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Mar 19, 2020

What if a fire alarm sounds during the earnings call?

In this regular article, we ask three contributors how they would respond to an operational issue. This time we asked three IROs what they would do if a fire alarm interrupted their earnings call

Mark Chyc-Cies, vice president of strategy, planning and investor relations at Gibson Energy

If people say an earnings call is part art, then it’s also fair to say that the show must go on. And while the audience would likely appreciate that ensuring everyone’s safety is the top priority in such an instance, I would not be surprised if that alarm began to ring just after the top-ranked analyst asked a pointed question that is also front of mind for shareholders!

Like anything else in IR, [in this scenario] I think it’s very important to keep calm and get through with a positive tone. I’d hope to be clever enough in the moment to eloquently cut in, make a joke about the irony of the alarm going off at such a time, and then suggest we resume the call from my cellphone in a couple of minutes once we all reach the muster point outside the building.

Emily Lau, general manager of IR at Pacific Basin

We haven’t experienced any fire alarms during our calls but we did publish our interim results and run our earnings call during a [signal eight] typhoon last summer. We discussed and assigned jobs within the team immediately when we heard the news that morning. We also talked to our service providers to ensure they continued to provide technical support for our webcast. The announcement and the call went smoothly in the end.

In the event of unscheduled fire alarms or power cuts during an earnings call, stay calm and first check whether it’s a false alarm or temporary power outage that is expected to resume shortly. Discuss with and instruct vendors beforehand what call-termination announcement and rescheduling details should be made to the audience in the event of an outage. Safety must always come first.

Lisa Hartman, senior vice president of investor relations at Redwood Trust

Every quarter I send a reminder about our earnings date to our IT department and office manager to ensure there is no building maintenance or infrastructure testing or upgrades scheduled for that date. I recommend having the head of security, or the equivalent at your firm, be available by phone and text in case something goes wrong the day of the call.

If a fire alarm goes off, you can quickly contact that person who can tell you whether the building is on fire or someone just burnt a bagel in the toaster. Keeping everyone calm and safe is your top priority. If it’s reasonable to continue the call while the situation is assessed, acknowledge that there’s an alarm and continue.

If you don’t have an answer on safety within a few minutes and alarms are still sounding, announce that the call needs to be halted and will resume before market open. You can post an update on the IR website notifying stakeholders when the call will resume.

IR can also get a list of participants from the webcast and call to send a direct update to the attendees. While the CEO gets briefed on the impact to employees and infrastructure, IR should draft a brief statement for the CEO to explain what happened when the call resumes.

This article was published in the spring 2020 issue of IR Magazine

Ben Ashwell

Ben Ashwell was the editor at IR Magazine and Corporate Secretary , covering investor relations, governance, risk and compliance. Prior to this, he was the founder and editor of Executive Talent , the global quarterly magazine from the Association of...
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