While crisis management is a hot topic for airports, it is often understood in terms of managing media communications, or maintaining or restoring operations – but what about other aspects?
Emergencies – such as aircraft crashes, terrorist attacks, active shooter incidents, and cyber attacks – mean that effective crisis management, planning, and execution are more important than ever for airports.
A public relations consultant and two veteran airport managers recently explored the various risks that are not necessarily at the forefront of planning – such as legal/liability and reputational impacts. They discussed contracts that need to be put in place before a serious event occurs, and the level of insurance coverage and services that can help an airport handle a crisis.
Matt Barkett, a public relations executive with Dix & Eaton, said a crisis communications strategy is essential because “if airport officials don’t speak, someone else will who may not be sympathetic to your airport, and ‘no comment’ doesn’t cut it anymore”.
He said preparations should include a thorough risk assessment, development of a crisis manual, and crisis training (live exercises, for example). Airport managers have an array of communication tools at their disposal: the written press, social media, email, and the airport website.
Public-facing emergency communications can also be employed. For example, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport uses an Everbridge system to send mass notification texts to specified personnel if an incident occurs – but there is no equivalent system for passengers. C J Hood Company developed its Mass Outreach System (MOSYS) adaptive emergency communications LED display, which is designed to immediately provide the travelling public with critical information during an airport emergency.
Airport authorities in the United States can learn from practical experience. Casualties in the January 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, for instance, were exacerbated by a stampede of panicked passengers.
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