By Howard B. Price
Even if you’re not Jewish, you likely know the tale – Moses asks Pharaoh to free his Hebrew slaves after some four centuries of hard bondage. Pharaoh says no. God sends 10 plagues to change his mind – Pharaoh remains obstinate through nine of the plagues. And only after the last, most horrific plague (the death of every first born Egyptian) does he finally relent, freeing the Jews. (He changes his mind again at the Red Sea, of course – but that’s another story for another day.)
Broadcast pros love this story because it mirrors our ongoing struggles to convince managers that at one time or another, very bad things will have dramatically negative impacts on their operations. And more likely as not, those bad events will cascade, causing even more catastrophic business impacts. Which is why we really should listen to and act upon the warnings we’re given, whether we like them or not.
So, if you’re the “Pharaoh” of your station or cluster, what might be the ten plagues confronting you in these modern, yet still unsettled times? Let’s benchmark them against those in the biblical story:
- Rivers Running Red. The blood thing? That’s unlikely. But it’s entirely likely that a river near you could overflow its banks and inundate or make inaccessible your critical facilities. If this happens, you won’t be letting your people go…you’ll need everyone to help bail you out and keep you on the air. Assuming they can even get to the station. Because, you know, the flood – and maybe mudslides, too. So, what’s your plan for staffing and for holding the river at bay (no pun intended) outside your doors? The folks at KHOU-TV/Houston could tell you a thing or two about that – they won’t be going back to the building they called home before Harvey.
- Frogs Everywhere. Not a top-of-mind threat, but…
- Bugs Everywhere. This could happen. And did. A major radio news operation had to temporarily relocate to a backup facility for an entire weekend several years ago in order to exterminate bedbugs thought to have been brought into the plant by an unsuspecting employee. The Bedbug, The Termite, The Flea – they could easily become your next station mascot, if you don’t have a plan.
- Wild Animals Everywhere. Like Frogs, push this way down your list of worries…unless of course, your station is near a zoo or wildland. Then, check your fencing.
- Pestilence Everywhere. Think of this as a supply chain issue. What would happen if an agricultural disaster or other disruption impacted food supplies? Could you sustain your troops for 72 hours until relief arrived?
- Boils All Over Your Bod. Broaden the discussion to communicable and infectious disease. Recall this past flu season…how would you handle widespread, extended absence of your key staff? How would you sanitize your facilities to stem the outbreak?
- Hail. Surely this could and does happen, as do blizzards, torrential rainstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, dust storms, wildfires, ice storms. EVERY business today needs a severe weather response plan.
- Locusts. See Bugs Everywhere above.
- Darkness for Three Days. Ask your colleagues in South Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands about their recent experiences with this one. We call it a blackout now. And you could be without the main grid for days, weeks or even months. A generator is no longer an option for broadcasters…it’s a must, at the studio, the transmitter and any other at-risk place in your transmission chain.
- Death of the First-Born. How about the sudden death – or serious injury — of ANY of your employees? Is your staff trained in first aid/CPR? Do you have an AED on site…and do people know how to use it? Is your operational cross-training sufficient to keep a credible fill-in on the air while you’re dealing with a site emergency? How do you communicate what’s happened inside and outside your station?
Santayana wrote that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Which is why the best learning often comes from the experiences of the past – even the ancient past. And especially when it comes to operational resilience. So, at your next seder, in addition to inviting Elijah the Prophet, you might want to have me in for one of the four traditional cups of wine – and a chat about easy, cost-effective ways you can make your station, cluster or group “plague-resistant.”
Howard B. Price, CBCP/MBCI is the former director of business continuity & crisis management for ABC’s News and Technology & Operations divisions, and has also served as senior manager, enterprise business continuity planning for The Walt Disney Company. A certified business continuity professional, and the founder of MediaDisasterPrep.com, he brings cost-effective resilience planning, innovation and thought leadership to the media industry. Reach him at HowardBPrice@gmail.com or 917-414-1751, and follow him on Twitter @mediadisaster