No one expected a tornado

New York City was shut down yesterday by three inches of rain and a tornado in Brooklyn. The trains, the subways, the roads… they all stopped working. There were small boulders on the West Side Highway and rivers of water everywhere.

Millions of critical citizens were answered by officials who pointed out that they had rehearsed for all sorts of events, but a tornado in New York?

What they’re missing is this: people weren’t complaining about the trains or the roads. They were complaining about the communication of the news. Commuters spent hours on trains into the city, only to find that the subways were closed, thus wasting the ride. I spent two hours on the road going to a meeting in the city–and the radio never once mentioned what was going on. The city didn’t start telling people to stay home until after 9 am… two hours late.

Airlines screw this part up all the time. So do websites. And even pizzerias that close for vacation.

Bottom line: the first thing to rehearse is your communication strategy. You can’t predict weird events, but you can get really good at alerting people when they happen.