The tragedies of 9/11 marked a turning point in the perception of the word “crisis,” especially to people in the United States who had never experienced such an attack on their own soil. The attacks were also a turning point in the perceptions of crisis management and crisis communications.
A crisis management/communications plan saved the lives of numerous people in the World Trade Center (WTC) on that fateful day. Rick Rescola was head of security for Morgan Stanley, which occupied 40 floors in one of the WTC towers. After the 1993 terrorist attack on the WTC, Rescola formed a crisis management team to try to avert an attack or to help employees survive another attack. The team members were in agreement that another attack would occur, and that it would probably occur at the WTC because of the symbolism of the towers being the tallest in the United States.
Team Rescola, as it was called, determined that the next attack would not be a ground attack, because the garage was protected after the 1993 incident. They even took a test flight around the buildings and predicted the attack would be by air.
Crisis communications was necessary to convince employees and managers that preparations needed to be made and that training for evacuation was necessary, and to explain how it would be done. Subsequently, there were drills. Rescola had lighting put in the stairways, and every person knew where the stairways were.
When the planes struck, WTC security advised all persons that it was safer to stay in the building. Rescola and his team began to evacuate employees. A glitch occurred in that one of the stairways was blocked by debris. Visibility was hampered either by smoke or darkness or both. Survivors and some of Rescola’s team members, consultants who were not in the building at the time, told the History Channel that team Rescola went to each floor and yelled, “Is anyone here?” If so, they led them out by alternate stairways. They say the team saved 95 percent of the total number of Morgan Stanley employees.
However, there was not enough time for them to reach every floor. Rescola and some of his team members died when the buildings collapsed. His wife said, when she saw the buildings go down on television, she knew her husband was there still trying to get everyone out.
1. Consider the Rescola story, what should offices in skyscrapers and large buildings do other than plan for evacuations?
2. Imagine the employees who objected to the training: what would be persuasive messages to them?
3. The 1993 attack was considered a prodrome by Rescola. Why didn’t others see it?
4. In a crisis situation, using the image restoration theory, how could an organization determine which publics should receive which messages? Why would you send different messages to different publics?
Must be at least 250 words supported by at least two references