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Crisis Case Study – Preventing a Disaster

The story of the day is the recent “almost shooting” at a school in Atlanta. A potential devastating shooting was averted when a school clerk named Antoinette Tuff saved the day with her bravery and quick thinking. A 20-year old brandishing an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition entered the elementary school distraught with his life and ready to take it out on innocent people. He entered past security by following parents that didn’t shut the door quickly enough. Ms. Tuff confronted Michael Brandon Hill and started talking to him. She instinctively created a bond with him by telling her own personal story and calming him down to a point where all the children could be evacuated. Although shots were later exchanged with police, nobody was injured.

Read the entire story on The Washington Post web page

This story is getting national attention as it should, however nowhere near the amount that it would have received if the shooting spree went through. If it had and fatalities would have occurred, then the entire nation would be gripped in another incident similar to Connecticut last year. Fear, sadness, and lots of “what if” questions would be felt and asked.

“What if…”

It never will be asked because of Antionette Tuff. Because this story has a happy ending today, I feel like I can help you with its lesson:

  • Prevention may not be as sexy as all the contingencies you put into place – sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, expensive insurance, and evacuation plans. While these contingent behaviors are necessary, they  will never replace the power of having something NEVER HAPPEN. Antoinette Tuff was the perfect preventive “system” in place. What preventive measures do you have in your business? Are your contingent steps out of balance with your preventive?
  • How well prepared are your employees to deal with a crisis? Ms. Tuff (trained or not) was up to the task (understatement of the year). You can’t take for granted that your people (regardless of how skilled and savvy they are) are prepared to deal with a crisis. Ask yourself this, if there was a small fire in the company break room, would anyone know how to operate the fire extinguisher? I’ve asked many clients this and they smirk, chuckle, and admit they don’t even know how to use one.
  • Security is the most overlooked area I see with businesses. I get it. You want people to walk in your doors. The problem is that you’ve left yourself open to threats of violence if you don’t take appropriate measures. If you’re not a retail or professional services business, do you need to make it easy to waltz in? If you are a retail or professional services, couldn’t appropriate front desk personnel (see Ms. Tuff as an example), security cameras, and other preventive measures help you? Bottom line is that you have an obligation to your employees to send them back home the way they came in. Part of that obligation includes security. You don’t have to dig too far in your memory banks to remember times when disgruntled employees, unhappy significant others, or just unknown people (see this case study)  entered businesses armed and ready to commit violence. These situations don’t just happen in big cities in Atlanta. Remember the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado?

This story was particularly impactful for me. I’m currently on the board of directors of a public school district in my hometown. I’ve worked closely with school district clients in other states. My kids have been that age and what seems not that long ago. Ms Tuff…thank you. I don’t think anyone will ever truly know what you just saved with your bravery.

Here’s your bottom line lesson for today…

Get prepared. Be ready. Take this obligation seriously. Next month is National Preparedness Month in this country. What a great time to get your act together for your business and your family. If you feel like you’ve done your job in this area, great. Re-check your work. If you haven’t (and this is most of you), get busy. The business or life you save just might be your own or that of your employee or family member.

© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

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