Bernstein Crisis Management. Crisis response, prevention, planning, and training.

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2003 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 3,700+
Estimated Readership: 12,000+


This is a farce. But I guess we all have to exercise our demographic duty to participate in a farce.

Unidentified voter in recent California Recall Election, heard on KFWB-AM radio on Election Day


Editor's Note: Australian "Crisis Manager" reader Kylie McKinley whipped off the article below in a quick email to me. It required very minor editing. I can only imagine how good her writing is when she actually takes a lot of time to craft material! This case history beautifully illustrates the point that scenario-based crisis planning's main use is to create a system that can be adapted for all those crises we did NOT anticipate. Oh, and I have a question for the many readers from Kylie's part of the globe. If you're "down under" to us in the Americas, are we "up over" to you? Enquiring editors want to know.

Adapting for SARS
by Kylie McKinley

Whilst I was the Public Affairs Manager for Australian pork (I recently left) I implemented a series of issues management papers for the 30 issues most likely to affect the organisation,the ones with the biggest impact. Each paper outlined key contacts, spokespeople, key messages, position statements, strategies to be undertaken, questions and answers likely from the media, legal status etc. Nothing new from a crisis manager's perspective, but it took many months of work and most people thought I was crazy preparing for issues that had never occurred before. However, I wanted to be able to respond to a likely crisis with all the information at my fingertips and not have to research everything from scratch. The papers ran from what to do if someone died from eating the product (which actually happened whilst I was there) through to what to do with declining demand in exports if an animal disease was detected in a competitive countries product -- or indeed our own.

SARS then broke out and I knew I would soon get calls from the media and retailers about our exports to Singapore, the safety of the meat (as in the early hours/days of the crisis people were unsure about how it was transmitted) and the safety of the workers in the boning rooms. Then accusations started to fly about it being caused by pigs in China, which would threaten consumption levels.

I therefore had three issues to deal with.

Firstly that of the health and safety of consumers in eating the meat handled in the boning rooms (remember at this stage, no one knew how long the virus could stay alive and whether it could be transmitted by eating meat handled by someone with SARS), then the safety of the workers in the boning rooms so they did not catch the virus from working in proximity with someone affected, and then the issue about the origin of the disease and my need to reiterate that AUSTRALIAN pork was a healthy and safe product.

Although I had never prepared a paper on SARS I was able to use my template to set up a new position paper, and then refer to the closest issue paper I already had -- what to do if a disease was detected in a competitive country's product. This may seem irrelevant to SARS, but in this paper I had listed contact details for the Australian food and safety microbiologists, statistics on our exports and handling procedures, Singaporean government trade reps, overseas retail and boning room contacts, as well as statements on the handling, health and safety of Australian pork.

The Singaporean Ministry of Health was in a panic and no-one had briefed the boning rooms about what to do at that stage so we put in temporary measures and were able to highlight our pro-activity in the press afterwards. The Ministry of Health implemented similar guidelines for all workplaces a few days later.

A few phone calls later to the key contacts (microbiologists were of critical importance and assistance), I had all the relevant and latest information I needed on SARS. I was able to go out to press within a few hours of the news hitting Australia and reiterate the safety of our product and the procedures I was getting the Singaporean reps (see sidebar) to put into place in the boning rooms to ensure the safety of consumers (the virus could not stay alive long enough as a residue on the meat to infect those who ate it) and workers (e.g., temperature taken every hour, mesh gloves replaced with latex gloves, face masks changed regularly, etc.)

This would not have been possible without all the months of work put into each potential issue! Although SARS and a human disease outbreak were not written into the issues management system I had set up, I was able to adapt my information, gain updates from experts quickly and deal with the problem immediately so that our export market was not threatened and the safety of our meat was emphasised. I did not have to chase endless leads to find the right information and I was able to adapt a paper for an animal disease issue, to a human disease issue. In fact, consumption of Australian pork rose during this period as our product was mainly available in supermarkets (not wet markets and restaurants), most people stayed at home to eat, we had a good track record on safety and health and we increased our TV ads which at that time focused on the health status of our meat.

I simply cannot stress the importance of preparation. Although you cannot prepare for every single potential risk, an issues management system can help you to adapt existing information and networks when it's really crucial. This will only work however, if your system is kept up to date and covers a range of potential critical issues in detail.

Kylie McKinley,BA, MA, MPRIA, is with Australia's Pink Tiger Communications. Contact:


The Case for Crisis Preparedness PowerPoint Now Available!

Former FEMA disaster guru Phil Cogan and I finally finished "The Case for Crisis Preparedness," a 70-slide PowerPoint presentation created to help in-house staff and consulting firms get organizational decision-makers' heads out of the sand.

This presentation, complete with presenter notes, is organized into modular sections that can be rearranged, excerpted or added to in a manner that's most appropriate for your organization. I'm pleased to report that initial sales have truly been global, to include customers from Australia, Japan and Poland. I have long maintained that principles of crisis preparedness are more universal than principles of crisis response; these sales seem to support that notion.

The seven modules of the PPT are:

  • The Cost of Crisis
  • The State of Business Preparedness
  • Why Business Fails to Prepare
  • Why Business Should Prepare
  • Corporate Crisis of Confidence
  • Why Crises Need Not Become Disasters
  • How to Improve Our Crisis Resistance

For more information and/or to order this product ($150), go to It is normally "shipped" as an email attachment, a fairly large (1.06MB) file, but customers also have the option of requesting that it be sent on CD-ROM.

