Session: A City on the Brink: The Austin Bombings
David Green, City of Austin
Anna Sabana, Austin Police Dept.
Angel Flores, Austin Homeland Security & Emergency Management Dept.
Lisa Cortinas, City of Austin
Recap: David Green, Anna Sabana, Angel Flores and Lisa Cortinas came together to share how they managed the Austin serial bomber in March of 2018. Each of the four presenters played a crucial role in keeping the city informed and calm throughout this 18-day nightmare. Due to the nature of the incident, there were certain subject matters they could not discuss. Nonetheless, all four presenters provided great insights into the procedures that communicators should take in a critical incident.
Throughout the session, each presenter stressed the importance of relationships. The city of Austin had strong pre-existing relationships with the Austin Police Department, the SXSW communication team, local media and local advocacy groups like the NAACP. Because of these strong relationships, key messages and advisories were shared quickly with the public.
Reflecting on this atrocity was not easy for the presenters. Yet each of them emphasized that it is important to reflect on the past in order to be better equipped for future incidents.
- Preparedness, processes, trust and relationships all need to be in place before something bad happens.
- Always assume something bad is going to happen within your organization.
- When faced with a critical incident – take care of yourself and know your limitations.
- When trying to inform the mass public – know your message and stick to it. Keep it simple.
Jenna Scull is a senior studying public relations and writing, rhetoric and technical communications at James Madison University. She serves as the director of Bluestone Communications, JMU’s Student-run Firm. Follow her @Jennakathleeen or www.linkedin.com/in/jenna-scull/.