By Gerard Braud
Too many crisis drills are lopsided. They are often organized by Emergency Managers who primarily want to measure the decision making and response time of those who must address the physical aspects of a crisis. Often missing from these drills is the realistic aspects of “pesky” reporters “getting in everybody’s way” and wanting interviews.
In a real crisis, there will be many things happening at once and therefore any drill you conduct should have equal parts of all of the real aspects.
If the drill is to simulate a fire and explosion, equal parts should be planned and executed by the Incident Command Team, the Risk Management Team, and the Crisis Communications Team.
Because the media will be involved in covering many crises that you could experience, mock media need to be a part of your crisis drill. During the drill, the facilitator should plan the scenario in such a way that there are at least two opportunities for news conferences to test the skills of spokespeople. Those mock news conferences can be done either indoors or outdoors — it doesn’t matter. The main thing is that they are realistic.
If the drill centers on a fire or explosion scenario, chances are in a real situation, media would be at your door step in 30-60 minutes. This means your crisis drill should be organized in such a way that a spokesperson must deliver the first message within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis. My first critical statement template is a perfect format for delivering a few basic facts in the early hour of a crisis. Download a free copy here by using the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN.
During the drill, a second news conference should be held prior to the start of the second hour of the event.
To make the drill even more realistic, create a pool of mock reporters who sit at a phone bank and make phone calls to various individuals within your organization during the course of the drill. Don’t over do it, but make it realistic, just as real reporters would do.
When I facilitate a crisis drill, I add two additional layers of realism. The first is to use my iPad to record fake live shots at appropriate intervals during the drill. I then hand off my iPad to players in the drill so they can view what the media would actually be saying during the crisis. My second layer of realism is to inject fake social media posts to simulate what the public would be saying on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Drills should be designed to replicate realistic behaviors and responses by all of the same people who would be involved in a response to the actual event. Please don’t leave communications out of the mix. Please add an equal mix of all aspects of the crisis to make your drill more realistic with the intent of making all of your role-players well rounded and professional.