Planning for Emergencies and Crises at Your Church
In our last column, we discussed the phases necessary to develop your church security plan.
- Develop a planning team.
- Facilitate a discussion and risk assessment using the Collaborative Informed Consent model.
- Draft your goals and objectives.
To write and use your plan, use the six specific steps explained below.
Consult with Community Partners
“Without prophetic vision, the people shall perish …” Proverbs 29:18
All planning begins with a vision. Your team should develop the vision and understand it well enough to easily explain it to any congregant.
A “shared vision” is critical to achieving desired results.
One church’s vision was: “When you come to church here, you will feel safe; our ‘sheepdogs’ are protecting our flock.”
Engage local emergency management, first responders, and law enforcement partners. Explain what you want to accomplish, and ask them to join your planning group.
Seek out “fence-line” neighbors who may share a property line with the church. Ask them to help you “keep an eye out” on unusual activity and immediately report it to authorities and the church contact. Encourage them that if they “see something, say something.”
The active shooter in Texas parked his vehicle, walked 50 plus yards dressed in battle gear and carrying a rifle before spraying rounds of fire into two sides of the building. Then he entered the church. The church’s parking lot is the first and one of the most important locations to have “eyes and ears”.
Risk Assessment Considerations
The planning committee must consider threats and prioritize them. For example, tornadoes are likely to happen in the spring or summer. Consider what damage could occur, how much time is available to warn the congregants, and how long the threat could last.
Consider the “after-shocks” and follow-on effects of the threat. Robberies, assaults, and active shooters could turn your church into a crime scene, which means it could be cordoned off for days, maybe weeks, and the media demands will be incessant.
Setting Goals and Desired Outcomes
Prioritize each threat from high to low. Set goals (general statements about the desired outcome) for your highest priorities.
An objective is a step to take to achieve the goal. If your goal is to prevent fires, objectives could be providing fire prevention training to cooks, ensuring the church has available fire extinguishers and that congregants know how to use them as well as an evacuation plan, if necessary.
Developing and using table-top scenarios
Specific plan scenarios should be outlined based on priority. What do you do in the event of an active shooter, tornado or medical emergency? The responses and responders will be different for each.
Consider length of response time (particularly in rural areas), who in the church will make the decisions, and what the courses of action are.
Use facilitated table-top exercises with your committee to develop specific action steps. Look under “Resources” at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com for an example. If your church membership has first-aid responders who attend regularly, involve them and explain how they can help.
Plan Preparation, Review and Approval
Determine courses of action for each high priority threat (include active shooter scenarios). Compare the costs and benefits. Present the draft of the written plan to the organization’s leadership for approval or changes.
Plan Implementation and Maintenance
Share the plan before finalizing with a review group of your community partners, emergency responders, and law enforcement. Get their feedback and include all genders and ages as third-party insights are extremely valuable.
Communications Internally and Externally
Disseminate understandable, concise information to the internal and external audiences. Use the church website or social media to push out the information. Inform your local media. If the church has a website for members, this information can be shared there.
Choose volunteers who meet your criteria and who agree to train. Use table-top exercises to hold practice drills. Review and update the plan at least every two-years or if there are changes to buildings, policies or personnel.
Finally, arrange for crisis communications and media relations training for at least three members of the team, In the event of an active shooter, your pastor, deacons, and critical leadership will need it.
These columns share the expertise and ideas gleaned from our experience and those involved in church security. We challenge you and your leadership to explore what has become a vitally important role in today’s houses of worship — safety and security for those who come to worship.
Interested persons can find additional information including a video introduction on church security, podcasts, and materials designed to inform and educate at www.churchsafetyministry.com. A series of webinars are under development, and those interested in attending these online seminars can register at the website to receive announcements on dates.
(L. Darryl Armstrong Ph.D. is the principal at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates LLC. His firm provides crisis communications and prevention consulting services and training to clients nation-wide. He has more than 40-years of experience in helping clients prepare for emergencies and crisis. A graduate of Murray State University in communications and behavioral psychology and the Executive Security Institute with an emphasis in security planning, he holds a doctoral degree in neuro-linguistics. He is available for limited speaking engagements and consulting. 1.888.340.2006, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.ldarrylarmstrong.com.)
A OneNewsNow.com survey of 4000 churches in 2008 found that 75% of them had no security plans!
