The events of last Saturday are emblazoned in the minds of all Americans.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from Arizona was critically injured in a shooting where she was targeted during a rally at a Safeway store. Six other were killed and many others wounded. Our prayers and support go out to all the families involved. This calamity involves a lot of moving parts and creates a crisis for many. Here is a sampling…

  • The Safeway store in Tuscon. This was the location of the rally. How did the store deal with this in relationship to its employees, its customers, and the indelible sight of the Safeway brand on CNN and the other media outlets? Did they have a disaster plan in place that they could fall back on?
  • The State of Arizona. I saw the Governor on television and heard from the representatives from the state. Had they been fully prepared to talk with the media, reach out to victims, and handle collateral damage?
  • Politicians. National, state, and local politicians all have another peril to be concerned about. I don’t recall another shooting like this since 1981 and Ronald Reagan. The big names all have their entourages. What about the congressional leaders, state leaders, and even local leaders? What changes now have to be made?
  • Firearms dealers. You may only sell hunting rifles, but you are back on the front-line in public perception. How do you allay the fears of the public, while being able to legitimately carry on your business?

These are only a few examples. In looking at risk as a crisis manager, you must be prepared for even the unthinkable. You must take precautions to avoid crisis, mitigate damage if it does happen, and make sure your reputation is only enhanced in how you dealt with it. All this takes planning, preparation, training, practice, and implementation.

This is an opportunity for you as a business executive and organization to look at situations. How do you handle the unthinkable?

Gather your team together and brainstorm. Determine what areas of vulnerability you have. What are the worst-case scenarios and how do you best deal with them? How do you communicate to your employees, investors, supply chain, and media? Too often, this is brushed aside to be dealt with only if it happens. Take my word for it, that is the worst time to deal with it. You must be prepared and plan it out. Just like a basketball team practices for any situation, you must prepare for yours, too.

© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved