepare for an emergency response situation, get in touch at

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