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
“More guns are not the simple answer,” says Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org.
After the November Texas shooting, many small churches reacted by seeking a qualified Carry Concealed Weapons holder. A reaction is not a church safety and security plan.
Assessing your church’s vulnerabilities is the foundational step in understanding what your risks are and how to prepare.
Become Proactive Instead of Reactive in the Process
A thoughtfully written, communicated, and exercised plan of action for church safety and security is a much better and safer solution and it begins with a facilitated discussion with your congregation.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advises identifying threats, developing goals, and planning courses of action. Then implement, review and consistently maintain your plan.
Take into account your geographic region. Are you subject to natural disasters like the New Madrid Fault in Western Kentucky or hurricanes at Tybee Island, Georgia? Perhaps you worship at a church in tornado alley, or you are subject to fires or floods.
Active shooters, disgruntled congregants, angry church members, sexual predators and hate groups are always possible threats.
Churches are “Soft Targets”
The American Crime Prevention Institute notes that criminals see houses of worship as “soft targets” for theft, robbery, embezzlement, vandalism, arson, and violence from hate crimes. They are “soft targets” because many don’t have security systems, are meagerly staffed, leave their doors unlocked, and never think of robbery when taking up an offering.
Jimmy Meeks, who retired after 35 years in law enforcement and has been a minister for 44 years, is a consultant with Sheepdog Seminars for Churches, a training firm focused on teaching church security measures. He notes that sexual abuse can and does occur in the church, citing 23 sexual crimes reported at Protestant Churches every day.
Sadly, the recent Texas church shooting points out the vulnerability of congregations when it comes to active shooters seeking revenge and the importance of being prepared even in a small country congregation.
Three Initial Planning Phases
Regardless of the size of your church, now is the time to implement a six-step emergency planning process starting with three general phases.
The first phase is to form a collaborative planning “ministry safety and security” team. Collaborative teams are made up of congregant volunteers who are willing to “co-labor” and get the job done. Choose this team wisely. We will discuss criteria for such teams in a future column.
This team should consist of your pastor, deacons, principal leadership, local law enforcement and emergency response personnel, an attorney, and your insurance agent. Others to consider are people with private security, teaching, counseling, and crisis communications experience.
Whenever possible, your team should have a right mix of genders and ages on this team because people in their 60s will see issues differently than those in their 20s.
In the second phase, facilitate your planning dialogue and risk assessment using the Collaborative, Informed Consent model. This model starts with the premise that the team “agrees” to provide their consent to the plan because they collaborate to design it and become well informed about its use.
Kay Armstrong, a senior consultant at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates, explains, “This engagement model uses a structured facilitation process that allows for a candid discussion about the pros and cons of having a plan for church safety and security. Participants can freely talk about their fears, current issues, and the perceived risks. This process helps them realize the possible emergency scenarios that could face the church; how to prioritize them; and how to develop options to handle them.”
Once the numerous situations are listed, discussed, vetted and prioritized, the committee can develop well-defined goals and objectives, which is the third phase.
These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and from experts in church safety and security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vital role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security – and to realize that just carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is not enough.
Find additional information including an introductory video on church safety and security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com. anyone interested in participating in a pilot webinar can register at our website for future presentation dates.
Churches, like any other businesses in today’s environment, must take steps to ensure the safety of their congregations.
Because emergencies happen to all businesses, a thoughtful and resilient emergency plan of action is prudent.
As of December 19, 108 people were killed in churches in 2017.
When an active shooter on November 5, 2017, killed 26 people and wounded 20 at a rural Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, media, public, and political concerns reached a new high.
This church attack was the deadliest active shooting by an individual in Texas history and the fifth-deadliest in the United States. It is the most devastating active shooting in an American place of worship in our history.
Such events disappear quickly from the front pages of mainstream media, and many people, including pastors and congregants, resort to thinking, “it can’t happen to us.” Hopefully, it won’t.
Although the chances that your congregants will be involved in such an attack are slim, church leadership must accept the possibility and plan for this and all other possible emergencies.
Having worked in the field of crisis communications, prevention, and management for 40-years, I believe in and practice with my clients “ praying for the best while preparing for the worse.”
Organizations that do so will survive and recover; those that don’t suffer severe and often irreparable consequences.
This series of columns will provide insight into the questions that church leaders and pastors must consider as they plan for the safety of their congregants.
