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2015: Lessons learned, part 1

Giraffe tightropeThe past year brought many crises—natural disasters, weather events like droughts and flooding, cyber breaches, corporate scandals and more. And of course in early 2016 the November events in Paris are still fresh in our minds. Closer to home the phrase “active shooter” has now, sadly, entered the common parlance.

A recent MIR3 webinar, 2015: A Year of Crisis and Communication, reviewed some of the year’s significant events with an eye toward helping you be better prepared for future disruptive events.

The webinar was presented by Ann Pickren, MBTI, crisis communication expert and president at MIR3; Jim Satterfield, expert on crisis management, threat assessment, BC/DR planning, and president and COO of Firestorm; and Michelle Colosimo, crisis communication expert and director at Black Swan Solutions.

In this blog post and the two that follow, we’ll deconstruct that it and draw lessons from both successful and unsuccessful outcomes.

Lesson One: Crises are more common than you think

In 2015, 64% of New York businesses called 911. Many called multiple times—and two called for emergency help over 100 times each!

Reasons for the calls varied:

  • Medically-related 52%
  • Crime and violence 24%
  • Fires 17%
  • Hazardous materials 7%

Additionally, the Red Cross logged over 70,000 disasters, as it does every year in America (the majority of which were fires) and there were thousands and thousands of workplace accidents across the country.


Disasters can impact your business even if they do not directly strike it. One of the most common risk for business is supply chain failure. Who are your critical suppliers, and are they prepared?

Lesson Two: Many companies are not prepared

According to statistics presented in the webinar, most companies (85%) have a BC/DR plan—and 90% of those update that plan at least annually. However, 30% of companies never hold a drill or exercise, and about a quarter hold just one basic drill a year.

When it comes to doing the background work to create a business continuity plan, only half of companies with a plan started with a threat assessment, and just a third completed a business impact analysis (BIA) to identify potential financial and operational impacts.

In most cases emergency supplies were not considered until too late.


Research shows that many plans tell people what to do but not how to do it. Confusion in a crisis can prove deadly—which means you should consider adding to your plan greater detail on how to actually take action.

Lesson Three: Violence is ever-present and growing

According to OSHA, there are over two million episodes of workplace violence annually in America. Sadly, parents, students, and teachers are beginning to see shootings in schools as an ever-present threat.


Your organization has a responsibility to provide a reasonably safe workplace. Do you have a program to identify behaviors of concern before they escalate into violence?

Lesson Four: Communication failures abound

Most organizations fall short when it comes to effective communication. Surprisingly, many companies have no automated mass notification solution in place, and instead rely on outdated call trees. Others use outdated legacy applications that don’t sync with other systems and databases within the organization.

Even business that have mass notification in place often find out too late that they don’t have the capacity to manage the deluge of communications that can occurring during a large-scale event. Others neglect critical training for administrators and recipients or don’t have prepared messaging that can help to get an alert out quickly.


Every organization should have a reliable and foolproof way of automating mass notifications, and every emergency alerting system and plan should be tested regularly. Contact information for all potential recipients must be regularly updated and kept current, and training should be provided to both the administrators who send the messages and the recipients who will get them.