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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Crisis management must be integrated with a holistic approach Read more: Four Rivers Business Journal – Crisis management must be integrated with a holistic approach

Prior to the 24-hour news channels, the advent of social media, and an ever-advancing world of mobile technology, the corporate spokesperson during a crisis could control the messages through carefully constructed news conferences.

This is no longer the case with the advent of “citizen journalists.” Organizations that have not yet recognized today’s new media place themselves in serious peril when a crisis occurs.

Today crisis communication is no longer just a corporate communicator’s function. No longer can the PR department write the crisis manual and just arrange for media training of a select few spokespeople. Today, crisis management is much more than just crisis communication during an emergency such as a flood, fire or nuclear mishap event.

A crisis, by definition, “is a revelation, allegation or set of circumstances which threatens the integrity, reputation, or survival of an individual or an organization.” Crises of any kind, be they event or non-event related, threaten the public’s sense of safety, security, values and appropriateness.

When a crisis occurs, actual, potential or perceptual damage to the organization’s brand and reputation will occur. Because the organization is often at a loss to end the damage immediately, the “after shocks” continue to do even more damage.

Therefore, a crisis management plan must account for what we generally think of as those natural or man-made events that require activation of an Emergency Operations Center and for those business crisis that are non-event related.

Statistics show that most business crises today are non-event related.

These are the “smoldering or simmering” situations that create crisis in organizations, with 49 percent of the crises originating from management and 33 percent from employees.

Of these crises, 61 percent were deemed “smoldering or simmering” while only 39 percent were sudden. This means that, in some cases, the organization was truly blindsided by the onset of the event, yet, in other cases, the organization had sufficient intelligence to be prepared and yet had not sufficiently planned to address it.

These crises range among 2012 crisis categories, expressed in percentages:

White collar crime — 16 percent

Mismanagement — 15

Work place violence — 11

Class action lawsuits — 11

Business disruption — 8

Labor dispute — 8

Casualty accidents — 8

Financial damage — 6

Consumer Activism — 4

Discrimination — 3

Other (not listed) — 3

Sexual harassment — 2

Environmental — 2

Whistleblowers — 2

Executive dismissal — 1

Prudent and strategically thinking organizations recognize the need to institutionalize, within all the key business functions, a holistic and standardized approach to handling both event and non-event related crises.

A coordinated holistic approach addresses crisis prediction, issues analysis, prevention and management as a formal part of the overall business planning strategy. Such an approach ensures solid contingency plans as part of business continuity planning.

A Change Management Plan is a key component of this strategy since such an approach requires a change from the traditional model of just event emergency planning. It requires corporate communicators and management at all levels of the business to carefully think through all the various event and non-event crises that the agency needs to be prepared to handle.

Therefore, to be effective and efficient, crisis management of non-events must be embedded into the corporation’s overall management system. Just as an organization has emergency responders within each business unit, they also must have non-event crisis managers as part of the matrix.

Holistic crisis planning, therefore, enhances the capability of the management within all business units, as well as communicators and management at the corporate level, to be better prepared. They will be ready to respond to new and even unimagined non-event risks and to manage the growing number and diversity of stakeholders, many of whom have conflicting agendas.

As organizations become more complex, non-event crisis planning becomes even more critical. Because as the organizations grow, they restructure, merge divisions and must deal with the business of corporate realignment.

This excellence in management approach can only be accomplished through integration of non-event planning as a value-add, standardized and critical component of any emergency planning activity.

When the threat management process addresses event and non-event issues and is integrated within the overall issues management process in the organization, the crisis prediction and prevention capability is noticeably enhanced. This is particularly the case for the “smoldering or simmering” crises referred to above.

Identifying and evaluating as many as possible threats and issues are always the first steps. Yet it is the management and communication of these threats and issues that is critical and most challenging for all organizations, especially when dealing with the non-event issues.

Obviously, not all crises are predictable or preventable. Yet, an effective threat and issues management process, embedded within the crisis management planning structure and coordinated at the corporate level, allows for the organization’s management to potentially foresee, plan scenarios, exercise them, be proactive and then decide to take, treat, transfer or eliminate the threat.

Forward-thinking and progressive organizations are appointing crisis event and non-event managers. These managers are charged with assessing, planning and implementing a standardized protocol and comprehensive crisis event and non-event response and communication system. This system embeds key business functions such as operations, human resources, legal, IT, health safety and environment, sales and marketing, communications, cyber and reputation security as part of the progressive crisis management teams.

Once processes have been developed covering all key business functions, the competency issues of crisis team members must be addressed. This is accomplished in the following three stages:

1. Utilize behavioral and personality style assessment such as use of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.

2. Provide training in those areas in which team members will be engaged, i.e. media, social media, presentation skills, dealing with different personality styles, etc.

3. Conduct extensive tabletop or full-field exercising combined with systematically cataloguing and documenting lessons learned and best practices.