Bernstein's Second Opinion/Spot-Consulting Service

Need a quick second opinion on anything to do with crisis prevention or response? Just need that "outside expert" to validate, to your boss, what you've already been saying? Want me to take a quick look at your existing written crisis plans? My time can be "rented" by the hour for this type of consulting job simply by using your organizational credit card to pay for the assistance. The Crisis Manager Bookstore,, now has this option enabled.


Editor's Note: We haven't had a lot of articles specifically about Business Continuity -- hint, hint, all you BCP specialists who read this -- so I was very pleased to see this submission by Dave Shimberg. I think you will be too.

Insurance Paid but the Company Failed
by David Shimberg

The explosion and fire were devastating. Production was halted. Business records were lost. Employees didn't work, and customers didn't get orders. But the company's business interruption insurance provided cash to cover business income losses; property insurance provided for new equipment and buildings.

However...less than one year later the company was out of business, employees were again out of work, tax revenue stopped, and customers felt the impact!

What happened? Cash flow is not the only concern when planning for business continuity! The business simply failed to develop, test, and maintain a business continuity plan. The managers did not have a strategy for dealing with and surviving a disaster of any magnitude. There was no communication plan, no incident teams, no alternate sites for production, business office functions, sales, or even a process for contacting their clients and vendors, let alone the media.

What is a Business Disaster?

It is not a tornado, fire, flood, etc. These are the causes. A business disaster is "that point in time after the 'cause' when a business is not able to provide customers and users with the minimum level of service they both need and expect."

Business continuity planning, BCP (also referred to as disaster recovery or contingency planning), is a process to identify and risk rate key business processes and functions, prioritize the importance of those processes, and develop plans to continue those processes in the event of a disaster. This includes not only protecting the company's employees, assets and reputation, but its customers and vendors as well. BCP is NOT just recovery of computer systems!

Business continuity planning must be addressed because:

  • 43 percent of businesses suffering a disaster never recover sufficiently to resume business. Of those that do reopen, only 29 percent are still operating two years later.
  • 93 percent that lost their IT (information technology) area for more than nine days had filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster, according to the National Archives & Records Administration.
  • 50 percent that found themselves without their data for more than nine days filed for bankruptcy immediately.
  • Of the 350 businesses operating in the World Trade Center before the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing, 150 were out of business a year later. For many, the reason was that they simply could not re-enter the building for several days after the bombing.

The BCP process does not need to be complex, or drawn out. It must be viewed as part of an ongoing, overall risk management program. The key is strong visible commitment from management. It requires a realistic appraisal of the company operations, the development of appropriate strategies, creating and assembling teams with specific responsibilities and a providing a clear chain of command and authority.

Identifying essential recovery items for offsite storage, documenting the plan, exercising or testing the plan, and conducting regular reviews of the plan go a long way toward ensuring a plan's success (there are no guarantees), making the business safer.

Specific risks to company operations must be identified. These include employees, materials, equipment, special skills, communications, location and reputation.

What are the vulnerabilities or "weak links" that could interrupt operations?

What can be done to reduce those the risk, mitigate, those vulnerabilities?

Are key activities centralized or distributed?

Where and how are vital records and information stored and backed up?

How will key people responsible for immediately responding to an event communicate, and where will they meet?

How will employees, customers, vendors, and the media be informed of the problem and what the company is doing to address the situation?

There are a variety of resources, consultants, organizations, and tools available to help companies develop and maintain business continuity plans.

The problem is that few companies take advantage of these resources, to create, test, and maintain viable plans. A simple Internet search for "business continuity planning", "contingency planning, or "disaster recovery planning" will provide a large number of resources and articles. There include professional organizations like the Disaster Recovery Institute (, Global Continuity (, and the Disaster Recovery Journal (

The bottom line: Ensuring your business survives a disaster, requires a practical, documented, practiced, and current business continuity plan. Receiving insurance settlements alone will not ensure a business' survival after a disaster.

Dave Shimberg is a Certified Business Continuity Planner, and Public Relations Director of the Contingency Planning Association of the Carolinas. Contact:


Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with a number of the services we mention periodically in this newsletter. No, we can't go into details because that's confidential, proprietary, etc. But our relationship is NOT "arm's distance" and you should know that, since we regularly write about these services as we use them for crisis and issues management or other purposes. That said, you should also know that Bernstein Crisis Management sought the relationships because its staff is convinced that these services are the best of their kind for Bernstein Crisis Management's needs and those of its clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.


Jonathan Bernstein is 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


There are a number of organizations whose services we admire enough to have pursued closer ties with them -- and to let you know about them, too, on the Allied Services page of our website. If you have a moment, we think it will be worth your while to browse the sites listed there.


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.


Do you know people who are Crisis Managers, whether they want to be or not? Please pass this newsletter on to them!

Subscribe to the free, twice-monthly email newsletter below. After entering your email address, you will receive a message asking you to confirm your subscription in order to prevent someone else from adding you to the list without permission. YOU MUST CONFIRM YOUR SUBSCRIPTION OR YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE THE NEWSLETTER.

Subscribe to the BCM Crisis Manager newsletter

Articles in "Crisis Manager" were, unless otherwise noted, written and copyrighted by Jonathan Bernstein. Permission to reprint will often be granted for no charge. Write to