Life is hard on Krizo. The small Pacific island has seen it all: tsunamis, cyclones, mudslides, pandemics, mining disasters, rebel uprisings, and volcanic eruptions. If it's a devastating catastrophe, then it's happened on Krizo.
Krizo is God's little punching bag, but thankfully, it doesn't actually exist. The Australian disaster management consultancy Crisis Ready created the island as a "sandpit simulation" for students and clients to practice their crisis response skills. Imagine a nightly news style game of Dungeons and Dragons, and Crisis Ready is the dungeon master.
The term sandpit—or sandbox—is often used in software development to describe a testing environment for work-in-progress code. Typically, these environments only have the minimum functionality needed to accurately test software changes. But as far as sandboxes go, Krizo is more elaborate.
"We've gone to a kind of crazy level of detail," admitted Peter Rekers, founder of Crisis Ready and lecturer on crisis communications at the University of Queensland.
Krizo has a national anthem ("We are Krizo rising on the sea…"); a Facebook page, where one will find updates on the recent armed incursion by paramilitary forces from the neighbouring island of Grayzan; a native language ("al-la-glar-ga gar-gala."—'We are different, yet the same."); indigenous fauna (Krizo's pygmy pineapples are famous for their sweetness and beautiful reddish-gold flowers); and a religion called Korism, which encourages heavy alcohol consumption at ceremonies.
All this cultural detail and complexity is necessary for Crisis Ready's simulation to work; the point is to teach participants to be sensitive and attentive to victims of calamity—especially if the participant's parent company is to blame for the disaster in the first place—and not bloodless, unfeeling jerks.
Unsurprisingly, the latter happens all too often, such as when the railway company responsible for an explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec responded to the disaster in the French-speaking town by sending in its CEO without a French interpreter. Or when Malaysia Airlines informed the families of victims who died in the plane that crashed in the Indian Ocean that "none of those on board survived"—by text message. Or when BP's CEO Tony Hayward said after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, "I want my life back."
Crisis Ready is mainly a communications firm, so if your mining company's noxious tailings pond accidentally leaked into the local water supply—as happened on Krizo, of course—they'll help you cope with the fallout. No matter how outrageous the disaster, the key is getting out first and fast. "The first story you hear is the one you're more likely to believe," says Rekkers. And remember: it can't be worse than what's happened to Krizo.