As public agencies nervously prepare for the worst of California's storms and the East Coast growls at a snow forecast from heck, it's a timely reminder about that one thing we tend to forget: Crisis communications planning.
Since it's currently raining snakes over my house, it's too late for planning. Now (borrowing from one of my favorite movies), it's more like: "Effie, Brace Yourself."
Below are four tips for last-minute crisis "bracing" as they relate to disasters or other approaching events that can turn ugly quickly:
Boot ready. Sounds silly, but do you have waterproof hiking boots? You'd be surprised how many times this piece of clothing comes in handy. What else? Warm, rainproof jacket. Extra clothes and socks. A hat. I have a backpack ready to go, stuffed with a charged netbook (and portable modem with my Verizon wireless account - assuming wireless won't be accessible) and flashdrives with important contacts, documents, sample press releases. Extreme measures? Put a tent and sleeping back in the car, along with some non-perishable food. This could take a while.
Connect ready. Is your Blackberry/iPhone/Evo/? currently charged? Do you have a plan on how to reach people if a cell phone dies or the cellphone system goes down? In an earthquake or major disaster, the hands-on team crisis team knows it must go into "automatic" mode and keep managing the situation without electronic communications. If the company email goes down, does everyone have everyone's personal email addresses? (Been there, done that with my Yahoo account).
Geographic ready. Will you rely on your Garmon to get you to a disaster scene? What if Garmon (I have VZ Navigator on my Blackberry) goes down? Do you have an old-fashioned map (in LA, we used to love those bulky Thomas Guides)?
Body ready. At a case study presentation, I was impressed by the story of a PR manager who knew a storm was coming...and headed to bed to grab few winks. Why? Because he knew that in a few short hours, he probably will be awake for a very long time. He knew he would be his best with a few hours of sleep. A sharp mind is critical in these cases - whether to offer advice or when speaking to the news media. Too many PR folks will stay up....waiting, monitoring, prepping... and forgetting to rest.