Planning for the necessary personnel to respond, the communication of the event, training church personnel, and the event follow-up should cover issues such as:
- Why houses of worship need an emergency response plan and the types of emergencies to include.
- The importance of a facilitated dialogue with leadership and congregants about developing an action plan that includes law enforcement, emergency response, legal and insurance personnel a process we call “Collaborative Informed Consent.”
- Considerations of hiring professional security personnel or using volunteers, including a “talent inventory” from your congregants.
- Conducting a risk analysis and evaluation of your church facility, parking lot, and personnel.
- Why your institution is a “soft target” and how to “harden” it by quickly achieving “soft” and “hard” lockdowns.
- Having trained “screeners” and the options for action they must take when an incident develops.
- Understanding your internal and external communication needs and venues before, during, and after a crisis.
- Considering non-lethal and lethal options.
- How to gather intelligence and ensure confidentiality.
- How to protect children and seniors who are the most vulnerable members of your congregation.
- Understanding what an active shooter is and how they think.
- The times of day and the days of the week your church is most vulnerable.
- The role of active or retired military, law enforcement, and concealed carry permit holders on your security team.
- What you must communicate to your congregation about your plan and what they must do in the event of an emergency, including an active shooter.
- Whether you should post signage, and, if so, what should it say?
- Establishing proactive establishment of post-event counseling and recovery assistance.
- Teaching self-awareness and using the “see something, say something” strategy.
- Pros and cons of “Run, hide and fight.”
- The need for “Stop the Bleed” first-aid kits and training.
These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and those involved in church security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vitally important role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security and not just to conclude that carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is all you have to do to protect your congregants.
Interested persons can find additional information including an introductory video on church security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com. A pilot webinar is under development, and those interested in participating in this pilot can register at our website to receive announcements of future presentation dates.
(L. Darryl Armstrong Ph.D. is the principal at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates LLC, a firm providing crisis communications and consulting training nation-wide. Dr. Armstrong, who holds a doctoral degree in neuro-linguistics, graduated from Murray State University in communications and behavioral psychology and the Executive Security Institute with an emphasis in security planning. For limited speaking engagements and consulting, contact him at 1.888.340.2006, email@example.com and www.ldarrylarmstrong.com.)
All organizations these days are subject to crisis and emergency management disasters. Those that take the time to plan for their worst-case scenarios and be prepared in advance will survive and even thrive. Those that believe it “can’t happen to us” will not.
Perhaps equally important, whether they are nonprofit organizations, local, state or federal agencies, large or medium size businesses, or universities and colleges, those folks that don’t understand the impact that social media can have on crisis and emergency management are destined to suffer even more serious consequences than they may realize.
It has been said that imagination is the true sign of intelligence. When it comes to technology and crisis and emergency management, which is evolving daily at speeds often beyond our comprehension, there can be no argument that imagination often makes the difference between the mundane and the next level of creativity.
Recently we teamed with a relatively new company based in Denver, Colo., Nusura, Inc. – “nusura” is a Swahili term meaning “one who survives” – this company is one of the newest innovative companies on deck offering a way for organizations to test their social media and public outreach skills through the use of a training tool they call SimulationDeck.
SimulationDeck is a secure Web portal that replicates online communications tools, including such social media as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as organizational websites and blogs.
As many of my readers know, for years my firm has offered strategic crisis planning and issues management alongside emergency operations planning, training and webinars. When we were asked by a client to consider how best to bring them into the real world of social media we sought out and found Nusura, Inc. The teaming partnership has resulted in a significant contract with a federal agency. We believe our combined resources, talents and experience and a similar set of values on how to handle clients and business in general brought us to the front of the bidder pack.
Nusura’s president is Jim Chestnutt, an experienced public information officer formerly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Chestnutt and his team of former FEMA employees set out to train people on how to get information out to their stakeholders in a timely, accurate and coordinated fashion during emergencies.
We saw benefit and value to application of their technology for not just life-threatening situations, we also saw the benefit to planning for the always prevalent developing crisis around such internal issues as reorganizations, downsizing, sexual harassment charges, ethics charges and legal entanglements that any organization can face.
Chestnutt and I both found that in after-action reports from actual and exercise events – be it an internal crisis or an external emergency – that the public information function in major exercises was not being tested in a realistic way, which is what set me out to find a way to correct the issue for my clients.
