Ono the Ostrich CRISIS MANAGER
The Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management 
 Editor: Erik Bernstein 
  Publisher: Jonathan Bernstein

"For Those Who Are Crisis Managers,
Whether They Want to be or Not"

© 2012 Jonathan Bernstein

Lessons Learned from Disasters

Volume XIII, Number 19

October 31, 2012   



Think you know how to communicate successfully? Test that theory on your teenager.  


                           Jonathan Bernstein   





Entire areas of the East coast are still underwater, including the entire Jersey Shore, and millions are left shivering without power. More than 16,000 airline flights canceled, unprecedented ocean surges, floods, fires, and a growing list of casualties mark Hurricane Sandy's initial impact, not to mention the $20 billion in losses estimated by some insurance companies.

As humans, we are apt to forget that we live at Mother Nature's mercy. It's too easy to neglect this fact as we go about our daily lives, and unfortunately it often takes grim reality to force action. In this issue, we share an article by John "Pat" Philbin, former Director of External Affairs for FEMA, that stresses the critical role that preparation plays in successful disaster management, along with another, by BCM President Jonathan Bernstein, that shares disaster-related lessons learned (often the hard way) by his clients in years past.

As always, you'll also find a summary of the best from both of our blogs.  

If you like what you see, please share it with others by using the "Forward Email" link at the bottom of the ezine and tell them to subscribe!  IMPORTANT NOTE: If you just "Forward" using your own email program's "Forward" function and your recipient thinks they're being spammed, they can click on the Opt Out link and opt YOU off the list. So use the "Forward Email" link, please. 




Thank you, and read on!


          - Erik



Preparation Equals Performance
By John P. (Pat) Philbin, Ph.D.,
President & CEO, Crisis1, LLC

As America emerges from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I'm reminded of a phrase used frequently by one of my former bosses, Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.), who used to admonish those under his command that "Preparation Equals Performance."  There are many corollaries to this perspective, and I believe it is worth reflecting on a few of these as they relate to preparing for and recovering from disasters, which are applicable to individuals, communities and businesses.  

In spite of efforts to enhance personal preparedness and
Pat Philbin headshot
Pat Philbin, Ph.D.
community resilience, many remain complacent and misinformed about their role(s).  General Russell Honoré, USA (Ret.), who led the Department of Defense responses to Hurricane Katrina and Rita, has made it his life's mission to create a "Culture of Preparedness" in America. And organizations, such as the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, strive to influence behaviors that reduce risk and mitigate consequences, but much work remains at all levels.  

Imagine a future where we all assumed personal responsibility for being prepared for the inevitable.  Regardless of where we live, there are likely to be known threats.  Tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, flooding, business-related concerns from a local chemical manufacturer, etc., present risks that may and should be considered in assessing vulnerabilities.  

The question we must all answer is, "Am I ready?"  If your answer is yes, then not only are you helping yourself and your loved ones, you are also contributing to the greater good by allowing scarce local, state and federal resources to be applied where they are most needed following the event.  

Once threats are identified, plans, policies and procedures can be developed to reduce risks and enhance resiliency, but this is only part of the challenge today.  Failure to test the plans and policies, and exercise and practice the procedures, will result in the same outcome.  

For example, contrary to many claims by pundits that there was no plan for Hurricane Katrina, this is simply not accurate.  There were contingency plans; unfortunately, they existed in manuals on bookshelves and few knew, understood or exercised their contents.  


I believe that part of the answer to the challenge we face in enhancing personal preparedness and community resilience is in "walking the talk."  With just-in-time deliveries and reliance on businesses that continue to enhance efficiencies and reduce inventories to reduce costs, many have yet to understand the implications for personal preparedness and community resiliency.  This can be observed in the rush to acquire basic items such as food, ice, water, etc., ahead of known events, but what about those disasters that are unannounced?  Whose responsibility is it, and what actions must we take to mitigate the consequences until services and supplies are restored?  

Much like businesses require a "continuity of operations plan," so must we on an individual level.  Such plans need not be -- and should not be -- complex.  In fact, the simpler such plans are the higher the probability they will be executed.  When disasters strike, we know from the research on risk communication that people have difficulty processing information under stress.  Therefore, if we follow the old adage of "KISS" (Keep It Simple Stupid) in our plans and procedures, the higher the probability the information will be assimilated.  

