Case Study: Staten Island Ferry Accident

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¶ … Island Ferry accident from the standpoint of public relations. The writer explores the way the information was disseminated and given to the public by various agencies. The writer then examines and outlines a model public relations plan that the NYDOT should have adopted.

The Staten Island Ferry accident was one of the more shocking tragedies the nation has faced. As the world began to see the news it became important to disseminate and share the information in the most concise yet not hysterical manner possible. New York City is known worldwide as a hub of the nation. Commuters depend on the safety of the transportation to get them to their jobs and back home. When the accident occurred various public relations efforts were immediately implemented to bring the latest updates to the public. While many of those efforts were handled well there were areas that could have been improved.

Those who needed to be informed first were the people who had or possibly had loved ones who were on the ferry when the accident happened. Hundreds of panicked citizens had to worry about someone they loved being in the accident or dying.

The next group that warranted public relations attention was the public that had a vested interest in the accident, the ferry or the schedules that the ferry was going to have to shut down. Commuters depend on the ferry to get them across the water and home or to work. When the accident happened it stopped many commuters from getting to and from their destinations.

The final group that needed to receive public relations updates was the general public. The news is a medium for assuring the public that everything is okay.

The public relations approach that will be used is one in which the most important information will be provided first in the order that it needs to be received. This means that the first information out there will involve the actual accident and its impact on the families of those on the ferry. The second information that will go out will impact those who need to commute and cannot.

The final information that will come out will be assurances to the public that the cause of the accident will be determined and steps will be taken to be sure it cannot happen again.

The specific ways that the strategies will be realized are as follows.

For the first leg of public relations regarding the accident we will use the radio and the television medium. It will be for the purpose of getting information to the loved ones of those who were on the ferry. The radio spots and television spots will consist of department heads and emergency management heads providing news conferences. The news conferences will be initially only to disseminate information and no questions will be taken. This is to expedite the provision of information that will need to be given.

We will provide basic information about the accident and then provide numbers that family members can call to obtain more detailed information or check the list of passengers and what hospital they have been taken to.

For the second public, the public that needs to commute and will look to us to find out what they should do we will also use television and radio but we will add internet sites as well. The news conferences will announce that the commuters will have to locate different avenues and methods to get to and from the city and they will broadcast an internet site in which the commuters can go to and see the emergency and temporary provisions being made for commuting.

This site will only be for the purpose of alternative routes and transportation news so that commuters are able to get where they need to be. It will not be used for any other purpose and this will be announced so that the public will be assured that things are getting back to normal as quickly as possible.

The final public that will be addressed is the general public. We will utilize print media to provide the information needed to the general public. The newspapers will be given press releases that will detail what is being done to get to the cause of the accident and determine what steps are being taken to be sure that it cannot happen again in the future.

The 'public relations' strategies and tactics adopted by NYCDOT were excellent in many areas. They worked to provide the public with needed information while also working hard to lower the sense of panic and hysteria that could begin. The public relations efforts were also effective in immediately creating a sense of credibility so that the public felt things were under control and being dealt with. There were areas however that should have been handled differently so that the public could have been assured without the appearance of sugar coating the situation.

The initial public relations effort to put the public at ease was handled professionally and effectively. When the accident first happened the public turned their attention to the captain who had been piloting the ferry (Agnese, 2003). The corporate reaction was to immediately assure the public that blood tests had been drawn to determine whether the captain had been drinking when the accident occurred and when the results came back that there was no alcohol in his system it assured the public of the corporate insistence on hiring dependable people. However, the news that he passed out by a medical condition that had not yet been determined was not something that would assure the public of the corporate safety record. It was a mistake to provide that information so early in the process as it gave a sense of insecurity to the public regarding trusting the ferry company to screen its workers effectively, thereby putting the public in danger.

Later efforts at public relations were handled through several channels including a statement from congress. When the U.S. Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure put together a committed to study the accident public announcements were provided so that the public could be kept apprised of the situation (U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

U.S. Rep. Don Young, Chairman (http://www.house.gov/transportation/press/press2003/release165.html).

The Staten Island Ferry provides 70,000 people a day with transportation between St. George and Manhattan at Whitehall Street. The efforts to assure the public that the ferry is indeed safe and that steps were being taken to determine the cause of the accident and to insure it never happens again were effective.

Following the accident the corporation worked to put together public relations that would assure the public the ferry was safe again. The announcements included the information about new features such as the captain providing emergency evacuations instructions from now on the way airlines provide them.

Enhance public announcements. Beginning early next week, each Captain will include in his welcoming announcement further directions in case of an emergency - such as location of lifejackets and fire extinguishers. Public information boards will be posted throughout the boat regarding these safety enhancements, and the captain also will outline the location of these public information boards (DOT Announces More Ferry Safety Improvements (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/about/pr2003/pr03_131.html).

Emergency instructions. A comprehensive list of emergency instructions for passengers will be located throughout the boat in about two weeks.

Uniforms. Within two months, all deckhands will be required to wear full uniforms - shirts, jackets, caps and pants - to ensure that Ferry staff is easily identifiable. Ferry deckhands currently wear shirts, sweaters or jackets with a Ferry insignia (DOT Announces More Ferry Safety Improvements (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/about/pr2003/pr03_131.html)."

All of the above announcements were effective measures to assure the public from a corporate standpoint of the efforts to make the ferry safe to use for the purpose of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Staten Island Ferry Accident.  (2005, May 22).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/staten-island-ferry-accident-case-study/674885

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"Staten Island Ferry Accident."  Essaytown.com.  May 22, 2005.  Accessed July 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/staten-island-ferry-accident-case-study/674885.