We’ve been witnessing some quite destructive forces of nature around the world this year. Snow storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, heat waves. I’m almost tempted to ask if someone stole Zeus’ lightning bolt and forgot to return it! (A little Percy Jackson humor there!)

While some might seek to impugn a Higher Being for these heartbreaking tragedies, and others offer rationalizations, one thing remains unmistakable – crises happen! Whether in nature, businesses, government or organizations, be certain, crises are inevitable!

In very recent years, there has been a virtual monsoon of crises in the corporate and government sectors.

Remember the Massey Energy’s mine explosion, which killed 29 miners last year? It was deemed the worst disaster in the industry in four decades. What about the real estate market collapse which forced federal regulators to order mortgage finance giants, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, to cease trading their shares on the New York Stock Exchange?

Then, there was the largest medicine recall in American history, where subsidiaries of American giant, Johnson & Johnson, voluntarily recalled more than 136 million bottles of 43 over-the-counter children’s medicines, from local and international markets. Interestingly, while in 1982, J&J was regarded as the archetype for effective crisis management through its expert handling of the cyanide-tainted Extra-Strength Tylenol, there is speculation now that former public relations experts at the company may be faced with criminal charges by the Food and Drug Administration for the latest transgression by the company.

What about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, from which many are still reeling? That combusted into public outrage and revocation of advertising support from the business community, and led to the eventual demise of the 168-year old British newspaper earlier this month.

But the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, also known as the BP oil disaster, which began in April 2010, is arguably the worst public relations failure in corporate history. 11 people were killed, and millions of gallons of crude oil flowed uninhibited for three months into the Gulf of Mexico, as the world looked on powerlessly, causing “extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries,” and prompting White House energy advisor, Carol Browner, to deem it the “worst environmental disaster the US has faced” – about 20 times larger than the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989!

Yes, crises happen! With the advances in social media, the world is in constant conversation. Unexpected and unplanned visibility can threaten your institution’s credibility, reputation and market position. “No comment” is never the right response in a crisis. A former vice president of CNN stated, “If you don’t respond quickly to what happens, you create a vacuum. And everyone else – the news media, your competitors – is going to step into that vacuum and tell your story the way they want to tell it, not the way you want it to be told.” Quick public responses are critical during a crisis, but a split-second decision can result in significant financial losses and harsh blows to credibility among valued stakeholders.

Does your institution have an official written crisis plan? Do all your departments and employees know how to act (rather, than react) in a crisis? Is the risk of not being prepared worth it?

At PRiyaCOMM, our team will work closely with you to complement your current operational preparedness and communications capabilities through strategic planning and integration of our readiness resources before a crisis happens, and to help you to successfully manage the function in the event of a crisis.

As I write this blog, I hear the thunder crashing outside my window and see the frenzied swaying of the trees in the turbulent wind, and I am reminded of the age-old axiom, “When you hear the thunder, it is too late to build the ark.”

Is your ark ready?