Caring for Employees in Crisis

Our partners at Firestorm have created an excellent article “How Do We Survive Surviving” and companion brief on Connecting with Employees in Crisis.  We recommend both as excellent resources, and look forward to your comments and feedback.

CiaCHow do we survive surviving?

By Ann SanCartier for Firestorm

Imagine.  You head to pick up your child from school and abruptly, the only thing separating you, your daughter and your sister from 200 mile per hour winds are two collapsed walls supporting each other in a triangular formation. You hold your daughter with adrenaline-induced strength while you scream and pray as the realistic fear of being sucked up into a monster overwhelms you. That’s what happened to a family I spoke with who survived the Moore, Oklahoma Tornado. As they cowered for protection at Briarwood Elementary, what we now know to be an E5 tornado, whipped them with flying debris leaving their feet, arms, and heads lacerated by its ferocity.

As this mother shared her traumatic experience with me, she related that her sister was waiting in their van parked outside the school. When the school advised her that a tornado had touched down and to take cover, she called her sister from her cell phone, urging her to quickly join them in the school. She thanks God she did so, because moments later the van was picked up and thrown into the disastrous chaos that was known as their hometown only minutes before.

The trauma doesn’t end there. A younger daughter was at another school nearby.  The young girl called her brother, pleading with him to drive to her school as fast as he could, but he was unable to pass through due to the massive storm debris.  Leaving his car in the middle of the street, the brother ran through mud, trees and the fragmented aftermath to her school, relieved when he found her in good condition.

The young man and his cousins then began responding to screams in the neighboring lots.  They dug through remains of a house and uncovered an older couple who had been completely stripped of their clothing by the storm’s force, but were alive. He quickly moved to the rubble next door, helping to free an injured woman; a woman screaming that her baby had been ripped from her arms. The young man soon found the baby in an unimaginable condition. He picked her up; lifeless. He collapsed in the street unable to continue his honorable, heroic measures.

This is trauma. This is crisis.

This is the unimaginable horror brought to life for everyday people.  Coping is an understatement. “Getting over it” doesn’t happen. Not this week; not this year; not the next forty years. It becomes a part of you. At least that’s the way Ron Infantino described to me, his experience in the first jumbo jet crash of Eastern Airlines flight 401 in 1972.

Shortly before the flight was to land in Miami, Ron’s new bride of 21 days, Lily, left her seat to use the facilities. When she returned, the couple switched seats. Thirty minutes later, Ron found himself in the twirling metal tube as the plane cartwheeled out of control. He survived. Lily didn’t.

InfantinoHow do we survive after surviving?

The moment of crisis seems to be our darkest hour; however, in spite of crises we are required to continue on this timeline called life. When we or our loved ones experience something horrific, how can we journey on? How do we help others to recover and rediscover a sense of normalcy?

There are no easy answers or quick fixes but there is hope and there is help. As researched has revealed, Psychological First Aid applied quickly has a positive impact on the short term and long term recovery process.  It is critical that we help those traumatized by first meeting their basic needs (e.g. food, shelter, safety), providing information, connecting them to their loved ones and own support system, and protecting them from further trauma or secondary assaults. Once the immediacy of care has subsided, the difficult journey of time begins.

For those that are part of their daily lives post-crisis, please do not assume that life is “back to normal”. Your role now becomes one of compassionate support; understanding that this event has changed how they perceive life and, without any choice of their own, has become a part of who they are. Continue to use compassionate communication skills like active listening, honoring the event’s anniversary, and being patient when their recovery seems like it will never end. Your support and love may include referring them to a counselor, and that’s OK. Over time, allow them to verbally process and don’t be afraid to talk about it. Listen…and listen some more.

Ron suffered serious physical injuries and unfathomable emotional pain yet recovery did take place. Forty years have passed since the tragedy of Eastern Airlines 401 and although Ron continued on with a normal life, he sees things differently. He rates things from 1 to 10, with 10 being an airplane crash. When he’s frustrated with the increasing Miami traffic, he thinks to himself, “Is this a 10?” He is able to put things in a perspective that most of us cannot. “For some time”, Ron said, “my mind and my heart weren’t coherent. I knew it wasn’t my fault but I couldn’t reconcile the two. Eventually, I realized that this could have happened to anybody. Time, understanding and forgiveness are what helped me with the tragedy of the accident and the survivor guilt, but my heart still hurts. The journey of recovery is life-long.”

