As our nation paused last week to reflect on the tragic events of 9/11, asked leading security experts how the attacks changed the approach organizations take to their disaster preparedness planning. These crisis response lessons are as important for communications and public relations practitioners as they are for security and information technology specialists to ensure the survival of an organization when the unthinkable occurs.

Here’s a summary of advice worth repeating from GovInfoSecurity’s interviews with leading preparedness experts:

People always come first. The greatest lesson learned by Ken Newman of Central Pacific Bank in Hawaii is that when there’s a catastrophic event, people are the top priority both during and after.

Planning and drills are important. For Fred Becker of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, the event of 9/11 reinforced the importance of planning and conducting drills to put your crisis management plans into practice.

Avoid complacency. Chuck Christian, CIO of Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind., speaks to the danger of complacency; particularly in healthcare where there is a growing need to share protected health information among providers.

Well-prepared organizations may benefit from expertise not only in data security, as Christian notes, but also in crisis communications planning for a data breach event.

Think the unthinkable. Patrick Howard of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency says he learned to think the unthinkable. To ensure you’re as prepared as you can possibly be to respond adequately to a crisis situation, allow yourself to consider scenarios that range beyond the probable to the unthinkable.

Update your plan. Karen Evans, who was CIO for the federal government during the Bush administration, counsels organizations to have their plans up to date and ready to execute at a moment’s notice.

Is your crisis communications plan up to date? Do you feel prepared to respond to even an unthinkable event that threatens your organization or its reputation? If not, this time of reflection is also a time to resolve to act now to prepare your organization for its potential times of challenge.