Emergency Preparedness and Response

10 Mistakes Everybody Makes When Communicating an Enviro Crisis

Citizens, local officials, and the media annually receive information about hazardous substances and the potential threats to the community posed by these chemicals. There is usually an onslaught of questions and concerns when the information is publicly available.

Here are the 10 most common mistakes environmental managers make when they are communicating with the public about the event of an environmental incident.

  1. You have not accepted responsibility for real and perceived environmental risks.
  2. You have not effectively communicated the actual risks at your facility.
  3. You have underestimated the media and community action groups.
  4. You do not have a written community public relations policy.
  5. You have missed opportunities to reach out to the community and press to cultivate relationships.
  6. You do not have a facility spokesperson assigned in the event of an emergency.
  7. Your workers are not aware of emergency response activities and risk reduction measures at your facility.
  8. You do not have a prepared background document about your facility.
  9. You do not have a prepared list of press contacts, local officials, and concerned citizens.
  10. You do not have an interview policy.

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Crisis Communications Checklist

The key component of successful crisis communications is planning. This checklist will help you gauge how well you have prepared for the emergency and the onslaught of questions and concern that will surely follow.

___ Do you have a written community public relations policy?
___ Does the plan address emergencies?
___ Has a facility spokesperson been assigned?
___ Do employees know who this person is?
___ Have the spokesperson’s duties been defined?
___ Are workers aware of emergency response activities and risk-reduction measures at the facility?
___ Has a background document on the company and/or facility been prepared?
___ Has chemical or technical information about the facility been translated into everyday language?

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___ Have risks been defined relative to other risks that the press, local representatives, or citizens can understand?
___ Has a list of press contacts, local officials, and concerned citizens been prepared?
___ Have opportunities to meet with local civic, business, public interest groups, and the press been identified?
___ Has management been encouraged to reach out to the community and to the press to cultivate relationships? How?
___ Have you conducted a media briefing/training session?
___ Has an interview policy been defined?
___ Have interviewing techniques been practiced?
___ Have written exercises been provided?
___ Has the crisis communications plan been tested under a simulated emergency response exercise?

Do you have a crisis communications plan? See tomorrow’s Advisor to find out how to put one together.

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