Let’s walk alongside those affected by the Moore tornado as they begin their difficult journey. You can find ways to help today by downloading my paper for Firestorm Connecting with those in Crisis – a Post-Moore, Oklahoma Brief.

If you are trying to recover from the devastating tornadoes in Moore, please visit for updated resources and information.

Every crisis is a human crisis. Caring for those in their darkest hours is our priority during a tragic event. The task seems daunting but in reality, it may be easier than you think. Psychological First Aid, much like Medical First Aid, has become a standard of care because the principles have affirming success and almost anyone can learn and apply it.

Psychological First Aid creates an environment where survivors, survivor loved ones, and victim loved ones have the best opportunity to begin the healing process.

asancartier2Employee Crisis Care Planning Expert Ann SanCartier is a Firestorm Expert Council member and the founder of The Crisis Compass which provides crisis management consultation, training, plan development and response support. Ann has unique expertise and experience on managing the human side of a crisis with organizational excellence and compassion.

Previously a crisis manager for a major international airline, she developed and executed emergency response plans for aviation accidents, mass casualties, operational continuity plans and man-made and natural disasters. Her experience includes responses to aircraft accidents and incidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados and operational disruptions. She is a national speaker on crisis management, family assistance and grief and loss support.

3 Check Points to Minimize the Potential of Workplace Violence During a Reduction-in-Force

Workplace Violence Prevention

3 Check Points to Minimize the Potential of Workplace Violence During a Reduction-in-Force

Carolyn Greco, Firestorm Expert Council, President FacetBy Carolyn Greco, Expert Council, Firestorm, President, FACET

Workplace violence is an issue that no company, regardless of size, must ignore. The adage of ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ cannot be overstated on this issue.

Smart business owners and managers now realize that it is not a matter of if the company will be touched by workplace violence at some level, but when. Here are 3 Check Points to minimize the potential of workplace violence, particularly during a reduction-in-force (RIF).

CHECK POINT #1 in preventing workplace violence:


Consider the following three scenarios, names changed:

~ Brendan Callaway, a Lead Product Test Engineer at a small start-up technology company, was RIF’d individually, not as part of a general reduction. He had 25 years of experience at startups and well-established high-technology companies, and had been with the current employer for four years – since its inception. He was asked to leave immediately.

~ Jayne Chin, an oilfield executive with a 22 year tenure, was fired one Friday afternoon by a total stranger. She was told bluntly to “pack up her things and leave ASAP.” A security officer stood by her desk as she cleaned it out and then escorted her to her car. Jayne flew into a rage that lasted months.

~ Jim Caruthers was a trusted, 18 year employee of a local bank. He was scheduled to attend a meeting at a nearby Starbucks and told by four people, the Branch Manager, the HR Manager, and two Regional Sales Managers, one of which had flown in that morning from headquarters, that his services were no longer required. They told him that he could not return to the bank and to go straight home. He felt betrayed and humiliated. He later sued.

Any of these three scenarios could have easily have become violent. One did.

“Brendan Callaway” is really the Santa Clara company, SiPort, Inc., the tragic scenario of a downsized employee who returned to work that Friday for a meeting with the CEO, VP of Operations and the HR Manager and killed all three. In 2008, when the incident occurred, SiPort was a small company of only 39 employees.

Employees at start-up companies put in very long hours expecting pay-off when the company is sold or IPO’d. They feel betrayed and taken advantage of when the people they worked so hard with to get the company off the ground release them from the ‘vision.’ The three senior executives felt that they knew the employee well enough to agree to meet.

What could have been in place to prevent this?

Checkpoint 2:


Planning is critical for an uneventful RIF. What needs to be in place related to general Workplace Considerations is a written policy on violence in the workplace which includes threat(s) identification, be they direct, veiled, conditional or implausible, appropriate concerns about safety, standards of conduct and fair and consistent discipline; this is mandatory.

Additionally, hiring and pre-employment practices are critical, particularly if an individual has made veiled or conditional threats, or have a history of intimidating co-workers or bizarre behavior. Are there adequate pre-employment screening procedures and background checks in place? Even for outsourced, temporary or contract workers, copies of background checks should be obtained well in advance of any staff reduction.



