Friday, December 3, 2010

Fire In Israel Is Lesson To Business Everywhere

The horrific forest fire that leveled more than 12,000 acres and several villages near Haifa in Israel, killing at least 41 people, should be a lesson to business owners/managers/executives and the leaders of every other kind of organization, everywhere, that they need a crisis plan!

You do not have to have a crisis of your own, to have a crisis.

What may have started as a “trash fire” forced the evacuation of a university, three prisons and a hospital. A bus-load of prison guard cadets died when the bus taking them to fight the fast spreading fire overtook the vehicle and consumed it quickly.

Several local businesses were leveled and life was disrupted for thousands in and around Israel’s third largest city, Haifa.

When we help a client prepare a crisis plan, we always recommend a section for “someone else’s crisis.”

We’ve had manufacturing facilities shut down because a neighboring plant had a spill and the local fire department ordered an evacuation of all surrounding facilities. It doesn’t have to be a crisis of your own, with the reputational damage that goes with it. It can be a significant disruption of your operations because of someone else’s problem.

You will still have to have an evacuation plan, an internal as well as external communication strategy, and continuity and recovery plan.

We have worked with a major pharmaceutical company. If they have a power outage or otherwise some disruption to their manufacturing process, they may have to shut down everything. That means a major loss of a valuable batch of product, which leads to a major clean-up and sterilization of the production line -- all-in-all, an unplanned loss of as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you manage a small business, a medical practice, a hospital or school, or any kind of organization, you should have three crisis plans:

1. An operational crisis plan – what do you do when someone pulls the fire alarm, a tornado takes the roof off, flooding overcomes your facility, someone with a gun storms into the building, or any number of other “sudden crises” strike?

2. A communication plan – who do you need to communicate with, who is going to speak for your organization, what are they going to say, how are they going to deliver the message, who has the final say on what is said?

3. A continuity and recovery plan – how do you get through the immediate disruption and how do you get back to normal operations?

In the best of all worlds, those three plans should be integrated into one comprehensive plan.

And, be sure and anticipate someone else’s crisis causing a major headache for you.

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