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Public Relations Guidelines for Real-World Emergency Management

Posted on Mon, May 07, 2012

Disasters have become media events. Through a variety of mediums, the 24-hour cycle of breaking news increases the awareness of natural and man-made disasters. Companies must be prepared to voice factual and timely information before falsehoods and negative public images spiral into rumors and publicity nightmares.

Despite the added strain of publicity during a crisis, engaging with media outlets should be incorporated into the planning process. Media has the ability to rapidly communicate public safety messages to communities, potentially reaching necessary resources and affirming proactive measures are in place. Consistent, accurate messages by company representatives alleviate public anxiety and provide a level of credibility and response competency. The more information that is provided, the less the media will have room for interpretation.

Initial Emergency Management Communications

Initial media contact should contain the following elements:

  • A brief, focused, and factual description of the situation and initial response actions
  • Processes established to minimize and counteract the emergency
  • A statement of commitment to return to “business as usual”
  • An expression of empathy
  • Access to subject matter experts to answer media inquiries
  • Timing for media follow up (only promise what can be delivered)


Potential Crisis Management Questions

Reporters covering a crisis situation want more information than can typically be provided. By understanding the expected information, companies can create a public relations plan that results in accurate and seamless communications. In any crisis situation the media looks to answer the following questions:

  • How and why did the emergency happen?
  • Was there forewarning?
  • Are people and the environment safe?
  • Are there additional risks and what are they?
  • Are all victims accounted for and being helped?
  • How does the situation affect the site?
  • Who or what caused the situation?
  • Can it be fixed?
  • Who is in charge?
  • Has the situation been contained?
  • What can be expected, now and in the future?
  • What can be done to protect others?
  • What resources or actions are needed from the community?

A sudden crisis will likely to generate news coverage that may adversely impact employees, investors, customers, suppliers, and possibly the community. It may directly harm a company's reputation, offices, and revenues. Public relations planning should be developed as part of an overall disaster management plan in order to sustain a positive and productive relationship with every level of stakeholder and the community at large.

For a sample Emergency Response Checklist, download our helpful and informative guide.

Tags: Emergency Management, Resiliency, Emergency Management Program, Media and Public Relations, Social Media

5 Crisis Communications Pre-Planning Elements

Posted on Mon, Apr 30, 2012

Emergency responses to hazardous situations require a broad range of tools and technical expertise. However, one of the most effective tools of a crisis manager is the ability to communicate. The Centers for Disease Control published Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication: By Leaders For Leaders detailing the necessity of operative communications by leaders in a crisis situation.  The ability to diversely communicate information within a context understandable to responders and the affected community allows managers to successfully navigate through a disaster, potentially minimizing the effects of the hazardous situation. 

The execution of a solid communication plan should begin in the planning phase, not on the verge of, during, or in the aftermath of a disaster. Through pre-planning, a communication plan can be fully integrated into the overall disaster response plan. Communication pre-planning should include, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Notification and Activation methods: Meet with employees and responders to discuss notification and activation methods.  Do not assume that responders identify with current company communication policies or context of emergencies communications. Ensure employees are aware of applicable alarms, muster requirements, implications of various situations, and response expectations. Through communication, employees can comprehend the safety measures necessary to limit exposures and prevent unnecessary harm.
  2. Contact Verifications: Primary and secondary contact information should be verified for personnel, responsible agencies, and contracted responders. Verification should be conducted on a periodic basis in order to maintain accurate and applicable information. Communication equipment, such as hand held radios and satellite phones, should be functionally tested periodically, to ensure they are available when necessary.
  3. Strategic Considerations: Crisis managers need to communication direction for action. Establish a strategic framework with checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process to allow for an effective response.
  4. Stabilization: Effective communications is the bridge to stabilizing a crisis situation. The stabilization phase may include media/public relations. In this 24/7 information age, a communications plan should include informational jurisdiction decisions about what to release, by whom, and when. Information MUST be accurate and timely in order to diffuse rumors. Unfortunately, during the height of a crisis, bleak realities and raw emotion may alter communication agreements and promote misinformation. Seek to avoid public power struggles and confusion by establishing a clear and exercised understanding of communication responsibilities before a situation occurs.
  5.  Recovery: The lines of communications need to remain open to return to a “business as usual” level. In order for a full recovery, communication should include:
    1. Accurate damage assessment reports
    2. Response personnel reports
    3. Demobilization techniques
    4. Employee reentry procedures
    5. Lessons learned debriefings

