Thursday, March 26, 2009

TMI - Three Mile Island or Too Much Information?

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the Three Mile Island meltdown. Without a doubt, people a whole lot smarter than I will be discussing and dissecting what happened and what should have happened from both a communications and operational point-of-view.

The meltdown led to several new "truths" in crisis communications and nuclear energy. Specifically, the world was taught the importance of preparing for the former and the hazards of the latter.

But is nuclear power dangerous? The common perception is that it is. (You can read an article from The Washington Post about the relative safety of nuclear power. You can also read about the critical hours of the meltdown here. ) In many ways, that's all that matters.

To be sure, the world of communications has changed drastically in the past 30 years and, while there is a lot to learn from the events of Three Mile Island, it's important to remember that at the time, there were no cell phones or Blackberrys; internet or email. Information could be released in a controlled, deliberate manner that I'm sure some communicators look back upon with envy.

I think the lesson for today's communications environment is attitudinal in nature. It's important to remember that companies and organizations much do what they can to prepare for a crisis situation. They must be ready to communicate effectively and avoid stonewalling. Information will always find a way out, either through deliberate or accidental action.

Take the steps you need to now by examing what your organization's exposure to risk is and determine how you can prepare to deal with a crisis when it happens.

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