Knowledge Center

Knowledge Center Items Podcast Episode 13

Are Your Clients Prepared to Handle a Crisis?

Published on

It's not an easy thing to think about, let alone discuss the possibility of actually happening. 

That's why it's critical your clients have both the protection and expert help they need when responding to a crisis. 

Being unprepared for that day, if it does find its way to their doorstep, will leave them scrambling to help everyone get through it. 

Doing and saying the right things, at the right time, makes a huge difference to the outcome everyone will experience. 

Hart Brown, Senior Vice President of R3 Continuum, talks about the best ways to have the right resources available for the people who will need them.

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Full Episode Transcript

Joey Giangola: Mr. Hart Brown, how are you doing today, sir?

Hart Brown: Good, how are you?

Joey Giangola: I'm doing all right. I was kind of thinking about this, this morning, it's something that most people generally don't like to admit to. But what's one word that you're always very unsure of how to use in a sentence, but don't really want to tell people?

Hart Brown: Oh, goodness. As far as the context we're talking about here, when we're talking about something as serious as a shooting or something along those lines. It's very difficult to have a conversation about managing through that process in the middle of it, when there's still a lot of trauma, there's a lot of grief, there's a lot of stress, there's a lot of concern. And when you're there to try and calm the waters and provide assistance, it's very, very difficult to do that while people are still in the moment. So it's a tough conversation to have.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, for me personally, Hart, there's too many words for me sometimes that I'm ashamed to admit, but the one that I've come across recently is cyclical. I'm always afraid to use it in a sentence, I mean, I think I know what it means, but I'm always just kind of gun shy. But like you said, talking about what ... kind of what you do and I want to get into the idea of managing those situations that people don't like to talk about. And you guys see a lot of it in terms of what you do.

What's the thing that is maybe not seen the most by small business owners, that don't have access to all the information, that don't see basically every crisis across the country come in. What's the thing that they need to be thinking about the most in terms of where their business is vulnerable?

Hart Brown: So really great question. First, I think is a challenge of data. Most individuals, business owners and so forth, will look at certain sources, whether they come out in the news media or others. In many cases, they're pointing towards resources that are related to mass shootings. Those situations that involve multiple, unfortunately, injuries or fatalities. Now there's only a certain number of those that really hit major news, that really make a statement. However, there's a lot more incidents of shootings in a workplace violence and others that never reached that same point, that never reached that same threshold. And so those are not necessarily seen by the average business.

What we see over a year basis, you'll hear numbers of ... there might be 200 shootings in the media over a year basis. What we see time and time again is roughly 800 shootings a year that we're responding to, small, medium and large businesses that have had an incident. May not always reach their front door and maybe it's in the parking lot, maybe it's in other places, maybe it's a situation where somebody has actually entered their premise. But those are the kinds of things that most people don't recognize.

The other is, especially with where we are today in relation to COVID-19 and many other types of stresses that are put on individuals, and as companies are having to make hard decisions of transferring people into a furlough status or transferring from a furlough status into a layoff status. We start to see those stresses build and if there's not a good outlet, potentially, for those stresses, some individuals are likely to use a physical means to express that level of stress anxiety. And if they're targeting a business, they're blaming the business, we're likely to see more cases of workplace violence simply because of the situation we're in now. It's compounding.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, like you said, there's so much that they don't see, you only see the big stuff, the headlines. Even more so, is the dollar amounts associated with those things. What in terms of an actual financial impact and not just beyond the bottom line, but how far does it ripple out to that business? And what does it take to do their part manage that ripple effect as best as possible?

Hart Brown: Yeah, so good questions. The first from a financial perspective, we separate out what we would consider to be potentially a workplace violence event and assault, or something along those lines from a shooting, because it's too hard to put them together. An assault or something related to workplace violence, the numbers have been relatively consistent over a period of time. That from a financial perspective, you're looking at about a half a million dollars to $3 million, if there's litigation involved and it goes to a jury trial. Those are some of the numbers that would be a burden on the company. If it's a shooting case, the numbers potentially go up significantly.

