You probably have a plan in case of a fire, earthquake or flood. But a communications crisis? You can’t just pray for a rescue or jump out the window (although some have).

When the Susan G. Komen foundation recently decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood, “total PR screw-up” came to mind (no pun intended). Their reversal and explanations have thrown even more fuel on the fire. Top executives have resigned, more heads are on the block, and the fallout grows as they continue to bungle their response to the crisis. The Netflix pricing debacle last year was another example of a company without a plan (or a clue), and it almost destroyed them. Their leaders were asleep at the wheel, and by the time they saw the approaching train, it was moving so fast it made their stock drop feel like a carnival ride.

If these large corporations can trip up this badly, anyone can. But how do you plan for it? Start with a Crisis Communications Plan. Before a crisis strikes, create a loyal community around your brand—you’ll have an army of defenders ready. But sometimes events escalate beyond our control, and our reaction will significantly impact the outcome. Here are a few basic but important steps to take when your ass credibility is on the line:

1. Make your top leader available to convey the message
2. Communicate to those immediately affected
3. Put the issue in context, but don’t minimize; show concern
4. Reassure and/or restore confidence
5. Take responsibility: apologize clearly, fully and sincerely
6. Develop a post-announcement plan to solve the problem and prevent future recurrences

Don’t wait until you have your own PR FAIL. We’re here to help. We have crisis communications experience on issues with local and national exposure. Get started today on your crisis communications plan. Your company’s survival may depend on it.