OK, maybe the tremors that reached downtown Manhattan, where PR News has its offices, weren’t exactly life threatening. Our building swayed for a while, and the PR News goldfish swam in his little bowl with a few extra flutters, but otherwise it didn’t seem like a huge deal.
But a gaze outside our fifth floor windows told a different story. Masses of office workers from our neighboring building were gathered across the street. What did they know that we didn’t? Should we be racing to the stairwells? Why wasn’t our building management making some sort of announcement?
Finally, the announcement came: “News reports are saying the earthquake isn’t severe, and the subways are still running. So you probably don’t have to evacuate the building—unless you want to.”
Hmm. Did I want to evacuate the building? It sure looked nice outside.
Selfish thoughts aside, it struck me that perhaps this was a case of some lame crisis communications. There seemed to be a crisis plan in evidence at the building across the street. Not so much in our building.
A statement like this might have been more appropriate: “This is your fire safety manager. There is no need to evacuate the building. Repeat, there is no need to evacuate the building.”
Or this: “This is your fire safety manager. Please proceed to your stairwells immediately and evacuate the building.”
Or even this, if the fire safety manager was unavailable: “This is your building management. We do not have word yet from our fire safety manager, so please proceed in the meantime to the elevators and evacuate the building.”
We could have all used the fresh air—and an air of authority from somebody with access to the PA system.