Risk Communication

Crisis Management & Risk Communication

Problem

Mold amplification appeared across 300 newly constructed homes in a subdivision where the escalating value of homes was creating tremendous gains in homeowner equity. Interestingly, as home values began to shrink, it became apparent that the loss in homeowner equity was as a significant incident. Nearly every family that lived in the “mold subdivision” came forward with symptoms, health effects and fears. Decades of the developer’s family business continuity and reputation were threatened by this mold crisis where the potential consequences of a financially punitive class action lawsuit overshadowed the high cost of self-insured corrective actions. The incumbent team of remediation contractors was replaced by BHS’ physician-led team.

Solution

It became apparent through resident interviews that grass roots organizers, under the guidance of a well-known local attorney, were seeking sufficient support to file a class action law suit. With this knowledge, apart from our mold remediation recommendations and root cause corrections, BHS implemented a crisis management strategy with revised physician-led risk communications. A programmatic approach was specifically developed for this situation. Pre-remediation meetings – with our medical doctor and building scientist - were held in every residence outlining the corrective protocols to be undertaken, setting expectations, arresting fears and health misperceptions. The tide turned. No class action suit materialized. Homeowners were genuinely appreciative, welcomed the meetings and re-gained confidence in the developer.

Lessons Learned

It is imperative to understand the constituent profile and their concerns. Plan with fore-thought and diligence to bring a bundled solution at the start in order to stave off the period of unknowing where fears and homeowner outrage fester.

Health-based risk communication immediately emerges in this type of crisis as one of the first and most essential requirements for a building contractor’s or developer’s action plan. Risk communication must occur prior to any corrective actions being taken, in order for the actions taken to be successful in alleviating fears. Additionally, root cause correction protocols and a satisfactory remediation plan must be framed and effectively communicated before the work starts.
With a proper and timely crisis management plan, risk communication and resident education, health-based precautions were implemented. The stigma of living in a mold subdivision dissipated. The response strategy employed prevented litigation while simultaneously correcting the construction defects and restoring the community’s confidence in the developer.

 

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