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Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

By Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications –

Having a crisis consultant in your contact list is nice, but no substitute for having a plan in place.

For companies and organizations, written, tested and ready-to-go business continuity plans should be  part of doing business. Typically, those plans include the step-by-step operational response procedures to follow in the event of disasters like fires, explosions, data breaches, accidents, product defects and, sadly but increasingly commonly, active shooter situations.

When reviewing those plans, flaws we frequently see include:

  1. Not planning for enough scenarios.  Conduct a risk assessment or vulnerability audit to make sure you’re capturing all the likely threats from a broad range of experts in your organization. At Hennes, we do that by gathering C-Suiters and department heads and asking a simple question: “What keeps you up at night?”  Typically, we’ll discuss 40-50 scenarios, which then get ranked according to likelihood of happening and ranked again by the impact a particular scenario would have on operations and reputation.  This exercise is also a great way to foster buy-in on the creation or expansion of an existing plan.
  2. Focusing only on the operational side and neglecting the communications piece of the business continuity plan.  The vast majority of plans we review have little or nothing to say about what needs to be said in that first, second and third news cycle.  A strong crisis communications plan that dovetails with the business continuity plan will include what gets said, who it gets said to, when it gets said and where it gets said.  In that manner, employees, customers, other stakeholders and the public get information they need from your organization first (or at least a quick second) – a crucial step to help you avoid being cast as the villain in what’s usually a storyline featuring the other two players:  the victim and the vindicator.  Having a communications plan in place before a crisis hits also allows your attorney to bless what’s said in advance, cutting down on response time.
  3. Failing to understand the realities and ubiquity of the internet.  The news of your disaster is almost certain to show up first on the internet, possibly posted by your own employees, without regard to the social media policy in your handbook.  A well-crafted crisis communications plan will include tweets and Facebook posts, ready to use at a moment’s notice.

More tips for crisis readiness:

  • Be sure you know your workplace emergency plan, including multiple ways to exit your building.
  • Training employees and testing your disaster plans are key to things running smoothly during and after a disaster.
  • Providing assistance and support for employees should be part of a preparedness program.
  • Check your insurance policies to be sure you have enough coverage before a disaster strikes.
  • How will your business communicate with customers, suppliers and employees?
  • Plan ahead to recover lost data.
  • Evacuate? Shelter in place? Lockdown? What’s your plan for employees?
  • How will you evacuate employees?
  • An act of violence in the workplace could occur without warning. Learn how to train employees for such a disaster.

Having Hennes Communications or other service vendors who can respond to your various crisis needs 24/7/365 already lined up is nice, but it’s not a substitute for having written plans. According to and the American Red Cross, 62% of organizations say they don’t have an emergency plan — and 40% of businesses never recover after a disaster.

The math speaks for itself.

Photo 189120229 / Hope Best © Matthias Zabanski |

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