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Crisis Case Study: When The Lights Go Out in the Stadium…

NO Super Bowl

In the biggest stage of the year, one of the worst possible things that could happen did. Someone leaned up against the light switch panel and turned off the lights to the Mercedes Superdome.

This was a crisis for many different groups. With millions of people tuned in from around the world; with advertisers spending millions of dollars on commercials; and with your reputation on the line for future events; how exactly do you deal with the situation?

Here is my report card for the major players involved…

The Superdome staff (A-) – To go from lights out to lights on in less than 35 minutes is actually pretty good. To do so with the pressure of the world watching is remarkable. Certainly, a power failure was a known peril for the facility management leadership. This is an area that they are trained on and have protocol. You’d think it would be a no-brainer, right? Not so fast. People are trained at CPR yet having to respond in the heat of the moment is another matter entirely. This staff had to deal with coaches yelling at them, television crews freaking out, 80, 000 patrons, and hundreds of social media bloggers making fun of them. I wasn’t there to watch it unfold nor know all the details of communications. Bottom line is that they went from crisis to game on in the amount of time a pizza could be delivered to your house for the 2nd half. That’s a win.

CBS Sports (C+) – Lead broadcasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were part of the block of lights that went blooey ( a technical crisis term), so they were off the grid. Based on not hearing sideline reporter Solomon Wilcots, I’m guessing he was down, too. That left the other sideline reporter Steve Tasker with the task of pulling it together as they got the studio guys miked up and ready. Tasker was a little like the deer in the headlights at first, basically telling us things we already knew, like the lights were out. I’m guessing he hasn’t been overly prepped in being creative in the pinch, and he was adequate. The studio team was worse. They should have been better able to talk us through the delay as they are the ones being paid the big bucks. They were okay, but boring. My guess is they were busy eating some Cajun cuisine after watching Beyonce entertain at halftime That’s not good enough from them and Tasker being adequate kept them from falling to a lower grade. I have to believe that loss of power must be discussed as a crisis strategy by network big wigs. It didn’t appear that they were as well prepared as they could have been.

The Teams – Baltimore (D), San Francisco (A) – In the span of about 7 football minutes, the Ravens went from being up 28-6 to being up 28-23. It’s like when the lights flipped back on, so did the 49’ers. The Ravens ended up winning the game, but it took them a long time to find themselves again. One of the things an announcer did say was that these guys are professionals and it shouldn’t affect them. Wrong. I doubt that NFL players are prepared for this and let’s face it, most of these guys are pretty young. The momentum the Ravens did have dissipated quickly and the 49’ers players took a deep breath and charged on. Baltimore needed every bit of that lead to overcome what they lost mentally in that 34 minutes. Maybe they had ordered pizza and champagne for their celebration and forgot there was still a half of football to play!

What’s this mean for you? If you own or run a business, you need power and connectivity. And you need it almost always. If the Superdome can lose power during the Super Bowl, you can lose power at a most inopportune time, too. How is your team trained to handle it?

  • Will they rise to the occasion like the Superdome staff and get back to full operations immediately?
  • Will your partners who handle utility services and disaster recovery be able to help you where you can’t help yourself?
  • Will they be like deer in headlights or will they take charge? How do you know?
  • Will they respond like the Ravens and come out flat and bewildered or be like the 49’ers who found opportunity in the midst of chaos?

The only way to be sure is to have a plan, practice and test it, and continually monitor and strive to improve it. That’s how you build a championship team in any situation.

© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

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