Enhancing preparedness at all levels requires "muscle memory," which means that we need to be able to act instinctively because this will enable us to reduce risk for both emerging and unannounced threats.  And the more prepared we are as individuals, communities and businesses, the better we will perform when the inevitable strikes.  

Are You Ready?  

John P. (Pat) Philbin, Ph.D. is President of Crisis1, LLC, a Virginia-based crisis management and communication consultancy.  He possesses more than 25 years of executive level experience in leading, managing and participating in large scale, high-profile crisis events, including the loss of the space shuttle Challenger, oil and natural disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, mass migrations of Haitians/Cubans, the loss of TWA Flight 800 and Alaska Air, the loss of JFK, Jr.'s aircraft off of Martha's Vineyard, and dozens of contentious and complex business and legislative issues associated with FEMA's transformation following Hurricane Katrina.   


Lessons Learned from Disasters
By Jonathan Bernstein
JB New
Jonathan Bernstein

I thought it would make for a good companion piece to Pat's article to share with you just a few of the lessons learned by my clients from their experiences with natural disasters.
  • Never underestimate Mother Nature.  
  • Make sure all critical electronic devices are either in an incredibly well-waterproofed location or placed WELL above a worst-case flood line.    
  • If you don't already own backup generators, pay for a preferred contract with a generator supplier that puts you first in line after a disaster - or else you won't get one at all.    
  • Don't put all the fuel supply for your backup generators in one location (that's what happened at Fukushima).    
  • Don't rely on a single telecommunications system (e.g., VOIP phones).  In my case, I have cable-based landlines, cellphone with a different company, a Skype phone account, and the ability to run devices using the power generated by my car.    
  • If your employees don't have their own homes and families well-protected from the effects of disasters (e.g., survival supplies) they're going to stay away from work longer.    
  • If you have critical suppliers for whom you have no immediate backup, and THEIR location is hit by disaster, you're in trouble even if you're out of the disaster zone.    
  • If you have a multi-location business, like a restaurant chain, prearrange a system by which locations can communicate with each other and back each other up during times of disaster -- e.g., Restaurant A could ask Restaurant B to use their freezers when A's go out.    
  • Train for disaster.  The "best person" may not be the on-site person when disaster strikes.  If you have a well-trained team, then someone else will be able to step up.  Training should involve every division of the organization, because they'll all be affected.  Whether their responsibility will be firefighting or just directing people to an exit, all employees should know what they should do -- and what they shouldn't do!
There's a lot more, and a vulnerability audit is a good way to know how ready you really are for disaster.

Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., and author of Manager's Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay - Media Training


By Erik Bernstein
Here's a look at some recent posts from both the Bernstein Crisis Management blog and our Crisis Management blog over at Carter McNamara's Free Management Library.

It's always interesting when business owners in a timeless industry embrace social media. When droughts wracked the crops of farmers across the States, they turned to Twitter and the #drought12 tag to communicate with peers and keep in touch with both customers and stakeholders the world over.

KitchenAid Turns Social Media Fail into Reputation Win tells the story of how KitchenAid skillfully converted a major social media boo-boo by one of its employees into a reputation boost. You'll have to read the full story, but suffice to say that after this story you'll agree that the company's social media director deserves a big fat bonus for her deft handling of the situation.

Would You Like Some Arsenic With That? That's the question facing consumers on the heels of a Consumer Reports study that revealed dangerously high levels of arsenic in rice and rice products. From baby food to organic bagged rice, this finding creates a serious crisis management concern for shoppers and business owners alike.

7.4 million cars have been recalled for fire hazards involving a power window switch. Can you guess which company was involved? Yes, MORE Recall Crisis Management for Toyota. With reports surfacing that show the automaker knew about the latest issue before the 2010 "stick pedal" recall, it raises the question, does Toyota really care about its customers, or its reputation?

When Deleting Social Media Comments is OK touches on a subject that's become almost taboo in online crisis management. No it's not ever a good idea to go on a wild deleting rampage because posters are piling onto your Facebook after a crisis breaks, but yes, there are situations that legitimately call for removal. Take a look, and learn the important differences between the two.

How comfortable do you feel leaving thousands of dollars worth of electronics in your hotel room when traveling for business? Beyond that, how about the potentially priceless data or confidential emails that those devices hold? Answer those, then think about your answers again after reading Hotel Hacker Exposes E-Vulnerabilities and see if you feel the same way.

