Why crisis communication training is essential for safe landings

March 12, 2019 by Jonathan Hemus


“The fact that we got so much, so right, so quickly, under those conditions of crisis is a testament to our training, our preparation and years of experience, and the judgment that we’d developed.”

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, and hero of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’.

Crisis communication exercise

A couple of weeks back we delivered crisis communication training for a large airline, rehearsing how they would deploy social media in the event of a crisis.

This crisis exercise is just one example of the importance the entire aviation sector places upon training and rehearsal.

Why is this?

It’s simple: flying aeroplanes carries risk and the ramifications of an incident can be severe. And aviation professionals know that exercising is critical in reducing the likelihood and impact of a crisis.

To quote from an article by pilot Kim Green in the magazine Fast Company:

“It’s how you react when everything goes wrong that shows what kind of pilot you really are.

That's why pilots are trained in crisis management. We're taught to think through a range of potential mishaps, memorize checklists, and plot courses of action in advance. It’s not that pilots are born calm in the face of danger; it’s that we review emergency procedures so many times that they come to seem almost routine.”

Corporate crisis management training

So why don’t other businesses commit to crisis management training with the same dedication as those in aviation?

Of course, the human cost of a plane crash is devastating (a fact tragically reinforced by the recent Ethiopian Airways disaster), but lives can be affected by crises outside of the aviation sector too.

In the worst cases, fatalities, illness and injuries can result from a corporate crisis (as shown by the recent Brumadinho dam collapse). Where, thankfully, this is not the case, communities, livelihoods, careers and businesses can be devastated by a mis-handled crisis.

Academic research suggests that rehearsal builds ‘muscle memory’ to ensure a more effective response should disaster strike.

It’s not rocket science

NASA’s Commander Chris Hadfield discovered the value of exercising when computer systems failed as he docked the Space Shuttle with Russian space station MIR. He said:

“We’d practised like crazy on every simulator you can think of; our success under enormous pressure was a result of relentless practising for when things go wrong.”

Whilst businesspeople seldom carry the responsibility of a NASA commander, the importance of rehearsing for a more earthbound crisis should not be ignored.



Jonathan Hemus

Managing Director

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