Chestnutt says that the pressure created by mock media and those tasked with testing the public information element in mock exercises didn’t compare to the reality of handling even a small emergency.
Nusura, Inc. has former public information officers and field agents from all levels of government who have experienced all sorts of internal and external crises and emergencies. SimulationDeck is the creative offspring of this group of talented professionals to mimic what happens online and in the media during an actual crisis or emergency.
The simulation Web portal has nine websites which emulate social media sites: SimulationBook includes Facebook’s core features; Bleater simulates Twitter; the blogging platform is called Frogger; their YouTube look-alike is Ewe Tube; there is a site for agency or organizational news; incident information; the Exercise Times Daily, a Web-based newspaper that features live reader comments; SimDeck News, a Web-based TV station; and KEXN Radio.
SimulationDeck doesn’t require special software, so it can work on any platform or Internet-connected device. Chestnutt notes that one person working the SimulationDeck could act as 10 people. This person can file a newspaper article, then post on the agency’s website and then act as the Governor’s press secretary and announce a surprise press conference.
Chestnutt told emergencymgmt.com that “Things happen instantly, and any simulation player can generate an enormous amount of injects, as fast as they can type and enter it.”
The tool was recently used during the Vibrant Response 13, a U.S. Army North national-level field training exercise that had 9,000 service members and civilians from the military, as well as state and federal agencies.
Dan Manuszewski, Chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army North, told the editor at www.emergencymgmt.com that it’s increasingly important to practice all forms of communications and that includes social media as it becomes increasingly popular.
We note that many of our college and university clients, who have been reluctant to engage in social media as a communications tool, are becoming aware of its importance when they see that their students and staff are more quickly informed through Twitter and Facebook Smartphone communications than the organization’s systems. We see great opportunity to bring these folks and many other organizations and agencies into the real social media and mass media world through such applications as SimulationDeck.
Like it or not, social media is becoming a major communications platform, especially for the current generations. Those organizations that fail to train their employees in the proper use of social media are doing a disservice to the employees and their stakeholders.
Manuszewski says that we need to make sure we understand the entire information environment – from the traditional media to the media that people are using now, like social media.
Chestnutt says that the company is listening carefully to feedback from its users and continually making improvements.
As Hurricane Irma approaches, we thought we would share some smart hurricane
preparation tips. The key is to be prepared, have a plan, know where to go and try
not to freak out. Stay calm and plan for the worse case scenario.
1. For a big storm like Irma, you need enough water to drink for 7 days.
The water does NOT have to be bottled. You can simply buy water containers
and fill them with tap water.
2. Buy plastic sheeting and duct tape. Use the plastic sheeting to line the
tub. Then you can fill your tub with water without it leaking out. You’ll
use this to flush the toilet and for basic cleaning if the water goes out.
3. Have enough food on hand to eat for 7 days – food bars and other
packaged food is good.
4. Buy a large number of Ziploc-like plastic bags – large and small. You’ll
use them to protect papers and other valuables AND you’ll fill them 3/4
full of water and stuff the freezer full. Do that by midweek to be sure
they are frozen when/if the power goes out over the weekend. It will keep
the refrigerator colder. Do NOT set your fridge on the lowest setting.
5. Get a portable radio that receives AM and FM. NOAA radio is good, but
doesn’t get you information on evacuations and other instructions. Get
6. Get LED flashlights and/or lanterns. They run forever on fewer
batteries. But you still need plenty of extra batteries.
7. Get large plastic boxes. If you put your valuables, photos, and papers
in plastic bags inside the boxes, they will likely be okay. Put the bins in
a high place, second floor, or safe room if you don’t plan on taking them
8. Do your laundry this week! Lol
9. Start running your ice makers now and bagging the ice in freezer bags.
Fill as much space in between your freezer items with these bags as you can.
10. Freeze regular tap water for pets, cleaning or drinking in
Tupperware plastic-type containers. REMEMBER to leave a small bit of space between
the top of the water & the lids so the ice expands but doesn’t crack the
11. Start using up your perishables to make more room for ice in the
12. Fill up all vehicles with gasoline, check tires & oil.
13. Get your cash from ATM, at least enough for 7-days to get you through tolls and gas out of town. Call your bank if you plan on leaving the state so they don’t freeze
your card for out-of-area “suspicious” transactions.
