Governments are not immune from crises, particularly those that can topple administrations and put public officials in jail.
From the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Financial Crises of 2008, in addition to the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon in 2010, disasters were made worse due to the government’s response. In each of those disasters, the decision to report on and provide updates on the crises were made at executive levels. Unfortunately, in each of those crises we learned that when governments fail, people suffer.
This was also evident in the (2015-Present) Flint Water Crises. Not only did the government fail at a local, regional, state and federal level but our elected leaders failed to listen to the warnings that could have avoided the crises.
Out of these issues, we learn a crisis itself doesn’t always do the most damage— the handling of it often does.
Before a crisis becomes a crisis, it’s a problem and our government leaders should never ignore a problem -- No matter how big or small.
In today’s digital world, we know too much and it is easier to gain a pulse of our community or constituents and identify areas of concern or even potential risks.
However, government officials, both elected and bureaucrats can be quick to dismiss the complainers or agitators. You know, the ones that attend and seek to speak at every city council meeting or legislative hearing – Listen to them; monitor their social media activity for areas of concern and respond when necessary.
Monitoring the chatter around the community helps eliminate risk because they help identify the areas where problems will percolate. However, while governments can and should plan, prepare and train for various disasters, to help respond to a crisis as a leader within government, it is important to have a blueprint to guide a department director, mayor, police chief or Governor, should a crisis occur.
This begins with anticipating areas where you are vulnerable.
Listen to your constituents and don’t be quick to dismiss the agitators. Use those that speak up and speak out as your early warning system in trying to limit a problem from becoming an issue.
Leverage digital and social media to monitor the chatter and remain visible in the community to avoid future problems. This includes meeting with the people that often speak up against you.