In a few specific events, we've seen numbers go up to $50 or $60 million as far as litigation goes. We see in larger scale events and you see this in the news, we'll see a fund being created for those that are injured or unfortunately killed. And in that case, the numbers are roughly $400,000 to about $4 million per person injured or killed, becomes part of the burden financially for you, the organization, whoever may be involved in that process. So the numbers go up significantly during that timeframe. And from what we see, especially from a litigation perspective, those numbers are continuing to go up. There's not necessarily anything to indicate they're going down.

As far as helping an organization to get through a situation like this, of course, we want to prevent it in the first place if we possibly can. And there's a lot of education plans, policies, procedures, training exercises, and those kinds of things that are provided to organizations as it relates to hostility management, or recognizing the signs and symptoms and what to do about it, all the way through, if something does unfortunately occur. When it occurs, it's our position in this space as we're trying to get everybody back to work as soon as possible and create a situation where all of those individuals can become productive again. And that's a real challenge, certainly over the first seven days, 14 days, and really throughout at least the first year. To ensure that individuals have the right level of support, both from their leadership, as well as from outside resources like crisis management firms and others that can come in and provide that level of support. To get them productive, back into the workplace.

Joey Giangola: I have to imagine that there's ... when an incident occurs, there's a kind of a window where what they do and don't do during those time periods is vital to, like you said, managing that. What have you seen in terms of businesses that sort of take the right steps during that time, businesses that don't. How big of an impact are we talking about during those kinds of vital few moments ... I guess, maybe even backing it up before. And what's the one thing that you see businesses not doing to prevent stuff from happening in the first place?

Hart Brown: Sure, from a prevention standpoint, I think the biggest thing, and we're seeing this time and time again, is that issue of both one of training, hostility management, really for frontline supervisors and those individuals that they can understand what's going on. And what can you say or do in those critical moments to allow a person to deescalate rather than escalate into physical violence during that timeframe?

The second is for organizations ... and we're seeing this more and more, even from legislation by the States and OSHA and others, is do they have a plan and process in place to manage those individuals once they've been identified? Is there, what is generally referred to as a threat assessment team or a threat management team? A few people that can come together and have a conversation to say, "Now that we are aware, what do we do with this situation?" And even if they have to get outside support, which again, is becoming more and more involved in legislation. So organizations will, at some point, be required to do more and more, the take on more and more of these actions.

Then as far as some of the critical timeframes, from a response, we break them up really into three primary areas. The first is the first seven days. So the earlier an organization can start to assess what's going on and get the right level of help, typically for us, that's within hours of an event. At that point in time, we can start helping to structure things like media releases, if necessary, all the way through scripting out what you're going to tell employees, where you're going to tell their families and others, to make sure all of that is consistent. And that really is the first few critical hours, as well as starting to get counselors in place, what we refer to as disruptive event management, but grief counseling type of a process. All of that becomes very critical in the first seven days, for the first few hours through about seven days out, very high period of activity.

Once we get through the first seven days, we really look at the next month, so roughly the next 30 days. Less and less people are necessarily needing as much help as they did in the first seven days, an organization is starting to go into an adaptive learning process as to, "Okay, what does this mean for us and how do we start to take these tasks on?" But there's still a level of support typically needed in the first 30 days, is to get people back into the workplace, for people to get back into productivity. And managing things like work comp and other issues that have a tendency to start to come up.

After the first 30 days, then we look at the rest of the year. And really at that point in time, talking to organizations, at some point in time you may have a fire drill, or somebody may pull a fire alarm, or somebody next door may have a fire alarm, or police may have to show up for whatever reason. We see that as a reactivating event, those reactivating events, whether it's a sight or smell or whatever it may be, is going to impact the employee population again. So we caution and make sure the organizations understand that that's going to happen. All the way through, and reason we say the first year, all the way through the potential anniversary of the event itself, which again is going to be a reactivating event. So there are a number of things that happen, they're periodic in nature for the rest of the year, in many cases. But they're still important to be able to manage.

