Crisis Communicator Shares Tips for Weathering Life’s Storms

A headshot of Amiso George, professor of strategic communication in TCU's Bob Schieffer College of Communication.

Amiso George, professor of strategic communication in TCU’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication.

Amiso George, professor of strategic communication at TCU, offers some helpful tips for weathering life’s storms, especially the winter one residents of Texas and beyond are experiencing this week.

What is your advice for people as they move through a crisis, such as this major winter storm in Texas?

I am a crisis communicator, which is an integral part of crisis management. However, as someone who has lived in Ohio and northern Nevada, I learned some important lessons about preparing for and surviving winter weather from emergency management experts that I worked with. I continue to be open to learning more. We also need not just the government, but also utility companies, to send out information to us via all media, on how to prepare for power cuts during the big freeze. Like any crisis, we focus on actions to take before, during and after the eventWe gauge, modify, execute and review our actions as needed.

Before the freeze:

Listen to weather reports (Sign up for alerts): These lifesaving reports can alert us as to road conditions and what areas to avoid.

Winterize the home: Weather stripping and checking batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Cover outdoor faucets with insulated covers.

Stock up on supplies (for human and four-legged family members): Items such as canned food, energy bars, fruits, dried nuts, instant (three-in-one) coffee and tea, water, medicines, flashlights with batteries, and whatever your needs are.

Stock your car: A full tank of gas, a mini first aid kit, phone charger, jumper cables, flashlight, ice scrapers, blankets, warm clothing, socks, bottled water, snacks, and whatever else you’d pack for a trip.

Charge your electronic devices: Your phone can serve multiple purposes: phone/text, instant flashlight, email

During the freeze:

Follow the directions of local government authorities and experts on actions to take, including:

Spend little time outside to avoid exertion and frost bite. That includes shoveling snow and driving, except in emergencies. When you do go outside, cover up and limit your time outside to short periods.

Layer up: Wear layers of clothing, especially covering your head and feet.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning: Use generators and grill outdoors, if you must.

Do a welfare check: Check on friends and neighbors, especially those who live alone.

After the freeze:

Review your response:

What lessons did you learn?
What do you need to do differently?

Are there simple steps people can take to not feel overwhelmed?

Prepare ahead of time, but be flexible enough to take a detour if your plans are not working for you. Don’t try to be a crisis superstar, but simply do what’s best to keep you and your family safe. Above all, remain calm. Authorities, such as local government and the power company, can help by communicating clear, consistent and repeated messages on how to stay safe.

How can you prepare yourself now for a future crisis?

Do a risk analysis

  • Ask yourself, what are those areas/things that could potentially become a crisis if I don’t attend to them right now?
  • Make a list of those risks, prioritize them, consider the financial and personal costs.
  • Which are the most important, the ones that would cause the most harm/disruption if not attended to right away? Which of those can I afford to handle?
  • Where can I get resources/support to respond to those needs?

Mitigate the risk

  • See your answers to above questions
  • Confirm that allies (friends and family) are ready to provide necessary support. Don’t hesitate to ask for or receive help. It might be a life saver or one that can help you get through the tough period.

When the crisis occurs, you’d be in a better position to respond. Follow the GMER approach: Gauge, Modify, Execute and Review. Gauge the crisis, act to contain, modify your response when and if necessary, execute your response and review your response.

Through it all, remember one thing: Remain calm and remember to have a sense of humor; after all, this is Texas. If you don’t like the weather now, it will change soon.