14. Screenshot all of your important docs & send to your email. Take
originals in sealed bags or plastic bins.
15. Prepare pet / livestock food & supplies. Vet records in case you need
to shelter then at a storm-safe facility.
16. Make evacuation plans and share with family members so they know where
17. SECURE ALL FIREARMS & AMMUNITION PROPERLY.
18. Gather old rags & beach towels for use on your windowsills. Even with the best windows & shutters, water seeping from the wind pressure happens. A few damp towels
is better than soaked drywall or floors!
19. Shutter windows and doors and bring everything outside into your garage
or house NOW. Do not wait until the day before. Better to get done early
and relax than wait until it’s too late, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE MANDATORY
PERSONNEL (hospital employee or first responder).
20. If you don’t already have your hurricane supplies get them now. Shelves are already empty in most places.
Although these are great tips, please rely on official
preparation, evacuation and emergency information available at the National
Hurricane Center and Ready.gov
At this writing none of us know what the landfall will be of the latest Hurricane churning the Atlantic known as Irma. For those of you contemplating evacuation in advance of a mandatory “go” let’s consider the key things we advise our clients when doing their personal planning.
Using D.E.P.A.R.T as your memorable acronym consider:
DESTINATION: Where will you go and how long under normal driving conditions will it take for you to get there? Are they accommodations pet friendly? Determine well in advance where you will go (hotel, friends or relative’s house, or RV Park, if you are driving or have a camper or RV) and when you will leave to get there. Make your reservations as soon as the hurricane track shows possible tracking through your home area and make them at least one hour (60-miles or so) inland from the possible landfall. Too often hotels in the landfall cone will close their doors and may leave you stranded. Don’t run this risk. Don’t wait until the last minute to leave and get caught up in the mass evacuation. Simply, pack and leave well in advance and carefully drive to your accommodations.
EQUIPMENT: Our friend Ann Knipe always kept a box of her valuables packed and ready to go into the trunk of her car. These included her valuable photos and documents (copies of the home owner’s and automobile insurance, leases, deeds, titles to the vehicles, birth certificates, passports, copies of your credit cards, utility bills and the telephone numbers of those companies, a key contact list to include your insurance agent, your doctor, lawyer, etc. etc. and most important copies of your driver’s license). The originals of many of these documents should be in the safety deposit box at your bank. Put all these valuables in a plastic water proof zip lock bag. Also, in another box pack those items you will need to use when cleaning up and making repairs to your home on your return. This can include paper and cloth towels, hand sanitizers, handy wipes, cleaning supplies, etc. Take the time to think through what you must have to return to your home and get back to a resemblance of normality.
PEOPLE AND PETS: Who will be going with you? Do they need extra assistance or time to prepare to go with you? Are there people you need to check on before departing? Do you have carriers and leashes for your pets? Do you have plenty of extra water and pet food, protein snacks, medicines, bowls and cups?
ATLAS: A good old fashioned Atlas of maps is essential. We have come to depend on our telephone GPS however during an evacuation cell lines may be down or overwhelmed and there are simply areas where you will not have service. Consider all the alternatives on how to get to your destination in advance and using your Atlas write out the routes in order. You may even choose to highlight the route in your Atlas. Plan your route according to your medical and dietary needs. Remember you are planning to leave in ample time to use any of these routes however when the evacuation is sudden the main route will be congested. Use your alternative.
RETURN READINESS: To get back into the area you will need your ID to prove you are a resident. This can be done with a driver’s license with your permanent address or a utility or credit card bill in your name with the permanent address on it. Before returning load up with groceries and cleaning supplies that will complement what you have already packed such as mops and brooms, etc. When returning gas up often returning with a tank of gas. Local supplies and services will be limited.
TRANSPORTATION: Have all systems on your car, truck or RV checked immediately. Get any repairs or maintenance done on your primary vehicle. Keep your gas tank full. When you decide to leave, with these preparations you will be ready.
Prepare now and evacuate orderly or preferably in advance of the mandatory “go” and stay safe and aware out there.
A recent technology being developed by Intellistreets would allow the common lamppost, found in every community, to detect rising floodwaters, display evacuation routes and help citizens safely leave areas.
