On March 15, 2018, the Florida International University (FIU) Bridge collapsed injuring several people who were using the bridge, as well as those who were near it. At this point, a communication plan had to be enacted immediately to save peoples’ lives and property. The plan is effective since it is inclusive in terms of all the parties that needed to be informed. The fact that it emphasizes on time management makes it an exceptional plan for a crisis communication execution. It also embraces consistency in passing information to the concerned parties, both who are directly or indirectly affected. In this plan, information comes from one central source hence the avoidance of a mix up in communication which might lead to a total disaster. This plan has incorporated all communication avenues of passing information, both digital and the non-digital sources. Therefore, information was made faster and convenient to the FIU community depending on the method of receiving information one had. This diversity in modes of communication makes the shared information move faster thus a big step in this communication plan due to its urgency and relevance. I can conclusively say that this plan is superior for its effectiveness.
Who to Inform
The FIU Bridge has collapsed today on March 15, 2018; therefore, we need to inform the following parties with immediate effect;
The University Fraternity.This includes the academic staff, the students, the security personnel, the non-teaching staff, and parents. In this case, it is paramount to alert all the people of the FIU community about the disaster. This measure will provide closure on those who might be trapped under the collapsed bridge as they will provide any information on the missing persons, therefore, giving an opportunity to have a particular number to account for. It will also be a warning for those who might be headed for the bridge.
The Medical Workers.These include the internal and external medical personnel; due to the magnitude of the incident, there is a possibility of injuries which require urgent medical attention. The medical personnel will provide first aid to the casualties at the scene before they are transferred to the nearby hospitals to receive further treatment. This will help to avert unnecessary deaths due to excessive bleeding. Ambulances are required at the scene for easier and faster transfer of the injured persons. The medical staff will also help those who have collapsed due to shock from receiving the news.
The police will play a major role in controlling the FIU community who will have panicked by this time. There is a lot happening at the university, and if not put in order there could be worse incidences including pass way blockage that may hinder access, possible stampede due to anxiety, non-co-operation from needed parties, and thievery from those who want to take advantage of the situation.
The Firefighters.In such cases, fire outbreaks are common due to the faulted power lines which have been attached to the bridge for lighting the pathway and possible extensions to the university facilities. Firefighters will help to avoid more damages in the university by making sure that all power supply is managed to avoid disaster from the faulted lines.
The Civil Authorities. These are the people who are mandated in building and construction of bridges. They are needed at the scene to help assess the extent of the damage and advice on a future plan of construction of the bridge. They should also give some closure and provide answers on why and how the bridge gave in and collapsed.
What Channels to Use
In order to achieve these, a perfect mode of passing information across will be needed. This communication plan considers the means mentioned below;
Internal FIU Communication Channels.FIU as a community has a central conference centre where they will have to converge, and a statement of occurrence will be announced.FIU has student representatives who will be tasked with making sure that information is dispersed promptly. A manual method whereby information will be passed from one person to the other will also be effective. In this way, information will be spread faster since the university students are aware of the current location of most of the university fraternity.
Press Releases. These will function better and faster since there are several press houses around who will disseminate this information thus reaching the community faster. Television and radio are the major modes in media press releases. In this matter, the bridge collapse should be treated as urgent so as to attract the needed attention it deserves. The press release should term it as breaking news to make it more convenient for the needed assistance.
Social Media. Currently, there are several modern social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter which have proven to be very effective in spreading information to both the young and the old. This plan needs to include each one of them, and since these platforms command a good number of users, they will help in communication as they will reach the furthest receiver, the advantage being the diverseness of the social platforms.
Emails to the FIU Community. The FIU, as an institution, has emails that are used in communication to the whole fraternity. This emails will be effective since most of them are received as urgent by the particular bodies needed like the fire departments and the police.
Digital Media. In this case, phone calls will be the fastest means of passing information. Phones have evolved to be one of the basic needs of the modern society. This aspect enables a one-on-one communication that will assure the one passing the information that the intended receiver has received the message.
Having made a logical list of the mode of communication, it is important to have a good time execution plan. Immediately after the tragedy, the first task will be to alert the relevant departments for assistance. They include the medical personnel, police, and the university fraternity as discussed above. This should be executed within the first five minutes of the tragedy in order to facilitate the help needed. The next agenda will be to pass the news within the first thirty minutes by all modes of communications to enable it to attract maximum attention from the community.
The bridge collapse at the FIU University is one of the worst and major disasters to have happened in the near past; therefore, it will affect more people than anticipated. Here, consistency of information is paramount. Failure to release news and information regularly will lead to panic, especially from those directly or rather closely related to the ones affected by the collapsed bridge. Regular updates will keep the crowd under control knowing that their loved ones are getting the necessary assistance. In this plan, an interval of thirty minutes should be effective for the first three hours of the calamity, after which it will be extended to an hourly update for the next seven hours. For the rest of the operation, a two-hour update should be enough. Daily updates will proceed later for those still in hospitals or those who are still searching for their loved ones.
This communication should be done in a strategic place whereby information from the hospitals where the casualties will be taken will be channeled here, information from the police stations for those who would have reported on the missing persons should also be directed here. At this point, there should be an information desk in one tent at the Florida International University. In my view, tents should be erected at the scene of the accident to offer guidance and counseling to those affected emotionally and psychologically, and will also serve as a venue to provide medication to those with minimal injuries. Psychological experts and psychiatrists should be available at the collapsed bridge to offer support to the victims. This way, it will aid in faster acceptance of the reality for the unfortunate cases, and in turn hasten the healing process.
The information should be coordinated in all the places through one channel. This way, confusion and misinformation will be avoided. This communication plan proposes that one official from the FIU academic staff be in charge of the information centre. Being well informed about the environment, programmes, and facilities of the university, this will place this official in a better position to handle the communication desk.
I feel that if a good crisis communication plan at FIU University existed, things could have been handled in a better way. There was a lot of communication breakdown during the operation, this was also reflected when the relevant assistance was being sourced for. It appeared that FIU was not ready for such a disaster; hence, they never bothered to have the relevant contacts for communication purposes.
In some common cases, communication crisis can deter those who would have been in a position to offer emergency services. This can happen when the people who were supposed to send alerts use slow means that derail the message. Similarly, when wrong communication channels are used, there is bound to be more destruction. When the information is passed to the wrong people, it creates an unnecessary magnitude of loss. Communication crisis plan is, thus, important in all institutions, as well as the general society, to save lives and property. The effectiveness of the response is attained by the effectiveness of a communication crisis plan.
Communication Crisis Plan
8:00 am FIU bridge collapse
8:05 am FIU officials alert
9:30 am call to the medical personnel
10:00 am call to the police
10:37 am call to the firefighters
11:20 am press release to the media houses
1:14 pm conference press release
4:00 pm Twitter update
8:45 pm Facebook update
11:33 pm Instagram update
8:00 am update from the hospital
10:30 am update from the police
1:34 am update from the scene
4:19 pm update to the families
8:00 pm update to the media houses
10:00 pm update to the social platforms
8:00 am update from the police
12:00 noon update from the hospital
4:00 pm update by the civil authorities
8:00 pm update to the families
10:00 pm update to the press
8:00 am communications closed officially