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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2003 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 3,800+
Estimated Readership: 12,000+


But our attorneys said the Court would rule in our favor!

Multiple Anonymous & Under-prepared CEOs


Census Bureau Contingency Planning

Editor's Note: You might not realize it, but U.S. Census Bureau employees encounter -- or are even the cause of -- a lot of crisis situations when they conduct the national census every ten years. Everything from rape to being killed by dogs to falsifying data. So, after the last census, the Bureau's public information staff thought it prudent to develop contingency statements as part of a crisis communications plan for the NEXT census. And they were good enough to share those statements with us. Below are just some of the situations for which they've drafted messages. To my knowledge, this is a "Crisis Manager Exclusive." Many of us could "borrow" these statements verbatim for our own plans!

Employee Injury or Attack

At (X:00 pm/am/date) a Census Bureau employee was injured while collecting data in (location). The incident involved (personal attack, gunshot, etc.) and resulted in (add extent/type of injury, if known -- never speculate).

Emergency personnel were summoned immediately. The injured person(s) were taken by ambulance to (X hospital).

The Census Bureau regrets this tragic incident. The safety and well being of all employees is a top priority and concern. We are cooperating with local and state authorities as they investigate the situation.

This is all the information we have at this time. However, we will provide you with an update regarding this incident when information becomes available or at the next briefing to be held (X:00 pm/am/date).

Employee Disturbance Incident

This is a standby statement appropriate to an incident involving a disgruntled employee who creates a disturbance (i.e., inappropriate or inaccurate statements to the public and/or the press) in the field or at a bureau office. Because of the legal implications, this standby statement is purposely very broad in context.

An incident occurred today, (X:00 pm/am/date), at (location) in which there was a disturbance involving an employee(s) of the Census Bureau. During the course of the incident, security was present. The local authorities were called and the individual(s) involved was/were then removed from the site. Neither the individual(s) involved nor other employees were injured during the course of the incident; (If known, indicate number of individuals involved/extent of injuries. It may be necessary to withhold names until next of kin are notified or authorities release the names).

We are reviewing the details of the incident.

The statements made by (XX employee) are inaccurate and without basis. The Census Bureau has a very specific procedure and policy for (XX i.e., data collection). It involves (state the procedure).

We will immediately undertake an investigation of the accusations and report the findings.

The Census Bureau takes very seriously our responsibility to conduct accurate and cost-efficient operations. We will do all that is necessary to continue to ensure the accuracy.

We will provide you with further information when it becomes available.

Falsification/ Loss of Confidential Data

At (X:00 pm/am/date) we received reports that a Census Bureau employee may have been involved in the mishandling/sabotage/theft/destruction) of data.

This incident occurred at the (XX office). (It may not be advisable to release names at this time.)

The Census Bureau is currently conducting an investigation to determine what exactly has taken place. (State who will conduct the investigation.) We do not have any further information at this time. When information becomes available to us we will report it to you.

The Census Bureau has a number of procedures and policies in place to ensure the quality and accuracy of all information collected during its various operations. (state policy).

We are committed to ensuring that our field (or headquarters) activities provide for the collection of the most accurate cost-effective data in ways that ensure the privacy and confidentiality of respondents.

(If it is certain that data have been lost, then add the following):

The Census Bureau is implementing its recovery plan to restore the lost data. The plan involves (state specifics, i.e., increasing staff, re-sending field representatives.) The Bureau is confident the data will be collected with minimum delay and within budget to the maximum extent possible.

Employee Accused of Criminal Activity on the Job

At (X:00 pm/am/date) the local authorities arrested (or detained) a Census Bureau employee for alleged involvement (violent act/theft/etc.) that resulted in (injury/death/loss of equipment or data) at (XX office).

As (Regional Director, or appropriate title), I am deeply concerned about these allegations. I also want to express our concern for the (victim and/or victim's family when appropriate). We are working in full cooperation with the authorities and will do everything possible to ensure a full and timely investigation.

