CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Last week's Freedom Industries chemical spill was an entirely preventable disaster.
While the regulatory, civil and criminal investigations will likely take some time to unfold, local businesses need to use this event as a lesson for how they should and should not act if - Heaven forbid - they ever need to communicate with the public during a crisis.
Freedom Industries exacerbated a public health disaster by throwing a public relations disaster on top of it.
I thought I'd go back to my old journalism school PR textbooks and review the lessons corporations should follow to better manage a crisis:
Having a safety-focused culture should mean the only crisis you deal with is caused by an act of God or something entirely unavoidable.
Freedom Industries failed and continues to fail on that point.
Had it done that, it would have immediately notified authorities and the water company about the leak (they count as audiences too), it would not have waited more than 24 hours to issue a public statement, and it would have been completely forthcoming about the chemical and the conditions that led to this event.