So you accidentally told a million people they are going to die: What next? Your essential guide...

Hawaii's EMA – you’ve never seen crisis management quite like this

Man vs machine

Pinning the blame can be tricky, and will vary every time depending on what you did wrong. If at all possible, blame a machine rather than a human. But make sure it's a machine you're not in charge of.

In the case of the EMA, they hit on an ingenuous solution: their system's user interface. The options for performing a test alert and sending a real alert to hundreds of thousands of folks were on the same dropdown menu.

Not only does this explanation immediately make sense to ordinary users, who have to wrestle crap software all day long, but it also passes blame onto whoever devised the UI in the first place – which is going to be damn near impossible to pin on any one individual.

It was a brilliant piece of crisis management, especially given the pressure they must have been under to explain why one million people had been told they were going to die.

Now in most cases, that will likely be the end of it. Your department is tasked with writing a report about what went wrong with the system – because no one else understands it – and that gives you plenty of time to make sure that no one gets fired. Plus there's an opportunity there to ask for extra resources for a few pet projects.

Be generous: spread those extra funds around and before you know it, those that know what really happened will be thanking you rather than eyeing you suspiciously.

Unfortunately for EMA the widespread panic its message induced meant that not one but two independent investigations were ordered. If that happens to you, there is only one solution: gang up on one individual and get them fired.

So long as everyone agrees to stick to the same story, the situation can actually work in your favor. Fed up with Jeff's constant bitching and flatulence? Time for him to go. The team had always had concerns about him but management didn't listen. Or maybe it's payback time for Michael, that smarmy git.

Quick and easy

So long as you pile on whoever you choose, it's easy to make it a case of "one bad egg" and everyone else can get on as normal. Management will be too terrified to dig any deeper and will go for the easiest and quickest solution.

The EMA, yet again, excelled. The Hawaii state report left no doubt that "Employee 1" was to blame – and not for the first time.

"Poor performance evaluations have been documented on select SWP individuals," the report notes. "This has created morale and competency issues. Employee 1 has been a source of concern for the same SWP staff for over 10 years."

Sorry, Jeff, or Jane, or whoever you are, you should never have eaten that last piece of cake at the Christmas bash three years ago. And just for good measure:

"Employee 1's poor performance has been counseled and documented and the SWP members have stated that they are 'not comfortable with Employee 1 as a supervisor, two-man team, or as a part of the SWP in general. He is does not take initiative and has to be directed before he takes action. He is unable to comprehend the situation at hand and has confused real life events and drills on at least two separate occasions.'"

Jim – or was it Jade? – can try all they like to argue that they didn't hear "exercise, exercise, exercise," but we all did, didn’t we, fellas?

Done. Dusted. Sorted. Now, how much extra can we stick in this year's budget for more stuff – you know, to make sure this never happens again? ®

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