Warning: Crisis Management Required

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    When signs of impending crisis appear, it’s no time for patchwork fixes

    Often, long before a major crisis strikes, there is some sort of indication that trouble’s brewing. In the case of the Texas fertilizer facility that exploded this week, a report from USAToday’s Chuck Raasch and Sharon Jayson indicates that the company may have been lax regarding safety and maintenance procedures as far back as 2006. Here’s a quote:

    The fertilizer plant that exploded in West, Texas, killing more than 30 people and causing widespread damage was cited and fined in 2006 for federal environmental violations, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

    West Chemical and Fertilizer was fined $2,300 in March 2006 for failing to update a risk management plan and for having poor employee-training records and no formal written maintenance program, according to the EPA. The company later certified it had corrected the deficiencies, the EPA said.

    Thing is, sometimes, even when you’re making your best effort to do the right thing, smoldering crises can go unnoticed until events send a little red flag up. Whatever your business, it’s critical to keep an eye out for indicators, whether in the form of regulatory violations, stakeholder unrest, negative media coverage or internal reports that show something just isn’t quite as it should be.

    Once you’ve had a mounting issue pointed out, Crisis Management 101 dictates that you should not only patch it to the satisfaction of regulators (the public, employees, media, whoever), but actually dig to the root of the issue and fix it there.

    Will it take some extra effort? Yes. Will it save your organization’s reputation, and, depending on the crisis, huge sums of money, or even human lives? Absolutely.

    Put that way, do you have any good excuse not to make that effort?

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]