Skills, training and professional experience at all levels of the crisis response structure are critical. The response begins with the receptionist providing the telephone response to callers. It includes the leadership and strategic planning skills of the crisis management team and the ability to provide counseling and support to employees, the next of kin and the victims of a crisis. And, of course, communication with the mainstream media is critical, as well as the effective shaping of messages in social media while protecting the organization’s brand and reputation.

Research, and our team member’s 40 years of experience in behavioral psychology and management, validates that the best crisis management team members are chosen and trained according to behavioral suitability and not the function related to the position on the team.

Due to ongoing staff adjustments and job changes in corporations as well as downsizing and corporate reorganization, it is essential to have a comprehensive plan that trains and retrains crisis team members in a systematic and regular manner to account for this turn over.

Many corporations are choosing to establish curriculum based training certification programs to ensure the right people are in the right place properly trained to handle the situation when needed.

The days of a corporate communicator being able to handle a crisis by calling a reporter friend are over.

Crisis communications of event and non-event situations are complex and require standardization across all business units. Embedding the crisis managers into the corporation at all levels ensures that the best decisions are made by having an active ongoing risk and issues assessment protocol. This protocol utilizes tried and proven strategies and tactics that predict and, when possible, prevent crises while managing the issue and the public and stakeholders’ perceptions.

Read more: Four Rivers Business Journal – Crisis management must be integrated with a holistic approach

http://www.fourriversbusiness.com/view/full_story/23118135/article-Crisis-management-must-be-integrated-with-a-holistic-approach?instance=your_business

Another University Fails in Crisis Management 101 – Rutgers Fires Coach – Only After the Heat is Turned Up!!!

T’is the season, it must be for universities to be creating their own crises and failing to use some common sense!

The Rutgers coach is outed as abusive and the University officials decide to “suspend and fine” him. Now, after “pressure” he’s outta there.

First, we have a professor telling a student to “stomp on a picture of Jesus,” interesting that it wasn’t  a picture of Buddha or Mohammed; and now, a physically and verbally abusive coach and in both cases I am sure the schools some how must have thought they would escape outrage?

In both cases, basic crisis management has been ignored.

These are developing stories and we will give you a complete analysis of what each school did right and where they went terribly wrong in a future post.  Read more here:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/03/sport/rutgers-video-attack/?hpt=hp_c2

Mind-mapping crisis messages – The Situation Assessment – Article 3 in a series

Mind-mapping crisis messages – The Situation Assessment – Article 3 in a series

This is a series of articles that will help you understand the seven stages of a crisis and how to mind-map crisis messages. This process when done appropriately and successfully will ensure you will succeed in planning your messages before a crisis and better understand how you can use mind-mapping during and after a crisis. Article 3 in a series  …

What is a mind-map and how do they help communicators develop crisis messages?

Mind-mapping messages is simply a systematic way to develop clear, concise, easy to understand and deliver crisis messages in advance of the crisis occurring, as well as during and after the crisis. The goal of such messages is to simplify often technical or complex situations and ensure a speedy delivery of the message to the right audience at the right time. Mind-mapping your messages can be done prior to, during and after the crisis has occurred.

¡  There are seven phases to understand underlying information needs necessary to mind-map messages

¡  1. Advance warning or advance intel

¡  2. Situation assessment

¡  3. Communicating the response

¡  4. Operational management

¡  5. Resolution and path forward prevention

¡  6. Business continuity – recovery

¡  7. Lessons learned  – recalibrations

This article deals with the second phase – the situation assessment. When the crisis hits, and invariably they do at the least opportune time and typically not during work hours, the crisis and emergency management team assembles to assess the risk and do a situation assessment. It is during this phase that the emergency operations plan is activated.

Communications during this phase is typically between team members and observers in the field providing first hand information whenever possible from the scene. Social media such as Twitter and You Tube along with SMS texting can enhance the gathering of the field reports and intel when properly used.

Smart phones now enable us to not just communicate by voice; we can now send video and photos instantly back to the command and control center for quick assessment. I-pads and similar tablets allow the field observer to write quick reports while documenting in photos and video the situation.

During this phase, it is important to monitor social media: Facebook, twitter and YouTube channels to see what is coming in from various other sources and when needed correct mis-information. Although command and control under the NIMS way of business finds it foreign to engage such technology as a rule the social media platforms are valuable resources for intel, other site observers and can be used to shape the messages that are going out instanteously.

It is important at this stage to do the best situation assessment possible to ensure that when briefing executives, administrators and management that you have as complete an understanding of the situation as possible.

Although many organizations tend to take a standardized and even a blanket approach to communications at this stage, we suggest that careful thought be given to the chains of command, the audiences and the priority in which information is shared. The last thing that you want your university president to do is hear about a crisis situation on the main stream or social media before you have informed her.

Informing and giving notice to your local law enforcement and first responders, campus security and other officials in the call down list calls for as much clarity and completeness as possible when assessing the situation.

All your audiences, including the traditional media, will understand if you have to make corrections in the opening hours of the crisis, however when informing the various required audiences state clearly what can be verified and what can’t. Use social media as another intel source and gather as much information as possible as quickly as you can.

Next: Communicating the response

www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

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/