Joey Giangola: And I'm sure so many businesses, I mean, have yet to even think of, like you said, having a threat assessment team, let alone what they're going to do when something like that happens. I mean, what does it look like, I'm sure you've probably seen case studies or whatever, of businesses that kind of go it alone. Versus just having like a bat phone basically to pick up and be like, "Hey, listen." What is the difference in terms of the future viability of that business that did those things initially versus one that didn't?

Hart Brown: Yeah, again, really important questions. We look at these from large businesses all the way down, it's almost easier to see it in large businesses, especially public entities. Because you can watch how the market reacts both from a brand perspective or reputation perspective, and a financial perspective. And in that case, we're looking for anywhere around a 10 plus percent drop in the price of the stock, from a shock perspective after an event starts to become a critical moment in time. And we're trying to manage less than that 10% variability for the business longterm.

If they're not able to do that correctly, unfortunately, what you start to see is ... especially if where the business was before the event, if there were issues, if there were stresses within the business itself. We see those amplified and so immediately we get into a situation where the business may be forced into a situation of layoffs, they're not necessarily as financially sound as they were before. And we do see cases where either bankruptcies or others, unfortunately, are result from not being able to get through the situation as quickly or as productively as possible.

Joey Giangola: Now we were on a call a couple of weeks ago and you shared some numbers talking about the likelihood or frequency in which incidents are happening now. I was kind of blown away by it, but I mean, what is it looking like now? And what can people expect just in terms of the difference of events that have the potential to happen?

Hart Brown:So when we have ... and we've done a lot of work on this. We have a situation right now where we've got a number of stresses on individuals, we have COVID-19, that has been a very difficult situation for many people to manage. We have high unemployment numbers, that's a difficult thing for people to manage. We were starting to see increases in things like food insecurity for families, they're having to go and find food at some of the food banks and others, which they've never had to do before. Those start to create stresses.

And then what we've seen, certainly in the early phases of COVID-19, the lockdown, we saw a drop in the level of violence and then immediately it started to pick back up. And so you're seeing these tensions playing out, in some cases online or others, that as soon as we opened back up, you're starting to see those result in violence. So when you put all of those multiple stresses and stack them on top of each other, what we've seen ... and then we can also put the societal's related issues, civil unrest and others. We start to see an increase in violence. That increase now has roughly doubled from the normal year over year types of statistics we would normally see.

Now we look at that in a few different ways, we're looking at when crime data, we look at our response data, and then we look at things like ShotSpotter and others. Which are microphone systems that are placed throughout many major cities that are looking and listening for the specific sound of gunfire and then they record that in order to try and determine where that gunfire occurred. All of those are showing roughly a doubling of specific cases. We see that playing out certainly over the rest of this year and possibly into next year, depending on how things progress in a number of specific areas. But that's a big concern for us, the fact that we're starting to see a doubling of shooting related cases.

Joey Giangola: Is there something that ... I don't know if you know the answer to this question, but I got to give it a shot. Is there something that a business should be on lookout for? Is there signs that show up in the company that can give somebody an indication? I'm sure there are, that they could at least sort of ... if they're not doing something, they can at least keep an eye out for something that's going on. Are there anything that kind of points to potential dangers ahead, I guess?

Hart Brown: So there are, and of course everybody's different and that's the challenge. And that's one of the reasons why it's helpful to have some resources available to address it. But when you're looking at people, especially returning to work, so those individuals that have been locked down for a period of time, maybe working from home for a period of time, maybe isolated for a period of time, are now coming back into the workplace. A lot of things happen during that period of isolation that could spill over into a situation related to violence. One is, you could see a higher frequency of issues related to substance abuse. Because some of the potential control mechanisms of the daily activities have been gone and so now we see issues related to substance. Other issues that you can see, things like have they become more withdrawn? Are they less likely to communicate with others? Is there something going on in their life that may be related to depression or others that we need to be paying attention to?

The others is what we might refer to as having a very short fuse and especially in areas that don't necessarily make sense. And so we're seeing that play out live with things like masks. So if the organization says, "We really want to wear masks inside the office, we really want to protect everybody." And then you find out that somebody doesn't want to wear a mask and you see it immediately escalate into physical aggression. So it's those sorts of moments in time that when you see that physical aggression come out as a means to communicate, as a means to earn alternative to just having a conversation. Those are some of the things that certainly we're seeing more and more in some of these situations.

