Realism provided by Nusura’s Simulation Deck Technology

Animated Don't Panic

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.

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1-888-340-2006 or www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

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Six steps to prepare your small business for a disaster

Let’s hope and pray that you never have a disaster however the chances increase daily.

Many of you reading this have most likely followed the looting and rioting that occurred following the Grand Jury’s decisions in Ferguson, Mo and New York City.  The actions of the rioters and looters on small businesses was deplorable and I sincerely hope, yet doubt, that those responsible for breaking into stores and looting will be arrested and prosecuted. Sadly, many of those businesses had not appropriately prepared for such an incident.

As a small business owner there are several things you should do in advance to protect yourself, your employees and your business during a disaster.

First, you must develop a disaster preparedness plan.

This planning is as essential as developing a business plan. Having a disaster plan in place will make the difference between being shut down for a few days, and losing your livelihood forever. The plan should be thoughtfully designed to cover all possible contingencies. You may never face a riot however the chances of an earthquake, fire, flood, tornado or even a robbery in western Kentucky is significant.

Second, get your insurances in order.

We recommend that you have a personal and ongoing relationship with your insurance agent. Choose one who understands the needs of your business and meet with him/her annually to assess and reassess your needs.

If you are in a store-front business such as a convenience store you will need business-interruption insurance. This is the type of insurance that replaces income lost when a business suffers downtime due to a covered peril, which means that you must understand fully what perils are covered.

Many insurance companies no longer cover such things as terrorist, rioting and looting events. Know and understand fully what you are paying for and be a good business person by shopping around for the right agent and a company that will meet your needs.

Here is what I mean by this – your agent is the person you will depend upon to facilitate and handle claims and settlements for you. This person’s behavioral, management and personality styles should at least be complementary to your own. However, if you tend to be a tentative person who will not fight for your rights, you may wish to ensure that you have an insurance agent who will and is truly on your side.

A few years ago, we actually changed our insurance agent even though the company we had insurance with at the time charged a lesser premium. Why? Frankly, this insurance agent would not promptly return our telephone calls, answer our questions with clarity or handle our issues and reimbursements quickly and fairly.

If this is your agent – he/she needs training in customer service and you are not paying him/her to be less than customer focused. Find an agent that meets your expectations and that you are comfortable with while understanding that you as a customer is of paramount importance to him/her.

Third, remember that normal hazard insurance doesn’t cover floods.

It is vitally important that you make sure you have designated flood insurance. Also, ensure that you fully understand what your insurance covers and what is not covered.

Fourth, as the business owner, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I prepared to relocate temporarily? Where might we do this?
  • What would happen if my suppliers were shut down due to an emergency or disaster?
  • Do you employees know what to do in case of an emergency or a disaster?

For example, employees should know where all the emergency exits are located in your building.  A safety coordinator should be appointed and trained. This is the person who will take responsibility for making sure that all the fire extinguishers, security systems and close-circuit television cameras work and that all emergency exits are operational.

This person will plan and conduct safety and fire drills and develop evacuation and business recovery plans. Obviously in many small businesses this will be you as the owner!

Fifth, backup and store vital business records offsite.

Information stored on paper and computer, should be copied and saved on a backup hard drive at an offsite location at least 50 miles away from the main business site, advises the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This is where we would disagree with FEMA. We recommend using “cloud” computer services to back up your information so they can be accessible from anywhere at any time. Setup and use a password system and ensure that you and at least two other trusted employees have access to that password.

Sixth, develop a simple, easy to follow “business recovery communications” plan.

Assign key employees as facilitators who during a disaster will contact suppliers, creditors, other employees, customers, and utility companies to get the word out that the business is still viable and is in need of assistance in the recovery.

Get yourself trained and train at least one preferably two other persons to be a media spokesperson to keep the public informed of your rebuilding efforts, if necessary.

Finally, recognize and understand that the more strategic planning you do on the front-end the better. The last thing you need to be doing is planning for a disaster when it is underway or impending.

Our mantra about preparing and strategically planning for a disaster has remained the same the past 40-years: “Always plan for the worst, while praying for the best.”

2013 Campus Tabletop Exercises – Now available

Image
ISBN/ISSN: TABLE13

Primary Subject: Binders
Series: Featured Products
Downloads and Sample Pages
 
 
Product Summary
 
As we hear about tragedies and incidents at colleges and universities – from natural disasters to active shooters to bomb threats – it causes us to face the question: What would we do if this happened here? Tabletop exercises help us determine how best to respond should such “What ifs?” turn to real-life.
 
For instance, active shooter tabletops have become quite common on campuses, especially since Virginia Tech, as institutions explore lockdowns, shelter in place strategies and split-second responses. Tabletops also allow campuses to explore other scenarios, from weather-related emergencies to railroad disasters for schools along the tracks to pandemic flu possibilities.
 
Campus Tabletop Exercises 2013: Tools, Tips & Techniques is a 180-page binder filled with guidance and samples that you can implement immediately. It allows users to discuss how they would respond to hypothetical crisis situations and prepares institutional stakeholders.
 