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

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Tags: Emergency Management, Crisis Management, Emergency Management Program, Media and Public Relations, Social Media, Disaster Response

Business Continuity Awareness Week Offers Free Events

Posted on Mon, Mar 12, 2012

The Business Continuity Institute’s annual Business Continuity Awareness Week (BCAW) is being held March 19-23, 2012. The program, funded by the Business Continuity Institute, is a free global educational event that provides opportunities, through a variety of methods, to gain insight from business continuity management experts on how to effectively plan for incidents on varying scales, ultimately creating a more resilient organization.

“This is our opportunity to spread the word about Business Continuity Management and to get businesses thinking about business continuity from the top downwards. It is one week when the entire industry is focused on educating those who are new to the field and sharing information with our peers.”, Donna Monkhouse, Marketing Communications Executive, BCI

All of the week’s events are free, cater to different learning styles and time obligations, and can be found through the BCAW website. The week’s events include the following:

  • New Research: Expert reports and associated interactive author webinars will be available on topics such as identifying key supply chain partners, crisis management, resilience (discipline mapping), measuring the value of Business Continuity Management (BCM), and tools to support senior executive engagement will be available. The latest Chartered Management Institute’s annual survey will also be available. 
  • Webcasts: More than thirty webcasts will be made available. Webcasts include topics such as getting started with a business continuity plan, BCM success regardless of budget restraints, new vulnerabilities, infrastructure impact analysis, and more. 
  • BCWA Forum: A LinkedIn group designed to inspire discussion and bring awareness to the concepts of business continuity.
  • BC24: An online incident simulation game that tests organizations’ ability to manage crises in a simulated environment. Up to six players are faced with a series of choices throughout the game. The specified choices are scored and outcomes may differ depending on players’ decision processes. From March 5th to 23rd, the annual licensing participation fee of $410 has been waived so companies can benchmark their performance and capability against other companies across the world. Access to the game is also a benefit of a BCI Partnership membership.
The theme for the BCAW’s events is “time”, highlighting the “no crisis improves with age” motto. “Our research showed us that many businesses think that they will have time to deal with a crisis when it happens and fail to see the need to plan ahead.   But every minute counts when a crisis occurs.  BCM makes you think about alternative approaches to dealing with disruption, saving critical time at critical moments.”, said BCI’s Donna Monkhouse.

The Business Continuity Institute has approximately 7,000 members spread across 100 countries in an estimated 2,500 organizations. More information regarding events planning by the Business Continuity Institute can be found on the Business Continuity Awareness Week’s website

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Business Continuity key points, Business Continuity, Emergency Management Program, Social Media, Podcast

Social Media Resources for Emergency Managers

Posted on Mon, Feb 13, 2012

The surge of social media has provided a myriad of resources and discussion opportunities for Environmental, Health and Safety Professionals. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow for articles and blogs to be circulated without geographic limitations, giving professionals insight to new technology, lessons learned, and general advice.

Below is a short list of current LinkedIn groups that may be helpful to EHS professionals.
Note: Many groups have prerequisites for membership.

