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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2007 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 4,000+
Estimated Readership: 15,000+


The Internet has spawned a new breed of taggers who insist on making their mark on any blog that will have them, just to see their own words in print. They typically persist in disrupting otherwise civil discourse through obnoxious and often incoherent rambling, secure in the delusion that they are merely exercising freedom of speech.

Jonathan Bernstein


Editor's Note: Welcome renowned crisis management educator and consultant Jim Lukaszewski back to the pages of "Crisis Manager."

Interim Crisis Planning
From the "Crisis Guru" Series by Jim Lukaszewski

Dear Crisis Guru:

If a company is not ready to do a full-blown crisis communication plan, what are the minimum requirements that should be put into place? I have been told to put down five problems or scenarios, and then define leadership roles for management and prepare internal statements for each. Is this enough?



Dear Communicator:

Usually the CEO, senior management, and you as the communicator need to get yourselves ready to respond should something happen. You do this by picking the most serious problems that could befall your company and then subjecting these situations to a scenario analysis. Merely drafting statements causes delay, confusion, as well as early errors, which make later responses harder to explain and more difficult to rationalize.

Even minimal crisis planning requires some specific scenario-based work. Here's what we suggest.

Whatever the hypothesis, maybe it's something blowing up or burning down, put the right people in the room and talk through what the company would do: What would the operating responses be? What would the police and fire departments do? Would there be troublemakers or activists, and what would they do? How do we see the story of this problem in its severest sense? You want to play this problem to make it really hard. What if someone dies? What if scores are injured, lost, or missing?

This is really the essence of crisis planning. You have to deal, minute-by-minute, with what happens to people, animals, and living systems as a result of some human being screwing something up. As you walk through the scenario, what will become evident is that other things will happen. What decisions need to be made? Do you need to call in special people with special knowledge? Do you need to bring in contractors? What permissions will be necessary? What questions will the media, employees, survivors, government, and victims ask? It's a straightforward, systematic approach. It's often wise to have someone involved in the exercise who has been through it before, to help you understand the questions that may surprise you or be exceptionally difficult to handle.

Here's an example. We're working on a scenario right now related to employee violence. We start out by putting key people in a room (in our case, the CEO was not able to participate although he suggested the concept, but his second in command was in charge of Human Resources/Communications/Security).

The scenario was, "A recent former employee, who still had his old employee ID, walked through security, found his wife, shot her, found her boss and shot him, and then held a bunch of people at gun point." So now, what do you do? It's happening on the third floor in the cafeteria. What's next?

Work the scenario through minute-by-minute, incident-by-incident. This is a police problem because a crime has been committed. We asked a community police officer to be present and called on him to describe what the police would be doing. We all went up to the third floor cafeteria and walked through what the police would be doing based on what he knew. He answered questions such as what should be done with the employees.

But there were many other questions and issues. For example, the building carries the company's name but the company no longer owns or occupies a major part of it. What about the areas of the building leased to others? For example the cafeteria is operated by the new owner of the building. Things were complicated.

You learn these things by walking through the scenario so that if something like the hypothesized shootings or some other similar serious situation occurred, the key response team had thought through and knew what they would have to authorize in advance. For example, the company recognized the need as a tenant to establish a relationship with the building's security function. If this scenario really happened, the company would need to assurance from the building's owner that certain responses would occur or, if not, the company could call in its own security forces temporarily.

You will probably get only one of these done each year. The lesson is you have to walk through each key scenario. While time consuming, other approaches only lead to failure.

Then, once or twice a year stage a table-top discussion where you walk through problems. Typically, you will want to have some things in place that make some sense for each scenario - how you are going to communicate, what is the communications policy, and who will do it?. The goal is to determine some things in advance. I call this pre-authorization - who's going to speak, what will we talk about, what will be deferred to others, what we are going to do, when we are going to do it, who is responsible, and how we find out.

One of the things that scenario development will teach you is that in situations where a lot is on the line, at least a handful of senior operations people need to be made ready each year and coached each year just in case something serious occurs. Failure is embarrassing and humiliating, and even worse, poor spokespersoning agitates, irritates, and causes additional grief for people who are suffering.

It really depends on what the company expects of itself. If top management expects their employees to be treated honorably when bad things happen then it will prepare.

Most companies prepare only for those things that the law requires. For companies with more than 50 employees Federal and state personnel laws require disclosure when certain things happen. Should certain things happen, a number of communications requirements are in place and must be complied with. For example, if you handle certain kinds of chemicals, you have to disclose those as potential problems.

So one of the things you have to do in your preparation process is to look at the mandatory disclosure circumstances your company is subject to. Every one of them is a crisis communication plan. If you have a sexual harassment charge, under present law there are some things you have to disclose quickly. That's a communications plan. Whether or not you like it, you have one. Better find out how it works or how you should work it.

Copyright James E. Lukaszewski, used with permission. For more information, go to

Media Trainers -- You Have To Capture This Video!

Thank you to numerous readers for pointing this video out to me. Some even thought it was the "real thing" but, regardless, it would make a marvelous addition to any media trainer's collection of clips. It's always good to throw a little humor in there with the more horrific examples.

Editor's Note: This is the introduction to a neat little publication made available by the Red Cross and FedEx. Thanks to reader Alex Auerbach for calling it to my attention.

Emergency Preparedness Checklist For Small Businesses

Developing an emergency preparedness plan is one of the most important strategic decisions you will make as a small business owner. Consider how a natural, human-caused or public health disaster could affect your employees, customers and workplace. Would business operations continue? Preparing your small business doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive. Ask yourself the three questions below and use this checklist to help you prepare your business to stay in business.

Download the entire checklist at

WCDEM Conference

The World Association of Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM) invites you to register for the 16th World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WCDEM).

Potential Topics to date for the 2009 WCDEM congress include but are not limited to:

  • Pandemics, Epidemics, and Infectious Diseases
  • Mass Gatherings: Large Scale Sporting Events
  • Safe Hospitals
  • Terrorism - Biological and others
  • Natural Disasters: Water, Wind, Wild Fires, & Earthquakes
  • Refugees and Disasters
  • Psychosocial Issues related to Disasters
  • Pediatrics and Disasters
  • The role of EMS in Disasters
  • Civilian Military Collaboration

This 2009 Congress will offer many opportunities for sharing of information, networking, collaboration, and hearing the latest advances in a wide number of issues related to Disaster and Emergency Medicine. Go to:


Keeping The Wolves At Bay 3.0 Reviewed

"Keeping the Wolves at Bay" is much more than another media training guide — it is perhaps one of the most concise, insightful, useful and savvy guides to strategic thinking about reputation issues available.

Gerald Baron
Founder & CEO of PIER System and host of

It's like a Swiss Army knife — lots of cool tools in a compact package. In case of emergency, grab this.

Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
Publisher, About Public Relations

The spiral-bound print manual is available for $25, the PDF version for $10. Both can be ordered at

Disaster Prep 101

Bernstein Crisis Management is pleased to present one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly family preparedness texts available today. "Disaster Prep 101." by Paul Purcell, goes above and beyond the simplistic "72-hour kit" concept and provides simple, yet detailed educational material that will drastically improve the ability of any family to respond to all manner of disasters or emergencies. This preparedness package contains over 400 pages of well-organized, original preparedness material written in an easy-to-understand, non-panic format; 80 pages of family data forms and worksheets (many of which are also useful to the employer); and a 2-CD set containing two interactive and searchable links collections for additional educational sources; all the family data forms and worksheets in softcopy format; and a complete emergency reference library of over 450 additional books and training manuals! US$59.95. Available here.


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


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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