The Importance of Keeping Company Records on Hand in a Crisis

Thom Weidlich 04.27.17


Planning is the essence of crisis communications, especially when it comes to accidents or other unfortunate events. You need to have materials — emergency numbers, media lists, holding statements — prepared ahead of time and on hand. One resource not to neglect is your company’s records, such as those related to safety. Having these at your fingertips during an accident, fire, or other physical crisis can make the difference between a mediocre communications response and one that truly resonates with your audiences.

While reporters tend to be sympathetic in response to an accident, there are certain facts they’ll want to know, such as how the incident occurred and whether it could have been prevented.

They may also ask about the company’s history with this type of event. Even if mistakes were make in this particular accident, you can help make your case far better if you can point to a good overall safety record. The information may also shed light on how the accident happened and influence the public’s decision as to whether you should have been able to prevent it.

This is especially so if you have numbers to back up what you’re saying. Figures help buttress an argument, even if it’s only how many years since there’s been an accident. Unfortunately, companies rarely do this, at least in initial responses. An Amtrak statement about the deaths of two workers in an accident last year only refers to the company’s “strong safety record.” The same is true of Planned Parenthood’s statement about the November 2015 shootings that left three dead at its facility in Colorado Springs. Neither uses data to back up this assertion.

Yet there are some companies that have gone out of their way to ensure that positive information about their safety records is part of their response. Here are some examples:

  • After a fire broke out (without serious injury) March 20 at an apartment complex it was building in Overland Park, Kansas, construction company Titan Built included this sentence in its statement about the incident: “Titan Built has meticulous safety protocols in place; in our 42 year history, we have never experienced an incident such as this.”
  • At a music festival in Australia late last year, several people were injured from the crush of the crowd exiting the theater. In their statement on the incident, the producers noted that “The Falls Festival in Lorne has had an impeccable safety record for the past 24 years.” They didn’t go into further detail on the organization’s safety record, but did point out that 15 security guards had been “stationed at the Grand Theatre stage at the time of the incident.”
  • Airbnb was able to use data in its favor when responding to an unfortunate incident in August 2015. A Massachusetts man was sexually assaulted by his Airbnb host in Madrid, Spain. Airbnb noted that, the weekend of the incident, 800,000 people stayed in Airbnb locations globally and 70,000 in Spain. “While no industry has a 100 percent safety record, that’s what we strive for,” the company said.
  • A woman suffered tears to her face while at a trampoline park in Chester, England, called Flip Out (pictured). The statement from the company said: “We are saddened to hear of Mrs. Conway’s experience and would like to be clear that an injury such as this, although upsetting for all involved, is very rare. In fact, of the 45,000 visits at Flip Out Chester to date, our records show that there have been just seven occasions where it has been necessary to advise people to visit A&E [accident and emergency department] – less than 0.016 per cent of visits.”

Use of such specifics helps the companies communicate their commitment to safety. It’s a good idea to have technology that allows easy access to this data and brings the team together to discuss the most appropriate way to use and communicate that information.

One final note: You should probably have records for other divisions in your company — the press and the public may not make the distinction between the safety record at your division and a sister division. Reporters may even want to know about the experience of competitors in your area. Do you have those numbers? What about for your industry as a whole?

Photo Credit: Flip Out

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