Friday, January 29, 2010

ERP 101

On Monday 25 January 2010, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409 crashed after take off from Beirut en route to Addis Ababa in the Mediterranean 10 miles off the coast, in bad weather. 90 souls perished, may they rest in peace.

I am not here to discuss why the B737-800 crashed, we will all have to wait for the investigation results.

Civil Aviation Regulations world wide requires airlines and airports to have an Emergency Response Plan (ERP). The plan details how the organisation will handle an emergency, be it a crash or an incident.

The reaction to the tragedy started very well
  • Ethiopian made a press release, followed by a press conference and sending their GO team along with the Emergency Services Provider to the scene of the crash.
  • The Airport opened up its Friends and Relatives Reception Center
  • Search and rescue efforts were underway with participation of several international entities.
For some reason things started to go wrong
  • The media was not managed properly, it appears there were no regular media updates and the media were allowed to talk freely (in the name of media transparency and freedom) to the relatives and friends of the victims.
  • I am not sure what the law stipulates in Lebanon when it comes to notification of next of kin, names were published in the newspapers and on TV, which I personally found distasteful and very wrong, but then this is my personal take on things.
  • Then a senior member of government, The Minister of Transport and Public Works took it upon himself to preempt the investigation and announce the cause of the accident.
  • News report filtered claiming that Friends and Relatives were segregated by nationality and information and care were not provided to all. (click here and here for some of the coverage)
  • Ethiopian Airlines appears to have not taken steps to care for the next of kin or provide them with information in Beirut and a quick look at the website reveals business as usual and almost no mention of the tragedy.
In the times of crisis all stake holders, the government, the airport operator and the airline should cooperate to care for the survivors (if any) and the next of kin, while managing and providing information to the media and the public. It just did not happen.

Our thoughts and prayers for the families and friends in their time of crisis.

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