The worst RIF mistake is surprise. If an employee is performing poorly, address it appropriately. Document and discuss poor performance as it arises—not just at the annual review. Warn problem employees if their work is unsatisfactory, and advise what needs to be done and when. If their job is on the line, let them know.

Unfortunately, a common occurrence is the release of employees with good performance appraisals or no warning of a release. A glowing appraisal followed by release due to performance is not only nonsense, it is the catalyst for anger and rage and puts the company at risk.


Elevate the RIF Process to an Art Form

  • Identify behavioral issues and concern of employees being considered in a reduction in advance. Carefully plan the location and timing of exit interviews and provide managers with a written script that outlines exactly what to say and do. Role-play the script – at least three times. Know who will deliver the message, who should witness delivery of the message, how remaining staff will be told and identify which individuals will react emotionally, and of course, how the extra workload will be distributed.
  • If any concerns exist, provide security and ongoing surveillance as needed.
  • Create a generous severance package and explain it in writing. The last thing a departing employee wants to do is guess about money and benefits. In addition to actual severance pay, severance may include medical benefits, continued access to the company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) during the severance period and outplacement assistance.
  • Arrange for an experienced outplacement consultant to be a part of the RIF process at least three weeks prior to the event and provide the best outplacement counseling program that you can afford. Remember, ex-employees remain a concern to the company until they are re-employed. Outplacement is designed to minimize corporate responsibility and maximize the employee’s future.

Perform includes Follow Up

Err on the side of caution. If a RIF’d employee wants to meet afterwards, conduct that meeting via conference call (refer to the tragic ending of SiPort, Inc.) and identify who will do that follow up. Conduct a targeted Debrief Session and identify what went well, what did not and what improvements can be made for future RIFs.

Identify potential issues, deal with threatening situations and develop clear policies and procedures. Treat people fairly and with dignity and they will mostly respond in kind. If they do not, you will be well prepared.

Take the threat of workplace violence seriously.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact Carolyn Greco at

200 South Audubon Boulevard
Lafayette, LA 70503
337.233.8973 • 888.868.8973
Fax: 337.593.0828




HOUSTON, TX − Few events are as devastating to a company, and its people, than the need to reduce its workforce.  This type of crisis requires immediate action to ensure business continuity and forward movement for the affected employees.

Enter Carolyn Greco, who has been tagged by crisis management services agency Firestorm to serve on its expert council for Corporate Outplacement, Executive and Management Rescue and Pre-Employment/Background Screening.

Firestorm, whose expert council includes such dignitaries at Russel Honoré, C. Everett Koop, MD and David Satcher, MD, PhD.,  assists companies in preparing for the worst and managing the decision required in an immediate crisis. Firestorm was most famously called in following the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Greco is CEO of FACET (, a Career Management Consulting firm based in Houston and Lafayette, LA. Her organization helps companies through the reduction in force (RIF) process, serving to manage the crisis by minimizing the risk for management, HR and both the affected and remaining employees. Her “Rescue Programs” coach executives and managers in the skills they need to step into new roles, thus advancing their careers and enhancing the company’s overall performance.

FACET and Firestorm agree that ‘every crisis is a human crisis,’ and that absolutely defines the situation when a company is forced to reduce its workforce. The key to minimizing the fallout for all involved is pre-planning and swift action once a RIF is announced,” said Greco. “No company wants to be in this position, but when they have no other options, making a choice to bring in outplacement and crisis management professionals will ultimately ensure the best possible outcome for everyone,” she added.

Once the crisis has passed and the process of rehiring begins, Greco is onboard to provide the necessary pre-employment and background screening of job candidates.  FACET subsidiary Compliance Background Screening Services, a global employment screening company, pre-qualifies candidates using the most accurate and up-to-date information available from direct sources.

“Our goal at FACET is always to help companies maintain their flow of business while managing their human resource needs,” Greco explained.

About Firestorm

Firestorm believes that a culture of preparedness is the foundation of success. Such a culture centers your organization on sound governance principles of responsibility and accountability. It enables and guides your organization should you face hostile conditions or if your business environment is compromised.

