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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2004 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 4,000+
Estimated Readership: 14,000+


Character is not made in a crisis, it is only exhibited.

      Robert Freeman


Editor's Note: The Internet continues to play an increasingly vital role in all aspects of crisis prevention and management, as further evinced by this powerful case study.

Case Study: Operation Snowball
By Kristi Rollwagen

As a result of the Operation Snowball biological tabletop exercise conducted in December 2002 under the sponsorship of the Minneapolis -- St. Paul Metropolitan Medical Response System, several key issues were identified as potential problems with a well-coordinated emergency response to a major, multi-jurisdictional event in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The City of Minneapolis Fire Department took the initiative to pursue a different approach to a large-scale exercise that could revisit those issues in a manner that would be more conducive to large-scale participation without the pressure of face-to-face interaction in a confined, artificial environment.

MissionMode Solutions, a technology solutions company based in Oakdale, MN (, provided the mechanism to accomplish this. An Internet-based communication system that lets participants register for the exercise and interact in multiple ways made it possible for over 400 people and approximately 51 agencies, representing both public and private sectors, to participate in the exercise.

Scenarios played out over several days via situation rooms deployed on the website. Participants were notified of new scenarios and updates via MissionMode alerts that were broadcast via e-mail, phones, pagers, or whatever notification system the participant preferred. People did not have to leave their offices for an extended period of time or meet in a conference room with people that they would not normally meet face to face. While there was no actual on-scene response, the exercise played out in a manner somewhat more consistent with real-life responses than in a typical tabletop exercise. This approach removed the artificiality of the face-to-face atmosphere of a traditional tabletop.

Planning Process

The Minneapolis Fire Department initiated discussions with MissionMode in May 2003. Following an initial design team meeting in July 2003, the process officially launched late fall, 2003. An exercise design team formed to represent participating disciplines. It met each month to work on scenarios, goals, objectives, and exercise logistics.

The Role of MissionMode

Two years ago, during Snowball I, participants conducted the exercise in person at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The challenge, even with everyone nearby, was getting the right information to the right people in a timely fashion. This was especially difficult when getting agencies to share information with other agencies. Snowball I required emergency response personnel to be away from their jobs for an extended period of time. MissionMode addressed these issues by creating a virtual exercise so that participants could contribute without leaving their offices.

MissionMode's Emergency Alert and Situation Center was a key part of Operation Snowball II. It was the exercise's primary communication platform. The system helped participants quickly notify multiple agencies of emergencies and bring them together online to share information, collaborate, and rapidly coordinate responses.


Numerous meetings were held in advance of the actual exercise to understand the objectives and determine how to best leverage available assets. One of the key needs was to keep support tools easy to use; several technical enhancements were developed in preparation for the exercise.

Prior to the exercise, operation controllers and team leaders from each major agency or company identified all the participants. MissionMode created a unique user name and password for each participant and then provided training either in person or via web conferences. After training, each user electronically updated their contact information with their telephones, mobile phones, email, Blackberry, pagers, fax, and SMS.


As each scenario began, the operation controller sent an alert to all participants' communication devices. Upon delivery of an alert, participants acknowledged receipt via an interactive voice response (IVR) system, replying to a text message, or going online. Message acknowledgement was important in that it allowed the team to react based on who was aware, or not aware, of the problem.

Upon receiving an alert, participants could log into a secure Situation Center via their computers. The Situation Center application is accessed via the Internet using a standard browser. Participants could log on from wherever they happened to be at the time.


The MissionMode Emergency Alert and Situation Center proved to be an effective way of notifying large, dispersed teams of an important event as well as an effective communication medium. A few notable results were:

  • 25 Situations and 51 Alerts were created;
  • 8477 Notifications were sent to email, phone, pager, SMS and/or fax.;
  • 965 Messages were posted in Situation Logs;
  • Users could participate from their offices or homes;
  • Each agency could see what the other agencies were doing;
  • 9 private companies, 24 healthcare organizations, 12 ambulance and 35 government agencies could communication between each other; and,
  • A summary log was created for future analysis.

Kristi Rollwagen is Director of Emergency Preparedness for the City of Minneapolis, MN. Contact

Editor's Note: Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations comes out with an annual survey on the Top Security Threats, and workplace violence is always high on the list. I was very pleased, therefore, to receive this crisis prevention article from Pinkerton's Daryn Rollins. It's one heck of a lot less costly -- in every sense of the word -- to take steps to avoid crises versus waiting until it's too late.