Quick Crisis Management from O2 saved the company's rep when it once again faced the rage of cell users who were left signal-less. Learning from past mistakes, the organization was able to keep stakeholders informed and up to date throughout the crisis. You can't always avoid upsetting people, but the impact can be greatly reduced if you handle it right.

We all know the saying, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Well, when you take a look at how UK travel company Lowcostholidays.com jumped on a social media publicity chance that their competition had glossed over, you'll agree that One's Missed Opportunity is Another's Brilliant PR.

Crisis prevention is the most effective form of crisis management. When you Find the Crisis First, you avoid reputation damage, financial loss, strain on employees, and myriad other pitfalls. Do you have crisis prevention protocol in place, and are you actually using it?

Erik Bernstein is a freelance writer, editor of Crisis Manager, and Social Media Manager for Bernstein Crisis Management


We Are Giving Away Business!!


Did that get your attention? Bernstein Crisis Management has been blessed for some time with more work than I can handle on my own, so the expert contractors in my Crisis Management Database have been getting more and more referrals lately and/or brought in as my subcontractors.  That's the virtual business model I've had since 1994, and today that model is widely accepted and appreciated by our clients.  So, if you have a crisis management-related business and would like to be considered for my Database, please write to me! - Jonathan 


The Bernsteins Available to Deliver Free Guest Lectures


Jonathan alone, or the team of Jonathan and Erik Bernstein, are available at no charge to deliver guest lectures to college classes via Skype or Google Hangout. We've already conducted several with our friend Dr. Janice Frates at Cal State University Long Beach, and are ready to expand our offering to any college professor. All you need at your end is a single computer with webcam and a strong broadband connection. Contact us for more info!


Attention Corporate Boards of Directors (and those who serve them). 


If you're connected with a corporate board of directors in some way and think that board would benefit from having a veteran crisis management pro amongst its membership, please contact me. -- Jonathan


(aka blatant self-promotion) 



Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training


Book Cover JPG

Reflecting a significant change in the book-selling marketplace, we have reduced the cost of this popular media training manual from $49 to $25 for the hard copy and from $29.95 to $10 for the PDF.


Visit The Crisis Manager Bookstore for more information and/or to purchase.





Manager's Guide to Crisis Management



Whether you're a seasoned manager, aspiring up-and-comer, or student of crisis management, Jonathan Bernstein's textbook, Manager's Guide to Crisis Management (McGraw-Hill, 2011) will put you in control of any situation. 






Want To Blog And Tweet About

Your Organization But Don't Have Time? 

Missing out on all the promotional and SEO advantages of doing so? Hire someone to be your voice...like Erik Bernstein, editor of Crisis Manager.


More info:erik@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.



Guest authors are very welcome to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.



JB NewErik Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is both publisher of Crisis Manager and president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting.

Write to Jonathan at: jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.

Erik Bernstein is editor of Crisis Manager and is also Social Media Manager for Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.

Write to Erik at: erik@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.



All information contained herein is obtained by Jonathan Bernstein from sources believed by Jonathan Bernstein to be accurate and reliable.

Because of the possibility of human and mechanical error as well as other factors, neither Jonathan Bernstein nor Bernstein Crisis Management is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Bernstein Crisis Management and Jonathan Bernstein make no representations and disclaim all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind to the user and/or any third party including, without limitation, warranties as to accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose.

Unless due to willful tortuous misconduct or gross negligence, Jonathan Bernstein and Bernstein Crisis Management shall have no liability in tort, contract, or otherwise (and as permitted by law, product liability), to the user and/or any third party.

Under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

A service of this newsletter is to provide news summaries and/or snippets to readers. In such instances articles and/or snippets will be reprinted as they are received from the originating party or as they are displayed on the originating website or in the original article. As we do not write the news, we merely point readers to it, under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever due to the distribution of said news articles or snippets that lead readers to a full article on a news service's website, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Authors of the original news story and their publications shall be exclusively held liable. Any corrections to news stories are not mandatory and shall be printed at the discretion of the list moderator after evaluation on a case-by-case basis.

In This Issue
Just A Thought
Preparation Equals Performance
Lessons Learned from Disasters
Apropos of Nothing
Quick Links


BCM Blog
Crisis Management Blog

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