05/13/2004

Are you ready for spills, emissions, explosions, contamination, fatalities or other emergencies?

Most people think crisis preparation and communication are someone else's job.
But if your company suffers a spill, emission, explosion, contamination,
fatality or other emergency, will you be ready? Because: Whatever your field or
job function, you can count on one more thing in addition to death and taxes:
something will go wrong.

In the April issue of Environmental Protection, crisis counselor and media
relations expert Merrie Spaeth offers a crash course on dealing with an
environmental crisis. She cites two examples -- Company X, which handled a
crisis incident poorly, and Colonial Pipeline, a success story.

In 1999, crisis planning helped Colonial Pipeline handle a petroleum spill so
well that five years later, local communities support a planned expansion line.


"Crisis planning is the best investment you'll ever make," says Susan
Castiglione-Baranski, CP's senior manager of corporate and public affairs. "[It
turns] risk management into reputation management as well as being a real
team-building effort in the best and most enduring sense."

During a crisis, a company doesn't have the luxury of time to figure out
exactly what happened before dealing with its public stakeholders; and lawyers
can no longer view things through the narrow prism of what the company may be
legally liable for.

According to Spaeth, some of the proactive tools that companies should have in
place include:


  • A crisis-planning team, including inside support and outside experts
  • Training for all company personnel, refreshed and updated on a regular basis
  • Knowing your key audiences and developing ongoing relationships with them
  • Knowing key media contacts and developing relationships with them as well
    -- especially local press

Further Information


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