It was an ordinary day, with an ordinary media assignment. But a TV reporter’s man on the street interview took an unexpected turn. Less than a block away, an underground electrical explosion sent a manhole cover into the air, endangering pedestrians and shaking the neighborhood.

Have you ever had an ordinary day turn into an emergency, when something—or someone—blows the lid off the routine? You had two choices: 1. Be a bystander and complacently watch the show, or 2. Step in immediately and be a calm agent.

Most situations call for your I-M-M-E-D-I-A-T-E action. This simple acrostic can help you deal with an explosive situation.

  • I NVESTIGATE THE SITUATION THOROUGHLY. Who or what failed? What was the effect?
  • M EET WITH THE LEADERSHIP TEAM. Gather ideas for remedying the situation.
  • M AP OUT AN ACTION PLAN. What should be the response—and precisely when?
  • E STABLISH A LINE OF COMMUNICATION. Immediately reach out to those affected.
  • D ETERMINE THE RESPONSE TOOL. What communication method will be used?
  • I NSTRUCT THE TEAM MEMBERS. Use the situation as a learning tool in further training.
  • A SSESS COLLATERAL DAMAGES. What is the wider range of affect, in-house or among stakeholders?
  • T AKE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BREAKDOWN. Apologize appropriately if you are a “cause-agent.”
  • E VALUATE THE RESPONSE. Give the situation some time, and then evaluate how it has improved?

Smokey the Bear isn’t always right. Some forest fires aren’t preventable. But you can keep them from spreading by using the right tools—and some IMMEDIATE action.