At the recent DRJ conference in Orlando one of my friends said, “Why don’t you present a crisis management case study using the Toyota accelerator crisis?” I thought that it was a good idea. I responded favorably, but with a caveat – only if no other “major” disaster/crisis occurred that would supersede Toyota.
While I concentrated on reading as much information about Toyota as I could, and there was a lot of new information about Toyota, I couldn’t avoid reading about other incidents that were also important, such as the following acts of nature:
Floods – April flooding in the northeast U.S.; May flooding in Tennessee and Kentucky.
During the Tennessee flood, the Cumberland River, which winds through the heart of Nashville, spilled over its banks as the city received more than 13 inches of rain over the weekend. The flash floods were blamed in the deaths of more than 20 people in Tennessee. The Country Music Hall of Fame has closed. The Gaylord Entertainment CEO said, “it would be at least three months before the massive entertainment complex that also includes the Opryland Hotel and the Opry Mills Mall has guests again.”
- Tornadoes – At the time this article is being written, at least 232 incidents have been confirmed as tornadoes, of the 390 reported in the US. The strongest of the confirmed tornadoes (F-4) struck Mississippi and Alabama on April 24 and Oklahoma on May 10.
- Earthquakes – April has been an active month for quakes around the world. April 4 – a 7.2-magnitude quake struck in Baja, Calif.; April 6 – a quake struck Indonesia’s northwest island of Sumatra, prompting a brief tsunami warning and sending residents rushing for higher ground; April 11 – a 7.1-magnitude quake struck off the Solomon Islands. April 11 – a 6.2-magnitude quake struck near Grenada, Spain. April 13 – a 7.1-magnitude quake struck the edge of the Tibetan plateau in western China’s mountainous Qinghai area.
- Volcano – eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland. It produced a huge cloud of volcanic ash that billowed all the way to the European continent. Airlines, fearing the invisible cloud’s microscopic particles could clog up airplane engines, canceled flights. It was the world’s biggest flight disruption since the days following Sept. 11, 2001, and the cost to airlines was huge.
Each of the CEOs should have recognized some of the tenants of “Murphy’s Law” when they did their risk analysis and business impact analysis. I ask you to select the following “Murphy’s Laws” that best fits this crisis:
1) “If it can go wrong, it will.”Didn’t each of these companies have a detailed prevention and emergency response plan? If they did, why didn’t it work?
2) “If anything just cannot go wrong, it will anyway.”
3) “If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.”
4) “If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.”
Many experts believe the government regulators are as guilty as BP Oil-Transocean-Halliburton. The federal agency with oversight of offshore drilling did not require BP to file a “scenario for potential blowout,” referring to the sudden release of oil from a well. How can our government officials who have the responsibility for oversight of offshore drilling allow BP or anyone to drill 5,000 feet below the ocean – if they don’t know how to fix a leak if it should occur? Perhaps they were “regulating” the same way the SEC regulators were regulating.
An April 24 report “Securities and Exchange Commission at Work” slammed senior agency staffers at the SEC claiming they spent hours surfing pornographic Web sites on government-issued computers, while they were supposed to be policing the nation’s financial system.
An attempt to explode a bomb in Times Square took the spotlight off Toyota. A crude car bomb of propane, gasoline and fireworks was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening, April 24. Although the device had apparently started to detonate, fortunately, there was no explosion. Federal and city authorities did a phenomenal job identifying a suspect, making an arrest late Monday night before he was able to fly out of the country. The bomber, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American citizen, was nabbed at Kennedy Airport as he tried to escape on a plane destined for Dubai.
Both stories are still evolving, and new data is forthcoming every day. It would be too soon to do a case study on them. Perhaps we all can do a case study on both incidents before the next issue.
Ed Devlin, CBCP, has provided business recovery planning consulting services since 1973 when he co-founded Devlin Associates. Since then, Devlin has assisted more than 300 companies in the writing of their business recovery plans and has made more than 800 seminars and presentations worldwide.