STOP! And Stabilize the Situation – Step One of Managing a Crisis

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If you’re a decision-maker for an organization, or strive to be in the future, you must plan for how to respond to disasters and crises. You need a crisis plan, a plan of action to initiate said plan and insurance for when disaster does strike. Will you listen to your insurance provider when they recommend hiring a crisis management firm to be on stand-by when (note how I didn’t say if) a crisis strikes? You may sit there and think, “Of course I’ll listen to my insurance provider!” Sure, maybe you will, however, not all organizations do.

Firestorm has worked with hundreds of organizations for more than a decade. One challenge we have encountered is organization’s resistance to hiring a crisis firm in advance to be on a call, or be available when disaster strikes. Many times, the organization does not think they will need assistance because, “It will never happen here.” Remember the phrase disaster denial? Perfect example.

Often when an organization encounters a crisis, management and employees will first freeze. They will not know who to call or how to respond. They subsequently hold press conferences and state inaccurate facts in the early hours of a crisis. Because remember, most of what you first learn during a disaster is wrong. Actions create consequences that will follow an organization into the future. Additionally, organizations repetitively make the same mistakes, for example: immediately trying to explain themselves or the situation and/or engaging with the media before knowing the facts. Without direction, organizations make common crisis errors that could easily be prevented. What should you do when a crisis strikes your business or school? STOP.

STOP and Stabilize

When an organization makes mistakes immediately following a crisis, they often look at their insurers or agents and say, “Why did you let me do that? Why didn’t you help me? Why didn’t you give me the services that I needed?” Even though the event that caused the crisis may not have been covered under the insurance policy, ill feelings form. Firestorm has witnessed this exact situation many times. From these experiences, we have identified a hole in the process and created CRISIS STOP™ as a solution.

CRISIS STOP™ is an acronym that stands for Stabilize, Trigger, Opine and Prevent. CRISIS STOP™ is a no-fee resource that can be initiated immediately when a crisis strikes, providing organizations with direction. The CRISIS STOP™ program is beneficial for all parties: the client and the insurer. Insurers can provide their clients with CRISIS STOP™ to ensure they have readily available resources when disaster strikes – eliminating the ‘why didn’t you prepare us’ resentment in the aftermath of a crisis.

Firestorm recognizes crises often follow a common pattern. The first emotion felt after a crisis is a tremendous acceleration. Organization’s feel they need to move quickly and most often, that’s exactly the opposite of how they need to act. Yes, you need to move quickly during the emergency response or life-safety phase, but that ends very quickly. The first action to take at the onset of a crisis is to slow down and stabilize the situation – this leads us to the S in CRISIS STOP™, Stabilize. During the stabilization phase, our goal is to help organizations understand the different issues and parameters. Firestorm assists the organization in identifying:

  • Who are the people to communicate with?
  • What are the communications?
  • What do the communications look like?
  • What is the wording?

When a crisis occurs: STOP and Stabilize the situation. Focus on the issues at hand before taking actions or releasing statements. Brand and reputation impacts must be taken into consideration when a crisis occurs. Actions taken in the immediate aftermath of a crisis may make sense in the moment, but without a clear decision-making process, they may not make sense a week, a month or a year later.

Stopping and stabilizing the situation is a great start, but it’s only ¼ of the solution. When you have stabilized a situation, who do you call upon for assistance? The next article in this series will dive into triggering appropriate resources, or the T phase of CRISIS STOP™

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