The Intellistreets system consists of a wireless digital infrastructure that allows streetlights to be controlled remotely by means of a ubiquitous wi-fi link and a miniature computer housed inside each lamppost. This would allow “security, energy management, data harvesting and digital media,” according to the Illuminating Concepts website.
Wireless technology inside lampposts will provide emergency alerts, “homeland security” surveillance, and public safety functions, according to Ron Harwood at Intellistreets.
“The system was invented as a response to the chaos created at street level during 9/11,” Harwood, the president of Intellistreets, told reporter Elaine Pittman at http://www.emergencymgmt.com.
The company has the capability of retrofitting existing street lamps or installing new high-tech lamps. The technology consists of a dual radio mesh wireless system with microprocessors that allow for information and data collection such as an analysis of what a streetlight is “hearing,” “seeing” and “smelling.”
The features vary and can include:
n Emergency alerts, digital signage
n Hazardous environment alerts
n Two-way audio
n A pedestrian counter
Harwood says this is known as “edge processing.” This process provides first responders the opportunity to get real-time information provided in English or graphics that originate from the site, instead of analytics available through backdoor processors.
The information is accessed via the web. 0perators and first responders can get the alert when various environmental factors trigger the system. Once the system is triggered, action can be taken remotely.
Harwood told Pittman that by outfitting streetlight poles with water sensors in an area that has flooding or water main issues, the streetlight with the built-in intelligence would activate a warning light when water reaches a certain depth (for example, detected above the curb). Other streetlights in the area that have the technology would begin to flash and warn traffic to slow down, according to Harwood.
Intellistreets’ audio features also increase public safety in a two-way fashion, Harwood says. Emergency blue light buttons allow people to signal for help, and speakers provide a way for government officials to make announcements or issue emergency alerts.
Then digital signs can display standard information, such as civic announcements, and be updated with important information like an evacuation route, if necessary. The system features built-in signage and announcements for standard situations. This will allow a public safety representative to click a button on the Web-based system to start audio alerts or change what’s being featured on the digital signs.
Harwood says their goal is to have an iPad in each patrol vehicle so officers can easily update the messaging when needed.
Although not yet widespread, the technology is being used at Sony Pictures in Culver, Calif., where the digital signs provide departure routes during the movie lot’s weekly evacuation exercise.
Price reports that a demonstration of Intellistreets was installed in Farmington Hills, Mich., last year. Although the local government isn’t using the system’s high-tech tools, city officials think the features would be beneficial.
Farmington Hills City Manager Steve Brock told Price that he thought the potential for their use is huge and said, “We haven’t used much of the technology that I think is available with regard to messaging, signage and things like that. But when we went through the demonstration of them, when they sort of christened them if you will, I was very impressed with their capabilities and what it could mean in all sorts of environments.”
According to the company’s previous You Tube video of the concept, which has been removed after controversy about the technology arose, the primary capabilities of the devices include “energy conservation, homeland security, public safety, traffic control, advertising, video surveillance.”
In terms of Homeland Security (DHS) applications, each of the light poles contains a speaker system that can be used to broadcast emergency alerts. In addition, there is a display that transmits “security levels” (presumably a similar system to the DHS’ much maligned color-coded terror alert designation) and shows instructions by way of its LED video screen, according to reporter Paul Joseph Watson at http://www.infowars.com.
The lights also include proximity sensors that can record both pedestrian and road traffic. The video display and speaker system could also be used to transmit advertising, as well as “Amber Alerts” and other “civic announcements.”
Watson reports that street lights as surveillance tools have already been advanced by several European countries. In 2007, leaked documents out of the United Kingdom Home Office revealed that British authorities were working on proposals to fit lamp posts with CCTV cameras that would X-ray scan passers-by and “undress them” in order to “trap terror suspects.”
So-called “talking surveillance cameras” that use a speaker system similar to the Intellistreets model are already being used in UK cities like Middlesborough to give orders and reprimand people for dropping litter and other minor offenses, Watson says.
Although some communities and businesses see the value of such systems in protecting property, Watson says that the transformation of street lights into surveillance tools for Homeland Security purposes will only serve to heighten concerns that the United States is fast on the way to becoming a high-tech police state.
Transportation Security Agency (TSA) agents are being empowered to oversee such control grid, most recently with the announcement that TSA screeners would be manning highway checkpoints. This is a further indication that security measures we currently see in airports are rapidly moving onto the streets and highways in the United States, according to Watson’s article.
