Crisis Planning and Management

Crisis Planning and Management


To effectively plan and prepare for a crisis requires the ability to contemplate and forecast the unplanned, if not the unthinkable. Doing this in a way that is both protective of potentially sensitive information and strategic requires a comprehensive understanding regarding the corporate culture, facilities, and operations, combined with an appreciation of the relevant law and geopolitical setting. We have assisted our clients with these efforts for over 35  years and in over 35 states. 

Our Services and Our Team

Robinson + Cole's Environmental, Energy  + Telecommunications Group is uniquely equipped to complement in-house resources and cost-effectively assist with planning and preparation in a way that protects potentially sensitive information and provides a strategic blueprint. The professionals in our group assist our clients in developing, revising, and evaluating emergency preparedness and crisis management programs by taking advantage of the following:

  • our technical backgrounds, from engineering to planning to environmental sciences
  • our managerial training and experience, with many of our members having an MBA or a master of science in environmental management
  • our legal experience
  • our corporate and business familiarity
  • our geographic reach 

Crisis and Emergency Response


Providing effective legal counsel and guidance throughout a crisis or emergency requires the ability to identify and resolve the truly short-, medium-, and long-term important issues among the unending number of considerations and tasks that appear to be urgent.

Our Services and Our Team

Serving as crisis management counsel requires an appreciation of the efforts that must be undertaken immediately, within the first 2, 4, 8, and 24 hours;  within the first week; and in the long-term. Equally important are the following:  

  • a keen sense of the people involved (for example, management, employees, agency personnel, elected and appointed  officials, emergency responders, and the media)
  • a steadying presence
  • effective communication skills

Beyond the crisis, counsel must be skilled at evidence preservation, witness and memory preservation, and document control. From California to Connecticut, our Crisis Planning and Management Team has the essential resources to assist clients in the throes of emergencies and crises.

In addition, members of our group are often asked to present to significant audiences on the topic of crisis management preparation and response, including the following:

  • the American Bar Association
  • the New England Fuel Institute
  • the International Scrap Recycling Institute
  • the National Sand Stone Gravel Association   
    • Experience
      • Crisis Planning and Management

      • Structured a confidential review and evaluation of a specific incident, as well as the crisis management preparation and response program, of a major regional utility.

      • Structured and oversaw a comprehensive emergency response and release response program for a multistate public/private petroleum company with both wholesale and retail operations. 

      • Reviewed and revised a public company's emergency and crisis management policy and program.

      • Developed and structured the emergency preparedness training module for a midsize publicly traded company with national and international operations.

      • Structured, revised, and assisted with the implementation of emergency preparedness/crisis management plans for many privately held manufacturing companies.

      • Crisis and Emergency Response

      • Served as lead outside counsel for a Fortune 200 company that suffered an explosion at one of its principal research and manufacturing campuses in which employees were injured, large scale property damage occurred, and business disruption followed. Robinson+Cole ensured compliance with all laws, preserved evidence, structured and oversaw the root cause analysis, defended potential and third-party claims, and pursued responsible parties.

      • Served as lead outside crisis management counsel for a large private company engaged in the transport and delivery of petroleum products. Robinson+Cole represented the client in response to  accidents, environmental releases, and bulk tank failures along the east coast.

      • Served as lead crisis management counsel relative to a roof top petroleum release at a commercial building housing highly sensitive equipment in California.

      • Served as lead outside counsel relative to one of New England's largest off-shore petroleum releases. Robinson+Cole represented the client with respect to U.S. EPA, Coast Guard, compliance, and natural resource considerations.

      • Served as lead counsel to a medium-sized private company that experienced a release of contaminants from one of its facilities. Robinson+Cole assisted and counseled the client before the release posed an immediate threat to a major public water supply as well as a major river serving as a recreational resource and the boundary between two states, providing 24/7 representation, securing consultants and contractors, and interfacing with elected and appointed officials and the media. In this campaign, the firm successfully positioned the client to avoid criminal and minimize civil exposures.  

      • Served as lead outside counsel to a large private company upon its discovery of a historic release of contaminants from its facility that resulted in a multimile groundwater plume impacting the public water supplies serving two distinct municipalities in the Rocky Mountain states. Robinson+Cole represented the client before the U.S. EPA, state environmental agencies, and municipal and water authorities in successfully resolving this matter.

      • Served as lead outside counsel relative to releases from several petroleum pipelines threatening public and private water supplies as well as natural resource damages.

      • Other Experiences

      • Provided on-site response within one hour of explosion in Connecticut that resulted in the death of three employees and damage throughout the town. Handled all on-site investigations and dealt directly with OSHA investigators. Worked with privately retained expert to determine the cause of the explosion. Negotiated the citation at local level and regional office, minimizing the number and severity of the sanctions, and settled the case.

      • Representation of a company where a failure of compressed gas tank at its Connecticut facility resulted in significant injuries to several employees. Robinson+Cole was on site within hours and dealt with local OSHA personnel; state police; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the FBI. No citation was issued.

      • Represented Connecticut client in matter where an employee died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning after a severe storm cut off power and allowed carbon monoxide to accumulate throughout the building. Negotiations with OSHA resulted in no citation issued against the client. State's attorney indicted company for negligent homicide. OSHA resisted involvement in local criminal matter, but Robinson+Cole obtained an order compelling its attendance. The result was a not guilty verdict.

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    • Publications + Presentations
    • "Emergency Management and Continuity Planning – The Developing Legal Issues," presented by W. Richard Smith Jr., presented to the Connecticut Power & Energy Society, program on How Do We Get Prepared? (3/2013)

      "Performing Environmental Health and Safety Audits: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" presented at Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries' Safety & Environmental Council Conference, co-presented by Pamela K. Elkow and Richard M. Fil (5/3/2011)

      "Proactive Spill Response Planning and Execution" (06/03/2010)

      "Pandemic Flu: Operational Impacts and Regulatory Requirements" (09/10/2009)

      "OSHA Announces Emphasis Program Focused on "Highly Hazardous Chemicals"" (08/18/2009)

      "Public Health Emergency Powers: Management of Property," at Public Health Emergency Law course, by the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Yale Center for Public Health Preparedness, Moderator and Speaker, presented by W. Richard Smith Jr. (6/2007)

      "Avian Influenza and Business Continuity Planning," presented by W. Richard Smith Jr., presented to Connecticut Business & Industry Association (8/2006)

Our Team