  • Emergency, Health, and Safety Professionals: (over 28,000 members) A collection of Safety Professionals to network, collaborate and to reach out.
  • EHS Professionals: (over 21,000 members) A group for EHS professionals to develop his/her EHS expertise and search for EHS solution. The group only welcomes EHS professionals with at least 3 years' experience in EHS. 
  • Professionals in Emergency Management: (over 8,500 members) This group is for individuals in the field of emergency management. It is an opportunity to network, ask questions, mentor, and search for or display job opportunities in emergency management, homeland security, hazard mitigation, emergency planning, etc.
  • Environmental Health and Safety: (Over 8000 members) A place for EHS professionals to meet, share ideas, solutions and issues affecting the environment, health, industrial hygiene and safety of companies around the globe.
  • BCMIX - Business Continuity Management Information eXchange: (over 7,700 members) BCMIX is a free and non-commercial virtual group created for professionals with a genuine interest in Business Continuity Management (BCM/BCP), Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP), COOP, Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Management. This site is a networking place for members of BCMIX. All members are invited to ask questions, ask for help, guidance or suggestions, discuss and share opinions / ideas / expertise on all aspects of BCM. 
  • Crisis, Emergency & Disaster Recovery Professionals: (over 5,900 members) This group is intended to provide a network of Crisis, Emergency & Disaster Recovery Professionals to engage, share contacts and information, and provide assistance when needed.
  • International Association of Emergency Managers: (over 4,300 members)The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting the goals of saving lives and protecting property during emergencies and disasters.
  • Oil and Hazmat Emergency Response: (over 1,600 members) This group is for professionals in the field of Oil Spill and Hazmat emergency response and management. It is an opportunity to network, ask questions, mentor, and search for or display job opportunities in oil spill and hazmat emergency response and management, hazard mitigation, emergency planning, etc.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Business Continuity, Emergency Management, Social Media, Disaster Recovery

Emergency Management Planning for 2012

Posted on Thu, Jan 05, 2012

2012 offers immense growth in the area of cloud, social, and mobile computing, according to Gartner Inc., a leading information technology research and advisory company.  These methods of information sharing and communications are predicted to have explosive growth and continue to change the way business is conducted. This technological trend of information sharing and rapid communication should be effectively incorporated in the area of Emergency Response, Incident Management, and Planning.

Smart phones, tablets and other devices continue to gain in popularity and use. By embracing the predicted trend, companies can incorporate comprehensive emergency and incident management processes and strategies with an effective stakeholder management system. In the midst of a response, companies need to be able to identify, prioritize, communicate, and engage both responders and stakeholders effectively. Through the use of advancing technology, companies can limit damaging rumors, misinformation, and adverse public perceptions that can result from an emergency or crisis situation.

Within most companies, the transition to cloud, social, and mobile computing will require budget reallocations. According to Garnet's 2012 predictions, monies typically allocated for technology departments may be managed outside the IT budget. Managing VP and Gartner Fellow Daryl Plummer, says that "IT has to change itself to become a broker of services rather than just a provider of technology to their business." It is clear that in order for Emergency managers to keep up with common-place communication methods, EHS budgets need to address how to incorporate cloud, social, and mobile computing into emergency planning and response. Utilizing a designated budget to outsource a consultant that can bridge the knowledge of EHS professionals and Emergency Management requirements with company technology departments may prove to be a more cost efficient and effective method than in-house transitions.

By embracing technology and rapidly changing communications methods, emergency planners can establish enhanced tools and procedures for coordination and communication with responders and stakeholders to effectively manage emergency and crisis situations.

For a sample Emergency Response Checklist, download our helpful and informative guide.

Tags: Emergency Response, Incident Management, Media and Public Relations, Social Media, Disaster Response, National Preparedness, Notification Systems

Utilizing Social Media in Corporate Crisis Management

Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011

Social media is gaining popularity at unprecedented speeds. According to Nielson’s “State of Social Media Report Q3 2011” social networks and blogs are explored by nearly 80% of Internet users. Additionally, 40% of social media users access these sites through mobile smart phones. It is clear that pendulum is swinging when it comes to communication methods.

As with any outside influences and technological advances, companies that adapt to societal norms tend to survive longer than those that resist change and remain stagnant. The minute an incident occurs, a company’s response to that emergency is being publicly scrutinize and analyzed by the masses.  Popular social media forums can be effectively used as emergency response communication tools to both internal groups and outside skeptics and inquisitors.

When an emergency erupts, factual information should be quickly communicated to responders, as well as the general public.  It is undeniable that timely communication and response in the early stages of an incident can reduce the effects of an emergency.  The same is true with the general public. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be used by companies to provide real-time emergency updates to the public, reducing the generation of rumors and misinformation to become viral.

Utilizing social media as a tool for Corporate Crisis Communications has numerous benefits including, but not limited to:

  • Minimizes the communication gap between a company and the general public
  • Opens up a dialogue to reduce miscommunication and rumors
  • Informs public of potential threats and applicable countermeasures
  • Communicates mobilization of internal coordinating teams, staff, and/or volunteers
  • Improves externally communications with agencies and people affected by disaster
  • Provides real-time updates from responders and allows company personnel to have a first-person awareness of a situation.
  • Active communication demonstrates that the company values emergency preparedness and response and its implications to the community
  • Eliminates an information bottleneck

Unfortunately, emergencies do occur and companies must respond accordingly.  However, the with the use of Social Media, and factual, actionable, and decisive social media response communication, companies can maintain, repair, or even improve their corporate reputation.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Crisis Management, Incident Management, Emergency Management Program, Media and Public Relations, Social Media, Disaster Recovery, Disaster Response, Notification Systems

65 Emergency Management Acronyms...What are they talking about?

Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011

Acronyms are a common emergency management communication method. Listed below are common emergency planning acronyms and their meanings.

1. ACP Area Contingency Plan
2. BBL Barrel
3. BC Business Continuity
4. CFR Code of Federal Regulations
5. CHRIS Chemical Hazards Response Information System
6. CISD Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
7. CM Crisis Manager
8. CMT Crisis Management Team
9. COFR Certificate of Financial Responsibility
10. CWS Community Warning System
11. EMT Country Emergency Management Team
12. EOC Emergency Operations Center
13. EPCRA Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
14. FOSC Federal On-Scene Coordinator
15. FRP Facility Response Plan
16. GPM Gallons Per Minute
17. HAZMAT Hazardous Materials
18. HAZWOPER Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response
19. HMIS Hazardous Material Information System
20. IBRRC International Bird Rescue Research Center
21. IC Incident Commander
22. ICP Incident Command Post
23. ICS Incident Command System
24. IMO International Marine Organization
25. IMT Incident Management Team
26. IPIECA International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association
27. JOC Joint Operations Center
28. LEL Lower Explosive Level
29. LEPC Local Emergency Planning Commission
30. LEPD Local Emergency Planning District
31. LNG Liquefied Natural Gas
32. LPG Liquefied Petroleum Gas
33. MSDS Material Safety Data Sheet
34. NCP National Contingency Plan
35. NIMS National Incident Management System
36. NIOSH National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
37. NM Nautical Miles
38. NPDES National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
39. NRC National Response Center
40. NRDA National Resource Damage Assessment
41. NRS National Response System
42. NRT National Response Team
43. OSC On-Scene Coordinator/Commander
44. OSRO Oil Spill Removal Organization
45. OSRP Oil Spill Response Plan
46. PIAT Public Information Assistance Team
47. PPE Personal Protective Equipment
48. RCT Regional Crisis Team
49. ROC Record of Changes
50. RP Responsible Party
51. RRC Regional Response Centers
52. RRT Regional Response Team (Federal)
53. RRI Regional Resource Inventory
54. SAR Search and Rescue
55. SCBA Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus
56. SERC State Emergency Response Commission
57. SITREP Situation Report Message (USCG)
58. SMT Spill Management Team
59. SOSC State On-Scene Coordinator
60. SOP Standard Operating Procedure
61. SPCC Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Plan
62. SSSP Site Specific Safety & Health Plan
63. UCS Unified Command System
64. WCD Worst Case Discharge
65. WDR Waste Discharge Requirements

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Regulatory Compliance, Facility Management, Emergency Management Program, Social Media, Notification Systems