The ability of the government to use streetlights to transmit “emergency alerts” also dovetails with the ongoing efforts to use radio and television broadcasts for the same purpose, via the Federal Emergency Management’s Emergency Alert System.
Watson says that the federal government is keen to implement a centralized system of control over all communications, with the recent announcement that all new cell phones will be required to comply with the PLAN program (Personal Localized Alerting Network). The PLAN program will broadcast emergency alert messages directly to Americans’ cell phones using a special chip embedded in the receiver. The system will be operational by the end of the year in New York and Washington, with the rest of the country set to follow.
Some communities and businesses see such technology as advancement toward protecting their properties and citizens. Others see such a system as even more of an intrusion into personal privacy.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds the Intellistreets technology, not surprisingly, through grants. Greater security for businesses and communities versus more invasion of privacy – what do you think?
Your company has just killed 23 people and 57 others are deathly ill, some critical. Your production plant is dead in the water and more than 5,000 unique media stories have been written about your crisis.
What you do and how you communicate in such a situation literally will make or break your reputation and can lead to bankruptcy or rebirth. Perhaps, you think this is just one of those table-top worse-case scenarios and that it just couldn’t happen, especially not to your organization.
The Canadian firm Maple Leaf Foods most likely thought the same thing in 2008; however, listeria bacterium contaminated a number of its food products at its plant in the Toronto area. Suddenly the firm had a 100 percent brand recognition rate among Canadians and many Americans, and it was the sort of recognition you would rather not have.
Dr. Randy Huffman, senior vice president operations and chief food safety officer for Maple Leaf Foods, doesn’t mince his words when speaking of this crisis. He frequently starts his presentations by saying he works for a company that took the lives of 23 Canadians.
When the listeria crisis erupted, Huffman was president of the American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation. Maple Leaf Foods contracted with Huffman, as an external consultant on food safety, and after working with the senior leadership team during the crisis, he joined the company’s safety and quality assurance programs primarily because he was so impressed with the company’s values when it came to handling the listeria outbreak.
Eight years later, he remains dedicated to the constant improvement of food safety standards. He and the other members of Maple Leaf’s senior leadership team continue to talk about the event that so drastically changed their organization because they believe others need to learn from that tragedy.
“We keep it real and alive,” Huffman said in an interview for Ivey in November 2014. He explained that, in the orientation video for Maple Leaf staff, from top level executives to middle management to temporary plant staff, the seriousness of this event is always emphasized in all trainings.
“I can guarantee you, you won’t find any other major corporate training videos that show a hearse,” he said, emphasizing that it’s important for new staff members to understand why the organization continues to raise the bar of food safety standards.
Few organizations get accolades for handling a crisis; however, Maple Leaf Foods is lauded time and time again for how well it handled this tragedy through open and transparent and timely communications.
There was no complex communications strategy. There was not a huge PR crisis team.
Instead, the company chose to keep a handle on the crisis within its management leadership team and strictly adhere to its company’s values. The strategy worked. The team did a number of things well to manage its crisis; Huffman emphasized three vital moves company officials made:
n They acted with urgency.
n They held themselves accountable.
n They were open and transparent from the outset.
CEO Michael McCain and the entire senior leadership team immediately accepted accountability and responsibility for the mistake once investigators pointed to the Maple Leaf products. They didn’t shift blame to food safety standards, or equipment manufacturers, or individual employees, or deign that they needed more time for investigation. The CEO simply owned up to the breach of standards at the organizational level and continually apologized throughout the event.
“Our values said to do what’s right, be transparent, open and honest,” Huffman said. “So that’s what we did.”
Once investigators linked Maple Leaf Foods to the outbreak, McCain immediately went to the media and told the company’s side of the story.
The company acknowledged the seriousness of the problem right up front. The homepage of the Maple Leaf Foods website featured a full-page update with information from the company along with links to information on the recall.
McCain personally apologized for the tragic incidents in a video that played on mainstream TV, and that the company posted to YouTube. Later the various social media platforms carried the video repeatedly.The company immediately moved to recall all 220 packaged meats produced at the affected plant.
A sense of urgency, being proactive and open and transparent from the outset of the crisis allowed Maple Leaf to rebirth itself and prosper instead of landing on the heap of bankruptcy, and the lessons learned apply to many organizations looking for guidance during a crisis.