De-Stressing The Workplace: Improve Production And Morale
By Daryn G. Rollins EPS

If experts are on target, workplace stress has reached epidemic proportions, exacting a high price from first responders. Stress in the 1990s is at an all-time high and it's affecting the competitiveness of your department or company through increased absenteeism, tardiness, and disability claims. What can you do to improve your situation?

First, learn to identify the difference between stress and distress. Some level of stress is actually good. It provides the adrenaline necessary to complete important tasks and maximize performance. High-stress situations, though, should be followed by a relaxation period where the body is able to recuperate. Too much stress or distress, on the other hand, can be unhealthy. When stressful situations occur one right after the other with no recuperation, the effects of the stress will accumulate and manifest themselves in physical or emotional symptoms.

Some emotional symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Low Energy
  • Irritability
  • Fidgeting
  • Insomnia (or too much sleep)
  • Forgetfulness
  • Apathy
  • Low concentration level
  • Crying

Physical symptoms of stress can include:

  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Heartburn
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Back pain
  • Chest pain
  • Grinding teeth
  • Shortness of breath

While many stressors originate outside the workplace, agencies are finding it advantageous to develop programs to help responders cope with the negative effects of stress in their lives. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has determined that, of 130 occupations/positions surveyed, eight have the highest stress potential: fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, inspectors, chemical technicians, office managers, supervisors, manager/administrator.

If your employees don't fall in those eight categories, you're not off the hook. Other high stress jobs, while not categorized by function, include those in which:

  • A poor relationship with the supervisor exists;
  • Responders don't participate in decision making;
  • Work is too complex-or conversely, not complex enough;
  • There is lack of clarity regarding an employee's duties;
  • There is lack of a clear developmental path or opportunity for growth;
  • Management paces the job vs. self-pacing.

Studies show that stressed workers are less cautious in the performance of their jobs, less content and certainly less productive. How can you help your first responders cope with the effects of stress on their lives? First, encourage the responders to take control and practice the basics: physical fitness, healthy eating and drinking habits (limit caffeine, sugar and alcohol), appropriate sleep, and even meditation. Second, look at each situation from a management standpoint. This is where things get more complex and require more thought. You must:

1. Take care to match first responders capabilities to job requirements;

2. Provide maximum first responder participation;

3. Encourage social interaction for those with management paced jobs;

4. Encourage rotating shifts;

5. Provide first responders with clear-cut responsibilities;

6. Take time to talk to first responders; ask them what bothers them about the job;

7. Encourage positive supervisor/employee relationships through improved communication.

Daryn Rollins is Supervisor of Investigations for Pinkerton Consulting & Investigation located in Farmington Hills, MI. Daryn can be reached at 888-552-9449,


Crisis Management Book Recommendations

I am frequently asked to recommend books in the crisis management field, which prompted me to assemble the names of all the books I've reviewed or excerpted in "Crisis Manager" in a single location on my website, with links both to the reviews/excerpts and to the locations where you can buy the books.

Go to:

and scroll down to "Crisis Management Publications Recommended by Jonathan Bernstein."

Attention PR Agencies, Media Trainers, And Professors!

Agencies and trainers: If you do not have your own media training manual, you might like the fact that you can add your own name to the cover of "Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual" AND you can add material (e.g., company background info) inside. This customization is subject to ordering at least 20 copies of the manual (at a quantity discount).

Professors: The manual is now being used as a textbook in PR and related courses. Arrangements can be made to provide it at a discount price to your classes or for the publication to be sold through your campus bookstore.

Everyone else -- you can, of course, purchase the manual and other educational/training materials at

Second Opinion And Spot Consulting

While I love to have clients with a wide range of needs, I'm quite willing and happy to provide spot consulting on an hourly basis. It's not uncommon for organizations to want just a second opinion about a breaking issue, or a quick review of their existing crisis preparedness plans. I keep such consulting very simple from a business perspective -- hourly fees for engagements under 10 hours are paid by credit card. Call (626) 825-3838 or write to


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

Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. is located at 1013 Orange Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016. Telephone: (626) 825-3838.


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.


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