Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Workplace Shooting Raises Questions of Preparation

When we with the Institute for Crisis Management talk to business leaders about the importance of having an effective crisis plan, too often they will say, "That can't happen here. Not as long as I'm around."

While that may be true of smoldering crises, which we contend can be 100% prevented, it's a dangerous way to think when it comes to sudden crises that are out of their control. Yesterday, for example, a domestic dispute spilled over to the workplace. A former employee of Emcore in Albuquerque entered the facility with gun drawn after a domestic dispute. There's no security system in place that can prevent a determined gunman from getting inside. Once inside, this man went looking for his ex. He killed five people and wounded four before turning the gun on himself. (http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-38158-Cultural-Oddities-Examiner~y2010m7d12-Police-Emcore-shooting-stemmed-from-domestic-dispute)

I have no idea if Emcore had a crisis operations plan, crisis communications plan, or business continuity plan. You need all three, preferably in one plan. But if Emcore is like a majority of companies, it probably was unprepared for a crisis as horrible as this. I give it credit for posting an employee crisis hotline number on its home page (http://emcore.com/). But that's the only reference I see to the shooting 24 hours later. Social media will fill in communications gaps with speculation and rumors if we don't provide information quickly.

The facility probably will be closed for a week or so. It will be a crime scene, it probably will need to be cleaned due to a biological hazard, and then there are a couple of days when employees return to console one another and deal with memories of that awful day. I wonder if Emcore had any of those three parts of a crisis plan, and if so, I wonder if copies were available offsite. No one is going to grab the crisis plan as they flee the office amid gunshots. I hope Emcore has a list of vendors and customers it can access because it will need to contact them. Maybe it has a list of employee numbers to inform them of memorial services and when they can return to work. Is there a policy that states if it will pay employees for the time they are off?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But if you are responsible for crisis preparation, these are all questions you need to be asking yourself. If you ever have to run for your life, it's way too late.

"Not going to happen on my watch." There are too many crises beyond our control. Be prepared for them.

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