Disaster readiness and enterprise value go hand-in-hand. Both are dynamic, forward-looking and expectations-based. The ability of management to plan for unexpected business-compromising situations, and be effective in turning them around, is more important in driving business recovery than the direct financial consequences of the disaster. Promoting and enforcing a culture of readiness protects a company’s assets. Firestorm’s Disaster Due Diligence process does just that.

For additional information on Firestorm Press, please contact:
Mike Pennetti
Phone: (770) 643-1114

About Facet

FACET is a Career Management consulting firm specializing in the four facets of the Talent Management Cycle: Attracting, Retaining, Developing and Transitioning of an organization’s human resources.

FACET’s practice specifically addresses facilitation of smooth career/life transitions for individuals leaving organizations as well as career management, leadership training and coaching for employees whose assignments within organizations are impacted by change or other organizational needs.

By application of several directions of pursuit, the corporation accomplishes a single goal: maximum utilization of human resource potential and productivity through efficient hiring, training and career development.

Headquartered in Houston, TX, FACET was founded in 1981 in Louisiana and now has service offices throughout the United States and affiliate offices worldwide. As a founding member of Global Outplacement Alliance (GOA) – the World’s Local Outplacement ExpertsSM, FACET shares a parallel philosophy of the highest quality and standards with other owner invested firms worldwide. To address organizational needs outlined by its clients, FACET offers a comprehensive package of workplace consulting services, focusing on providing high quality, creative programs which favorably impact the bottom line.

For additional information on Facet contact:

The Facet Group
200 South Audubon Boulevard
Lafayette, LA 70503
Ph. 337-233-8973 Fax# 337-593-0828
Toll# 1-888-868-8973

Violence in the Workplace – from the folks at Firestorm Solutions

Facet is pleased to introduce you to Firestorm Solutions.  They have an upcoming webinar we know you’ll find valuable, and we’ve included some information below on their Violence in the Workplace Self-Assessment & Tool-Kit

Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence Prevention Webinar – Challenges & Approaches

Sponsored by Firestorm Solutions, LLC

Wednesday 20-Apr-11 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM EDT

Speaker Suzanne Loughlin, Esq.

Position: Exec. Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer
Company: Firestorm


Determine Your Level of Readiness

Firestorm’s Workplace Violence Self-Assessment offers a diagnostic tool that provides an in-depth evaluation of your organization’s readiness. The self-assessment:

  1. Measures current performance levels and assesses your readiness to prevent and respond to acts of workplace violence.
  2. Establishes a baseline, and sets up process improvement metrics to ensure the best possible return on the resources invested.
  3. Is completed in a one-hour interview.

How Firestorm’s Workplace Violence Self-Assessment Works

Description of Service:  The self-assessment is a series of fifty plus questions that are divided across the following areas of a Workplace Violence Prevention Program:

  1. Program & Framework
  2. Roles & Responsibilities
  3. Risk
  4. Prevention & Control
  5. Monitoring & Triggers
  6. Training & Awareness
  7. Reporting & Investigation
  8. Incident Response
  9. Follow-Up / Corrective Actions

Through a single group interview, Firestorm engages in a conversational series of questions with key representatives from your Workplace Violence Prevention Program.   Each question is designed to capture a specific, structured response from a multiple choice selection.

Upon completion of the interview, Firestorm produces a narrative analysis that includes a calculated Preaction Index Rating™ and a chart demonstrating overall scoring by the key dimensions, as well as an overall ranking of program “readiness”.

If needed, Firestorm will propose a strategy for your company to implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Program that will align with industry best practices.

PREDICT. PLAN. PREFORM.™:  The Perfect Roadmap for Readiness

PREDICT. Firestorm’s Workplace Violence Self-Assessment diagnostic tool measures your organization’s current level of readiness, and shows you how to implement improvements with the highest return on investment.

PLAN. With Firestorm’s self-aassessment and analysis completed, you can utilize Firestorm’s  Workplace Violence Prevention Program ToolKit to begin building a program that meets best practices in all categories.

PREFORM. By implementing Firestorm’s recommended improvements and adjustments, your organization will gain value from overall preparedness.

Click here for more information, or to schedule an interview for Firestorm’s Workplace Violence Self-Assessment of your company.