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Outbreak Readiness Plan

Stages of a Crisis

  1. Prevention
    • Establish strict procurement and hygiene standards
  2. Preparation
    • Anticipate a worst case scenario and plan for it
  3. Response
    • Act quickly and responsibly; the longer a crisis lasts the more damaging it becomes financially and to your business reputation
  4. Recovery
    • Understand that trust is built before and during response to outbreak; demonstrate any corrective actions to prevent reoccurrence

Crisis Plan Development

A. Identify your response team. Assign key roles and backups:

Core group:

1. Senior person in charge of response
2. Science advisor
3. Health Department agent
4. Legal counsel
5. Media advisor


6. Local Hospital/Emergency Room advisor
7. Remediation leader
8. Risk Management agent

B. Identify spokesperson(s)
C. Create a 24/7 matrix notification process for team members
D. Identify outside PR consultant that can assist with media and other messaging to key audiences
E. Craft in advance key documents such as Fact Sheet on company and position on food safety that becomes core of future messaging
F. Test the plan with a crisis simulation; media train spokespersons

Crisis Response

Identify information gaps and gather information; it's generally sketchy in early stages of crisis.

A. Answer the who, what, when, where and how questions
B. Verify key facts; cross-reference data with appropriate regulators

Dealing with the Media

A. Prepare a "holding statement" for initial media inquiries, if facts are still being gathered. Synchronize with Health Department releases. Acknowledge the situation; focus on the facts and not the blame, express regret for impact on victims, and pledge cooperation with investigative agencies.

  1. We are aware of the situation and are trying to determine the facts
  2. We deeply regret any illnesses to our customers
  3. We are fully cooperating with the Health Departments and agencies that are investigating and helping resolve the situation

B. A common response is to not comment on advice of legal counsel, for fear of liability later on. Ducking the media can lead to loss of credibility in court of public opinion, long before case goes to Court.
C. Update statement as new information is gathered and actions taken
D. Initiate monitoring of major media outlets and wire services
E. Correct any misinformation or misstatement that may appear in media stories
F. Coordinate with PIOs of respective health regulatory agencies to know what they are telling media
G. Log all media calls and interviews

Develop Position Based on Facts and as much Analysis as Time Allows

A. Position should be formulated based on Company's corporate values and policies
B. In developing position, Response Team should discuss situation with appropriate department heads and outside officials as necessary

Take Action Based on Your Position

A. Communicate position to various audiences such as customers, media, government authorities and employees
B. Assign tasks and deadlines to various individuals and departments

Review Position and Determine Next Steps

  1. Anticipate aftershocks such as more reported illnesses, negative media coverage, worsening condition of victims, and filing of lawsuits
  2. Communicate any actions to reduce risks of reoccurrence
  3. Communicate any voluntary or agreed to form of restitution, as appropriate

In summary, here is what your customers and other key audiences want to hear:

A. You care and you're empathetic
B. You're competent and systematic about resident and patient care
C. You're honest and open with all concerned
D. You're dedicated and committed to prevent a reoccurrence