The Census Bureau has a specific policy for the hiring of all Census Bureau employees (outline the policy). A criminal background check is conducted for all employees. This office has a number of other security measures in place (state specifics, i.e. metal detectors, etc.)

We do not have anything further to report at this time, but will keep you updated when new information becomes available.

Protest or Demonstration

Today at (X:00 pm/am/date), a group representing (give details of affiliation) conducted a (peaceful) demonstration at (location). The individuals expressed their concerns (give an overview of their concerns).

(Representatives of management) met with the group to listen to their concerns. The demonstration concluded at (X:00 pm/am). The group then left the property without further incident.

We are committed to ensuring that our field (or headquarters) activities provide for the most accurate, confidential, and cost-effective data gathering and dissemination processes while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of survey/census respondents. All management and staff at (give office name) are dedicated to doing all that is necessary to continue to ensure the accuracy and appropriations of our data collections efforts.

Accusation of Involvement in INS Raid

At (X:00 pm/am/date) we received reports that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had conducted an investigation and search of (XX location). This activity may have occurred during the time that the Census Bureau was collecting data for the (Name of the survey/activity) in this area.

By law, the Census Bureau never shares confidential information with any other government agency -- federal, state, or local; outside interest; or individual. All data are held strictly confidential. The Bureau has a number of procedures and policies in place to protect the confidentiality of all information collected.

Furthermore, under Title 13, all Census Bureau employees pledge never to share any information with any agency or individual. Violators would be subject to a significant fine and/or imprisonment.

The Census Bureau is proud of its record of maintaining the confidentiality of all data.

Natural Disaster

At (X:00 pm/am/date) a (fire, hurricane or other disaster) occurred at the (XX Office) resulting in damage to (equipment, data, etc.)

(XX) Census Bureau personnel (were injured or not injured). The injured staff members were given first aid at the scene and transported to area hospitals for further observation and treatment. A senior manager from the (Regional Office or Regional Census Center) accompanied the injured to the hospital and we are awaiting more information from him/her.

The (disaster) (did or did not) damage Census Bureau data being collected. We have a number of controls in place to ensure the quality and safety of all information. (state the policy).

We will provide additional information about the injured and the extent of the damage when it becomes available.

We will meet with you at (X:00 pm/am/date) at (this location or another) to keep you apprised of the situation.

Computer System Failure/Worm/Virus

The computer system at (Census Bureau Headquarters/XXX Regional Office) was disrupted today due to a (security reach/virus/worm). This disruption took place at (time) and was resolved (or is expected to be resolved by XXXX).

The Census Bureau uses firewalls to protect its system and servers, and it is using the latest in public and private key encryption technology and dedicated lines to send and receive data. We also employ the highest standards in physical security to protect the systems from physical harm or tampering.

In order to authenticate users and ensure confidentiality, the Census Bureau uses browser-based encryption and a user-identification number found on each of the survey/census forms.

Editor's Note: Here's a bonus for you. If you'd like to see a TWENTY-SEVEN PAGE list of incidents to which the Bureau had to respond during the 2000 Census, you can get it here.

What Not to Say: Two Tales

Tale #1 -- Another I Am Not a Crook

The Honolulu Advertiser brings us the latest "what not to say to the press" comment from developer and former gubernatorial candidate D.G. "Andy" Anderson, after heavy rain allegedly carried runoff from a subdivision he is developing into the ocean off Oahu. In Hawaii, this type of pollution is considered to be a particularly big deal because of many Hawaiian's deep spiritual connection to the land and ocean.

"It wasn't a major contributor of the brown water," Anderson said. "I don't think we did much polluting."

This is like a bank robber saying "I only stole $100,000, not $1 million."

What he SHOULD have said:

"We've done a lot of work to prevent this type of incident from happening, and deeply regret that it did despite our best efforts. We are working with County officials to determine what we could do to ensure it doesn't happen again."

Tale #2 -- Gee, THAT Makes Me Feel Better!

"We won't take bribes unless there's an urgent need."

That comment by Capt. Majeed Fayyad of the new Iraqi police force warranted a Bimbo Award from Spaeth Communications' Bimbo newsletter, which is published "to remind people that repeating negative words only reinforces the negative message as well as missed the opportunity to convey the right message to the reader or listener." Subscription to Bimbo is free and you can sign up here. They just came out with their winners list for the whole of 2003; it's a hoot!

Direct Communication Trumps Media Inaccuracy

Wisconsin State Representative David Ward demonstrated one excellent method of dealing with a publication that -- for whatever reason -- insists on publishing significantly inaccurate information. In response to just such a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Representative Ward sent the following direct email letter to hundreds of constituents and key influencers:


In the Saturday, November 29th edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there was an article by Bruce Murphy entitled "Critics question merits of economic development legislation". This article was riddled with a number of inaccuracies regarding the current Certified Capital Companies (CAPCO) program as well as the new Wisconsin Capital Companies (WISCAP) program.

What is even more disconcerting is that we were interviewed for this story and had responded to many of these inaccuracies. We provided Mr. Murphy with factual information/documentation which he chose not to include in his story.

Attached is a factual response to the article.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

A Crisis Manager reader tipped me off to this story and provided me with the MS-Word table that was attached to the letter. You can view or download here.


How to Conduct a Vulnerability Audit Teleseminar January 14

OK, I'm getting set to reveal some personal trade secrets. Reader survey results dictate that "How to Conduct a Vulnerability Audit" will be my first teleseminar. I have never previously described this process in depth to anyone besides my clients and close business associates. The one-hour live program will take place on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 starting at 11:00 a.m. Pacific/Noon Mountain/1 p.m. Central/2 p.m. Eastern time (U.S. time zones, although participants from anywhere are welcome!). I'm also insisting on making my training programs more affordable than most — only $95. The price includes any number of people from your organization, as long as you're gathered around a conference phone -- i.e., one registration covers one telephone connection.

Questions to be answered through my presentation will include:

  • What the heck IS a vulnerability audit?
  • What are the different ways in which such an audit can be conducted?
  • What are the bottom-line benefits of vulnerability audits?
  • How do you conduct each type of vulnerability audit?
  • Who needs to provide input to a vulnerability audit?
  • What are Jonathan Bernstein's favorite tactics for getting the best results from vulnerability audits?
  • What can you do with audit results when you have them?

I'm going to be presenting for about 40 of the event's 60 minutes, leaving the rest of the time for Q&A breaks. My commitment is to answer EVERY question attendees have -- if we don't have time during the teleseminar, questions can be emailed.

I am setting a maximum of 50 registrants to optimize the prospect that I can answer all questions "live." You can sign up at my bookstore, The Crisis Manager. There will also be a CD-ROM recording of the teleseminar available shortly thereafter, but not at that discount.

THE SECOND TELESEMINAR, on January 28, is going to be about "The Nastiest Media Tricks and How to Prevent or Respond to Them" and will feature me interviewing two well-known media trainers and authors. You can also reserve space for that teleseminar at The Crisis Manager bookstore.

Finally, I've been asked how, technically, I was able to do the recent survey about teleseminar topic preferences. The survey capability is built into my PIER(tm) site, the virtual communication center from AudienceCentral that can be used by anyone with a PIER site license and training to prepare "dark sites" and/or instantly launch crisis-specific websites. The approximately 300 survey responses were exported from the PIER system into an Excel spread sheet. If anyone wants more info on PIER, write to or call me at (626) 825-3838.

Jonathan Bernstein Available as Speaker

If your organization needs a speaker on any crisis management-related topic, anything from one hour presentations to multi-day workshops, I'm available for a reasonable fee. Write to for more info. A list of my past and pending speaking engagements can be found at


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


When I find a site that I think will be useful to my readers or site visitors, I put it on our Links page. If you have a site that would be of specific use to crisis managers and want to discuss a link exchange or other cooperative effort, please write to me,


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