Can’t anybody here play this game?

A new survey released today shows that eight in 10 U.S. cities say they are unprepared for a mega 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina-type disaster. The U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed 183 city administrators and found that 44 percent haven’t created or updated their evacuation plans and nearly three-quarters say they’re not prepared to deal with a flu pandemic.

While the survey findings are horrific, I’m sorry to say they’re not surprising. When it comes to crisis preparedness, it seems as if the prevailing mentality falls into one of several buckets:

1.) "Its’ not my job, man"

2.) "It won’t happen here"

3.) "We don’t have enough money to create or execute a plan"

By the way, this mindset is not unique to the public sector. I can distinctly remember a presentation to one Fortune 500 company in which we detailed how we’d simulate any number of potential crises, involve all of their line executives in the exercise and provide them with a report card and evaluation based upon our work with other large companies. I think we asked for $20k to handle the day-and-a-half simulation.

After waiting about a week for a response, we were told this multi-billion dollar, publicly-traded corporation didn’t have the budget to pay for the work!

You would think the individuals who control crisis planning budgets would understand the ramifications of their penny-wise, pound-foolish avoidance behavior. And, yet, today’s survey provides a reminder that, as we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11, most of America remains woefully unprepared for the inevitable.

This widespread denial reminds me of a classic Casey Stengel quote. When the late NY Mets managers became totally exasperated by his team’s abysmal play, ol’ Casey screamed: "Can’t anyone here play this game?" Someone needs to play the role of Stengel and scream at our city’s mayors and corporate risk managers and break through their lethargy. The hour is late and the crisis is approaching.

10 thoughts on “Can’t anybody here play this game?

  1. And I was the crack beat reporter always looking for a scoop.
    If you’re holding onto any old reports from the Peppercom Post, I would love to have them forwarded, Steve.

  2. shelled? i was the john maine of the staff. ed was the tom glavine, hilton was the pelfrey.

  3. You forgot to mention one of the more obvious things we’d see in a softball game between current and former P’commers, I-man. And that would be your being shelled in the first inning. You were clearly the Victor Zambrano of the turn-of-the-century P’com softball teams.

  4. softball game? that just gave me an idea- what about a softball game of current vs. former pcom folks. i can see it now- bray looking for a fight, but having no one backing him. zakkour in his famous short shorts chasing after balls, megan bause running the bases- baby in one arm. would make for an interesting game!

  5. funny rep, cause i thought the same thing, but my brother-in-law from florda said it was being covered there and a friend in LA called me to ask if the story was legit- he couldn’t believe it! so i guess it was being covered outside of teaneck…

  6. Actually, RepMan, the Con Ed story is national news. I’ve had relatives from other states call to see if I have power (news elsewhere is reporting the outage as affecting “NYC” and not “Queens”), and a friend who returned from Jamaica also said it was news there.
    Speaking of another national–make that international–story that didn’t get much RepMan attention, I was surprised there weren’t any World Cup posts. There are obviously reputation issues about soocer/football here in the U.S., not to mention the major reputation implications for Zidane’s legacy from his actions during his last game.
    Good luck in next week’s softball game, by the way. I hope there will be a post about that for those of us who may not attend!

  7. Jose, I agree the Con Ed story is classic crisis mismanagement, but didn’t see it as a national story. Readers outside the tri-state/Teaneck area might not be aware of what’s going on.

  8. I was actually surprised that the repman has not talked about the con-ed disaster. that has to have been one of the top news stories for more than one week and there are serious image and rep issues involved for burke and company.

  9. As you post this, Consolidated Edison is finally restoring power to a swath of Queens that had been powerless for more than a week. The outage affected as many as 100,000 people. (The company is not sure of exactly how many, as it based its initial estimates on the number of customer calls it received when the lights first went out). The implications are frightening; if a major urban utility cannot cope with hot summer days, one shudders to think of how it might perform in the event of a major catastrophe.
    Of course, there is no accountability. CEO Kevin Burke refuses to resign from his job at the head of this inept monopoly.

  10. I couldn’t agree with you more Steve. It constantly amazes and flabbergasts me that companies think that if they have a big crisis manual then they are covered in the event of a crisis. The fact is that you can never prepare for a crisis just by having a rule book. As we all know a crisis is just that – a crisis – a chaotic time when it is more important to think about how things are done and what the objectives are than just to blindly follow procedure and rules. How could you have a procedure for 9/11 or for the New Orleans disaster? It simply doesn’t work like that. Organisations need to train people to handle crisis situations not just tick off crisis planning in their list of things to do after some bloated consultant has produced a big fat manual that no one will ever read before a crisis or have time to read during a crisis!