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Before April 20, few people knew who Dr. Anthony Hayward was or the company that was in his charge. Since then, though, the CEO of British Petroleum (BP) has been in the news defending the efforts of his company to stop an oil “leak” that, if worst-case scenarios become reality, could end up pumping the equivalent of 60,000 barrels of crude oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s an unenviable position that many claim executives in the insurance industry know all too well. Responding to a disaster requires an attunement to both fact and emotional sensibilities. It also requires preparation and experience in crisis management to avoid early missteps that can push public opinion irrevocably into pitchfork-and-torch territory.

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