A Completely Avoidable Mistake Becomes a Lesson in Mea Culpa and Crisis Communications

Posted by on September 19th, 2013

Massachusetts Port Authority What Where You Thinking?!

On Wednesday, September 11, 2013, on the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) conducted a fire training exercise at Boston Logan International Airport.


Yes, really!  Unfortunately, Massport made a major PR blunder in the planning and execution of this fire drill, which could easily have been avoided with a simple call to their PR team.

Yes, Logan did make an announcement regarding the drill at about 9:30 a.m. that morning, but it was only a brief two sentences on Twitter: “The Fire Department will be training this morning. Smoke on the airfield is part of the training.” Too litte, too late.

Television news camera footage later showed a large structure looking much too similar to a plane (!) with a large fire and billowing black smoke rushing out of it.

This one just baffles me. Seriously, Massport, what the heck were you thinking????! With all the people needed to organize this drill, the fact that you conducted it on September 11 is just astonishing. Didn’t anyone object?

“It’s just dumb,” Boston’s Gov. Deval Patrick said. “The timing could not be worse.”

That’s an understatement!

Sure, Massport pulled a mea culpa saying, “Safety and security is our top priority and constant vigilance and readiness is critical, but the exercise should not have taken place on the anniversary of 9/11,” Massport’s apology stated. “The airport community recognizes the day with moments of silence, a service in the chapel, and a wreath at the 9/11 memorial.”

Every company, listen up! Use this as the benchmark of ‘what not to do’. Massport had 364 perfectly good days to conduct this fire drill, but didn’t. I guess you could say it sure did turn into a fire drill – one of crisis management – fanning out the flames of absurdity or poor planing. If they had conducted it on one of the other 364 other days of the year, no one would have cared or even known about it.

Hey, Massport, you have a PR team, next time use them. And, if they did think September 11 was a fine day for a fire drill, then fire them and call us! We’ll help you out!