 
Topics Covered
 
Within this binder, you’ll find materials such as:
Tools: We’ve created several sample tabletop exercises that you can implement right on your campus, complete with objectives, scenarios, facilitation tips, discussion questions, aftermath considerations and more. By using these exercises, participants will get a better handle on communication structures, individual roles and responsibilities, crisis management tasks, preparation possibilities, training needs and the effectiveness of policies and procedures currently in place.
Tips: Here we’ll provide examples of how tabletops are being used at different colleges and universities. What situations might you encounter during your time on campus? Chemical/hazmat spills, active shooters, tornadoes, fire evacuations, floods and more are all very real dangers – and we’ll show you how institutions are preparing for the worst through tabletops.
Techniques: Plus, we’ll provide tips on how to run effective tabletop exercises – including the who, what, where and when. Who should you involve? Where can tabletops be held effectively? When is a good time? What should you try to cover in a certain amount of time? And how can you create your own tabletops that fit your institution? These questions and more will be addressed.
As a bonus, we’re offering a section on Crisis Communications & Media Relations. Effective communication before, during and after an incident is key when it comes to tabletop success. Learn more about how to work with your campus and community constituents, as well as the media, here.
 
Special Section:

The Impact of Social Media on Campus Crises
 
Information is instantaneous within today’s campus landscape and having a smart, savvy, efficient and effective social media plan in place is a key piece of the communications process when handling campus crises. This special section offers ideas, tips, suggestions and real-life examples of how and why you should consider using social media during crises. It explains who should use it and when, as well as common mistakes, effective tools, monitoring and response strategies, reputation and branding considerations, return on investment thoughts and more. Plus, we’ll provide examples of successful social media strategies to incorporate into your campus emergency plan, along with the do’s and don’ts.
 
 
What You Get
 
Save time and money by ordering Campus Tabletop Exercises 2013: Tools, Tips & Techniques Binder & CD. It makes using a tabletop exercise to train your staff much more doable – and within a quicker timeframe. Plus, we provide the strong framework you need to help you develop your own campus-specific tabletop exercises.
 

 
Pricing Info
$349 + $9 S&H
 
With Campus Tabletop Exercises 2013: Tools, Tips & Techniques Binder & CD, you get both the printed binder and an accompanying CD. Access the materials at your convenience – use and distribute the materials in a way that works for you and your staff.
 
Binders are in stock and available for immediate shipment. We offer a full money back guarantee if not satisfied.

How to Create a Crisis: Why do you suppose the DHS needs 1 Billion Bullets?

Why do you suppose the DHS needs 1 Billion Bullets?

For an administration that was going to be the most “open and transparent” of any to come to Washington, the current White House and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary have chosen to create yet another crisis.

Never missing the opportunity to “pass up” a good crisis, as former Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel was known to say, the DHS Secretary refuses to answer to Congress why they are purchasing bullets, guns and armored vehicles.

While most of us try to avoid crisis or try to learn how to handle them better this administration seemingly strives to create as many as possible.

Universities and colleges should be giving thought to this issue and the ramifications on their campus from those activists who see this as an issue.

You can read more about the DHS refusal at:

http://www.infowars.com/big-sis-refuses-to-answer-congress-on-ammo-purchases/

Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

This is a series of articles that will help you understand mind mapping crisis messages. This process when done appropriately and successfully will ensure you will succeed.

Article 1 in this series – Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

Do you know what you will say when:

¡  You have an active shooter on campus

¡  How about 3-hours into the incident?

¡  A gas line leak causes you to evacuate a dorm

¡  A flood watch is issued and flooding appears imminent

¡  When power fails and an all out effort to restore power is delayed by a strike

¡  When a student is raped, kidnapped, or simply disappears into the night

¡  When workplace violence hits your organization

A crisis grows, changes, and often deepens over time. Like all things in life – a crisis has a starting point, a middle phase and an ending. What you choose to say, who you will talk with and how you will reach them in these days of social media will change at every stage of the crisis.

Some of the worst mistakes are made by crisis communicators because they try to create the messages in the heat of the moment. Ineffective and hurried communications create major blunders and failures.

Simply, when the stuff hits the fan, stress levels are running to the extreme, managers and executives, administrators and supervisors are all uptight and tense, everybody wants to approve and contribute to the messages and if you are the crisis communicator you know you have an incredible feat at hand.

Over the next few blogs we will look at the seven stages of a crisis and how you can use a technique known a mind mapping messages at every stage from the early stages of warning, to assessing the risk, to responding, resolving and recovering.

If you take the time to learn the technique in advance you can create clear, concise mind maps that will help you at every one of the seven stages.

Here are the seven stages we will discuss and help you understand:

¡  1. The advance warning and/or advance intel stage

¡  2. Situation assessment – the stage where you assess pros/cons, good/bad/ugly

¡  3. Communicating the response – how to communicate and to whom

¡  4. Operational management – handling the operations to survive

¡  5. Resolution and path forward prevention – resolving and moving forward to continuity

¡  6. Business continuity – recovery – ensuring a recovery and ensuring continuous movement forward

¡  7. Lessons learned  – recalibrations – learning from what went right, what went wrong, the deltas needed and how best to recalibrate and be resilient

We will explain each stage over the next few blogs.

www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

3 Uses of social Media in Crisis and Emergency Management

Simply stated, social media is here to stay much to the chagrin sometimes of emergency management personnel used to the command and control systems under the National Incident Command System. Therefore, it is incumbent on all crisis and emergency management personnel (CM/EM) to learn how to best use social media to benefit communications before, during and after a crisis.

Despite all its challenges, and there are several, CM/EM personnel can depend on social media to:

  1. Provide direct communication quickly between informants and those who need information, which enables responders to react faster, minimizing the length of the emergency.
  2. Send the right messages to the right audiences.
  3. Ensure information that is being disseminated is correct, confirmed by reliable sources, and evidenced by facts or direct observation on the scene. Multiple informants ion the field can instantaneously confirm accuracy using social media.

Learn more about using social media through webinars such as the one we will present on Feb. 28. More information is available at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com