10 Key Responses to any Disaster

In an article I recently posted, I said the first step in response and recovery is assuming failures, disasters, and crises will occur. Whether you call it hubris or denial, thinking disasters can’t or won’t happen to your organization almost certainly guarantees that they will.

No matter how mistake-proof you think you can make something, there’s always someone or something out there who / that can prove you wrong. As the poet Robert Burns once said, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…”.

Evidence suggests the Takata Corporation did not take that advice or there was something amiss in one or more of its business processes. It evidently didn’t do all it could have to prevent or mitigate the disaster it now has on its hands, and the same might be said about Honda and possibly other automakers.

Steering Wheel Cutaway, Showing Takata Airbag (AlexAuto321-Wikimedia Commons)

Steering Wheel Cutaway, Showing Takata Airbag (AlexAuto321 – Wikimedia Commons)

So, what should Takata have done? (Or what should you do if your organization is ever faced with disaster?)

  1. Again, prepare for the best but assume the worst. Don’t delude yourself – you cannot foresee every possibility. (No, that’s not a response but if done, it could prevent or alleviate the remainder.)
  2. When a problem occurs, immediately acknowledge it. Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away.
  3. Acknowledge and own up to your responsibilities.
  4. Help identify and implement short-term solutions. People who are injured first and worst usually aren’t in a position to be patient – they need help now.
  5. Whenever discussing the problem, never use the passive voice. Saying “mistakes were made” is the best way to turn consumers’ opinions against you.
  6. Determine the scope (extent) of the problem. Collect in-house and external information. Find out what’s known about the problem (logged incidents, similar or connected incidents, etc.). Determine a reasonable time frame for your disaster response but be prepared to move the end date.
  7. Work closely with other companies involved, sharing information and pooling resources. In the case of Takata airbags, several automobile makes, models, and production years have already been identified
  8. Identify the root cause(s) of the problem.
  9. Take whatever corrective action is necessary to prevent a recurrence of the problem or significantly reduce the likelihood of a recurrence. In other words, eliminate the root cause. Verify the effectiveness of the corrective action – if it is not effective, repeat steps 8 and 9 until you’re sure you’ve found a corrective action that is.
  10. Continue following up with stakeholders for the duration of your response. AAFF – always ask for feedback.

One more thing: Your response to disasters will not always please every stakeholder. Be prepared to deal with that fallout.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think?

* * * * * * *


12 Steps to an Effective Disaster Response and Recovery Plan – https://q9cqualityconsulting.com/2014/10/23/12-steps-to-effective-disaster-response-and-recovery-plan/

Feds Demand Takata Recall Airbags – http://www.clickondetroit.com/consumer/automotive/feds-call-for-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/29807392

Takata Airbags Share An Explosive Chemical With The Texas Fertilizer Blast[1]http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-11-20/takata-airbags-share-a-chemical-with-west-texas-fertilizer-blast

Senators Are Looking At A Gruesome Image Of A Takata Airbag Injury –http://www.businessinsider.com/senators-are-looking-at-a-gruesome-image-of-a-takata-airbag-injury-2014-11

Testimony of Hiroshi Shimizu Before The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation – http://www.takata.com/pdf/141120_EN.pdf

Takata Corporation Home Page, including a timeline of the airbag problem – http://www.takata.com/en/index.html

Timeline: Takata Airbag Recalls – http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/17/us-autos-takata-timeline-idUSKCN0J10DP20141117

Honda Death Probed As Homicide Adds To Airbag Scrutiny –http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-17/honda-death-probed-as-homicide-adds-to-air-bag-scrutiny.html

Honda Failed To Report Defects’ Full Human Toll – http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/business/honda-failed-to-report-defects-full-human-toll.html

Japan Sets Up Task Force To Supervise Takata Air Bag Recalls, Probe Honda – http://www.ibtimes.com/japan-sets-task-force-supervise-takata-air-bag-recalls-probe-honda-1728917


[1] Also see the SS Grandcamp explosion (Texas City, TX, 1947) and Murrah Building bombing (Oklahoma City, OK, 1995).


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Posted in Disaster Planning, Risk Management

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