Joey Giangola: At what point ... I would imagine again, too, if you have a business owner that's kind of going it alone, I'm assuming there's a threshold to where stepping in and trying to do things on your own without getting the right people in place, you can make things worse, I guess. That's an assumption on my part, but is that true? And at what point is it like, "All right, we maybe identified a problem, what do we do to actually get the right people in here to handle it?"

Hart Brown: So there's a few areas on that. One is absolutely saying the wrong thing at the wrong point in time could escalate the situation. All the way to what most organizations will rely on is just a simple fact of termination. Now, we're not happy with your work performance, we're not happy with where you are. I'm very sorry, we're letting you go today. If there is a concern of that person potentially coming back or a concern for violence, we want to script that process out. We don't necessarily want to jump right into that decision, which may not necessarily be the best in that situation. So we have a couple of things that we see there for organizations, what to say and what to do, and we help organizations get through that and coach them.

Some of the other potential issues when you get into, how do you manage it and when do you need professionals? Even in large organizations ... and this is one of the things that, certainly, we caution on. Is many organizations are happy to make a decision on the future of an individual or to try and make a decision, are they likely to become violent or not? A lot of individuals struggle with behavioral health issues, with mental health issues. And that's a very difficult assessment to make if you don't have the professional backing to do it. And so we see security organizations, we see various types of organizations that are comfortable with making a decision up to a certain point. But as soon as there's an indication of mental health, mental illness, behavioral health issues, they really need to bring in a professional to help them do that.

Joey Giangola: All right, Hart, I got two more questions for you, sir. If you were an insurance agent that was trying to have this conversation with their clients about the likelihood of these sort of incidents, what they need to be doing to make sure their business can endure and handle this as properly as possible for everybody involved. What's that one thing that you think they need to be getting across them? Where does that conversation start for them? What's really the most important thing?

Hart Brown: Yeah, I use an analogy from an insurance perspective and I think it very much holds true in the workplace violence and violence arena. In the early days of cyber coverage, we talked a lot about what cyber coverage was and wasn't, and it was very complicated for many business owners and others to understand. Do I need it? Do I not? What type do I need? And it became a really difficult conversation to have. Now over a period of time, we see more and more business owners, 30% and more, are buying cyber coverage because they now understand that the cyber threats are everywhere, all the time and there's very little protective measures you can use that are going to eliminate the risk.

I use workplace violence in the same context, by simply saying, "Workplace violence is the same issue, it's everywhere. The issue is everywhere, there's absolutely no one protective measure that you can use that eliminates the risk. And it's better for you as an organization to have this type of coverage in place, one, and to have the resources available at a moment's notice if there's a concern or an issue." And I think that is probably the message that's going to continue to resonate over time.

Joey Giangola: All right, Hart, last question for you, speaking a little bit more specifically from your perspective, in terms of the arena that you deal with. What part of this conversation do you feel needs to maybe reach more penetration within sort of the kind of consciousness of the workforce? Where do we need to kind of go, where do we need to get to, to where this is maybe something that is on everybody's radar on a certain level?

Hart Brown: It's a great question because it's a topic that many people don't want to address, they don't want to think about something related to violence happening to them, their organization, their families, and their work families. I think, unfortunately, we have to have that conversation, I think it's important to be able to have that conversation. Whether that's done through training, whether that's done through open dialogue, through hotlines and others, that people can report specific things that they see. But it's very much in that culture of, "I'm not trying to tell on somebody in the workplace, I'm not trying to get somebody into trouble. I'm trying to get them to a point where they can get the help, potentially, they need to be more productive."

And I think if we can flip that dialogue, if we can have that conversation, I think we'll see more and more of these indicators starting to get brought up. And we can address them earlier on without having to have to deal with the aftermath of a violent event. But it's having those difficult conversations.

Joey Giangola: All right, I'm going to leave it right there. So I appreciate the time, this was great.

Hart Brown: Thank you very much.

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