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Crises can happen to anyone or to any business; staying ahead of them is the ultimate goal.

Photo courtesy of Nataliya Vaitkevich via Unsplash

The tragic the recent condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida., highlighted the importance of crisis management. Identifying threats before they occur can be a challenge. Emergencies can be difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate, but how to respond to them can be thought through in advance. Good planning is the first step in managing a crisis.

The concept of crisis management is not new. There have been many instances where disruptive events have impacted businesses, the economy, the environment and the people living in the surrounding areas. It is essential to understand that crises tend to snowball, where a small mistake turns into a bigger problem.

Through this tragedy, business leaders, real estate companies and all business or someone involved in the communications industry can learn valuable lessons. Crises can happen to anyone or to any business; staying ahead of them is the ultimate goal.

Some of the lessons to be learned are already emerging. Identifying them and understanding their importance will help businesses in a crisis and indicate how they will respond to them.

Lessons in crisis management

There is still a lot of confusion surrounding the collapse of a 13-story condominium that left at least 97 people dead. Many say major structural damage was behind the collapse, but investigators plan to see the scene again once the research teams have completed their work to identify the real cause. Tragedy followed by responsibility in cases of poor workmanship or neglected maintenance is unfortunately not new.

Engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were sent to Miami-Dade County to gather evidence and determine what triggered the collapse. Locals and residents’ families are seeking answers, and it is difficult to determine when the general public will know how this tragedy happened.

Below are six crisis management lessons we can learn from handling the Florida condominium collapse.

1. Act quickly when problems arise

The Town of Surfside has released various documents detailing the condition of the condominium, including information on structural issues. The parking garage and swimming pool were two items that needed major repairs before the collapse.

Whether or not this contributed to the collapse is still under investigation, but the lesson here is that proactive action to mitigate risk is vital for crisis prevention. The best way to avoid a crisis is to assess vulnerabilities early on. In that case, correct structural damage in the building was a necessary step that should have been taken.

2. Only disclose accurate information

The nature of a crisis poses a challenge to authorities when they are ready to release information. In cases similar to a condo collapse, the death toll, the number of missing persons and the injuries sustained are all critical pieces of information that must be shared. Families worried about their loved ones are counting on the authorities to quickly give them the most precise figures.

It is crucial for those managing a crisis to refrain from posting inaccurate information too soonbecause it could backfire on you and provoke public outrage. It is better to ensure that the data is correct and publish it later than to come back on hasty words and apologize for making a mistake. This will improve the credibility of the people involved.

3. Confidence is a crisis currency

Businesses thrive when their customers trust a product or service, and it’s no different when a crisis strikes. Building trust when dealing with a problem is vital – trust is a currency of crisis. When the media covers an event as disruptive as this, those responsible must be open and transparent with the information they provide.

Using vague language to describe an incident only gives credence to the myths and rumors that develop after a seizure has occurred. When public servants are given a public forum, such as a press conference or an interview, they should use their time to speak in specific terms and respond directly and quickly to questions.

4. Communicate effectively

Crisis communication plays an important role in crisis management. How leaders communicate with the public is critical when facing a crisis. Avoid pointing fingers or making harsh judgments. Being thorough and transparent is the best way to go.

In Florida, the syndicate of co-owners hired a crisis communications company to deal with all incoming media questions and other communication issues. The volunteer members of the board of directors of the association of co-owners have transferred their responsibilities to the company and are now available to handle other requests and settle the lawsuits they face.

Using the latest communication technology, like cloud-based software, can help businesses raise public awareness and help them organize everything.

5. Have a strategy in place

Since crises can arise spontaneously, organizations need to exercise due diligence and put measures in place before they knock. Having a crisis plan allows businesses to operate more efficiently when making difficult decisions in a crisis. Crisis planning should include delegating responsibility, choosing who to lead, and deciding which issues to address first.

It is not known if the condominium association had plans or protocols in place to deal with this kind of disaster. Based on the fact that they hired a crisis communications company, it is unlikely that they had a strategy to tackle an event as big as this. It is important to note that crisis planning begins with the risk analysis—assess possible risks that contribute to a crisis better prepare businesses to deal with it.

6. Be flexible in the face of change

Information is always subject to change. While having plans in place is essential, staying flexible is something businesses will benefit from when managing a crisis. Most crises evolve; Rarely does an event stay the same as more and more information emerges.

Change can happen overnight after a crisis. Remember to inform the general public of the current state of the situation in order to maintain confidence and prevent further crises from occurring. Although the collapse of the condominium was an event, it sparked conversations about building regulations, guidelines for condos to follow and crisis management in general.

These are just a few key lessons to take away from the heartbreaking Florida condo collapse. The investigation can take months and the precise cause has not yet been determined.

The importance of crisis management

No one knows when or how a crisis will arise, but planning for one is a guaranteed way to make future decisions a little easier. Having a clear plan of action helps companies overcome uncertainty in the aftermath of a crisis. Companies must put in place crisis strategies in order to be ready to face all the upheavals that will be thrown at them.

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