Is Stop, Drop and Be Handsome the New Emergency Training Protocol?

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Emergency Response


Is Stop Drop and Be Handsome the New Emergency Training Protocol?

 By Suzy Loughlin, Esq., CAO and Co-founder Firestorm

We kid Brian Williams but we don’t kid about safety.

On Tuesday night, NBC Nightly News anchor (and former volunteer fire fighter) Brian Williams was in the middle of a story about the bankruptcy filing of American Airlines, when a fire alarm sounded in the studio.

Initially, Williams kept reading his lines. He later said “You’ll forgive us, we have a fire alarm announcement going on here in the studio,” before returning to his script. The alarm continued to sound throughout the broadcast. At some point, Williams said to the audience “there is no danger to us.”

Tweets and blogs were humming with opinions about Williams conduct, ranging from a viewer post that read:

“Mr. Williams put every studio employee’s life at risk by forcing them to stay at their camera or mic boom.   Mr. Williams should be fined by OSHA $10,000,000…………..”


“We’re not sure if there’s anyone out there more likable or classier than Brian Williams when it comes to being a news anchor….Brian was in the middle of his news report when the fire alarm went off. What did he do? Run screaming for his life? No. He barely acknowledged it and continued on with the report like the pro that he is! Plus, sometimes he shows up on 30 Rock, and that’s cool with us! Ha!”

At Firestorm, we regularly discuss the importance of having a Communications Plan that takes into account the types of messages one may need to deliver during a disruption or crisis; who the audience of those messages will be; how the messages will be delivered.

Today, in the world of social media, if one hasn’t crafted those messages or developed the communications strategy ahead of time, it is less likely that optimum communications will be delivered.

For example, the tweet of NBC spokeswoman Erika Masonall:

“This is the first fire alarm in our new NBC Nightly News studio. System should have been shut off – but clearly still working out the kinks.”

Clearly, she didn’t mean to suggest that NBC Studios would ‘shut off their systems’, did she? That would be against fire code.

She went on to tweet: “I thought we had turned off all the alarms in the studio.”

Clearly, she didn’t mean to suggest that NBC Studios would ‘turn off all the alarms in the studio’ did she? Again, that could place employees at risk.

It all made for a fun night of late-night TV, however.  Jon Stewart coined the new training mantra “Stop Drop and Be Handsome,” which I’m sure brought back memories of grade school for all viewers, where we were indoctrinated with “stop, drop and roll” if our clothing were to catch fire.

Fortunately for NBC, laughter, smiles and admiration summed up the majority of the public’s reaction to Mr. Williams.

If Firestorm could have written the script for Brian, we would have tried to include some ‘teachable moments’ for America, as  in 2010 fire accounted for 3,120 civilian deaths, 17,720 civilian fire injuries and $11.6 billion in property damage. A fire department responded to a fire somewhere every 24 seconds. (NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Division). Undoubtedly, a fire department responded to 30 Rock too.

I do thank Mr. Williams, however, for triggering a national discussion on the topic of fire  evacuation protocol.  It is needed in our culture, where the failure to evacuate during fire drills is pervasive in many office environments—particularly among senior leadership and management.

By Suzy Loughlin, Esq., CAO and Co-founder Firestorm

Browse Suzy’s Articles

Suzy Loughlin is a founding member and EVP/Chief Administrative Officer of Firestorm® Solutions, a recognized leader in crisis management, vulnerability analysis, risk mitigation and business continuity.


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