Does Telecom Have a Crisis Management Plan?

Major service providers should put action plans in place now to help their customers survive the next major disaster

Stan Hubbard, Director, Communications & Research, MEF

March 16, 2011

3 Min Read
Does Telecom Have a Crisis Management Plan?

The world appears to be growing increasingly unstable, with an extraordinary number of humanitarian, geopolitical, military and economic crises gripping many regions of the globe. Instant communications is making us more aware of unfolding events and accelerating the flow of information at a pace that creates its own unique challenges and that can, at times, lead to heightened fear and panic.

In this environment, it would be useful for major communications service providers to develop crisis management plans that not only ensure that their networks stay up and running when calamity hits, but also help speed the ability of their customers to find critical emergency information when they need it most. As far as I can tell, big players such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) do not have standing crisis management systems in place to help their customers increase their odds of survival if a major natural or man-made disaster strikes a large city, state or multi-state region.

No organizations are in a better position to make important information available to individuals than the mobile and wireline operators whose services they trust and use every day. Just giving customers an option of receiving an SMS message or an e-mail with crisis contact information and “what-to-do” lists would be a good start. provides alert messages for mobile users. Why couldn't telecom operators develop a crisis management service with similar features?

Waiting until a major crisis hits is not a crisis management strategy. The big service providers need to step up and put action plans in place right now.

As the tragedy in Japan has shown, major crises can quickly spin out of control and overwhelm the ability of crisis managers to deal with them, create confusion, and leave many people in shock. The Japanese earthquake, the tsunami, the indescribable human suffering and the potential of a devastating nuclear meltdown have turned the world upside down for millions.

An untold number of people are homeless and hungry, with food and water running short in parts of Japan. The Nikkei index fell 16 percent in two days, before rebounding about 6 percent on Wednesday. Leading automobile and electronic manufactures -- including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Sony -- have shut down or scaled back operations to figure out how to cope with the tragedy and to conserve scarce power. Tokyo’s major subway and train operators have also significantly reduced operations to reduce power consumption.

News and videos from northern Japan have spread like wildfire abroad, spurring governments and individuals to rethink nuclear safety and step up crisis preparation efforts.

While Japan’s Prime Minister has urged some 140,000 Japanese residents in northern Japan to stay indoors and seal their windows to reduce their risk of radiation exposure, China, France and other countries are urging their citizens to evacuate the area or at least avoid non-essential travel to Tokyo. Germany is reportedly suspending operations at seven of its 17 nuclear power plants.

A growing number of individuals in the U.S. and British Columbia are stocking up on potassium iodide radiation tablets. iOSAT pills that normally sell for about $10 for a pack of 14 are now being bid-priced on eBay for more than $200, and a handful of the packs are available on Amazon for nearly $350, as of Wednesday morning.

A reliable crisis management system -- with expert advisors available to provide an educated opinion -- could go a long way toward helping people figure out what to do at times like this.

— Stan Hubbard, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

About the Author(s)

Stan Hubbard

Director, Communications & Research, MEF

Stan is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience in industry analysis, forecasting, strategic marketing, and event programming. In 2013, he joined the MEF, where he is directing program development for MEF global networking events, managing industry analyst relations, and developing research and other initiatives to help accelerate MEF 3.0 adoption and LSO development. Prior to the MEF, Stan was a Senior Analyst at Heavy Reading for 9 years where he focused on carrier Ethernet services and network equipment markets and SDN. He chaired about 20 major Light Reading technology events. Before Heavy Reading, Stan was the director of market intelligence at Ciena. Hubbard holds a B.S. in political science from Texas Christian University and a Master's in international diplomacy and security from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, MA.

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