You Can’t Prepare for the Completely Random Crisis. Or, Can You?

Monday, April 3, 2017, started with heartbreak and disruption at our 2030 South Broadway Faultless Healthcare Linen plant in St. Louis. An explosion at the nearby Loy-Lange plant sent a 3,000-lb. storage tank 500 feet through the air and into the office portion of our plant. Three Faultless employees on their first day on the job died as a result.

It was devastating and disorienting but with the help of many we acted as swiftly as possible to attend to the victims’ families; to reassure and offer support to our employees; to communicate with our team system wide and to our customers and community; and to restore operations. We owe a debt of gratitude to so many who came alongside us offering every measure of assistance.

We fervently hope you do not experience a true crisis. If you do not have an actionable crisis response plan, consider putting one together now. You can prepare for the unexpected.

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Crisis Preparation Tip Sheet

Download a crisis preparation tip sheet to check your state of readiness or to help you get started on your own crisis response plan.

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Crisis Preparation / Communications Snapshot

Plan for Problems

1. The benefits of ongoing preparation:

  • The useful life of a crisis plan is about three years.
  • The greatest weakness of a crisis plan is the lack of defined roles for key players.
  • Identify the key players.
    • Identify the key players.
    • Identify risks, their likelihood and rank them.
    • Determine operational and communication protocols per risk.
    • Map the current communication flow and the optimum communication flow.
    • Assign roles.
    • Test the plan.

Act Fast

2. Act immediately to address the problem. Once you recognize the threat or, are made aware of an incident, focus on actions to address it within the first minutes.

Understand Who You Talk to First

3. Prioritize communication.

  • Those directly affected (the victims, their families)
  • Employees, keep them in the loop
  • Those indirectly affected (customers, vendors, community, regulators, shareholders …)
  • The media – what happened, what you are doing about it, what is next

It is typical to have a chief spokesperson but, you must be prepared with a backup and subject matter experts.

Do the Right Thing Right

4. Do it right

  • Meet in person, be compassionate, listen, act upon what you hear, invest quickly.
  • A pattern of genuine, unassailable behavior overcomes much.

Communicate Effectively

5. Three ways to answer a question:

Affirming – Negative – Blah

Be affirming. It is nearly impossible to be defensive and affirming at the same time.

6. What reporters ask when something happens:

  • What happened?
  • When?
  • Who did it happen to?
  • What was the cause?
  • Were there any injuries or deaths? If yes, what is the extent of the injuries; names of the injured or dead?
  • How much damage has been caused? What is the potential for further damage or danger?
  • What went wrong?
  • Who is responsible?
  • What are you doing about it?
  • When will more information be available?
  • Can we interview the victim(s)?
  • Have you notified next of kin?

Being able to factually and quickly respond to this basic set of questions will satisfy the media, minimize confusion and earn credibility as more definitive information becomes available.