Amtrak’s Crisis Communications in the First 24 Hours After the Derailment

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Amtrak is facing a crisis after a derailment caused at least three deaths and dozens of injuries in Washington on Dec. 18.

And in the early aftermath, the organization has done an exemplary job of crisis communications, providing frequent updates on social media, opening a microsite for more information and offering transparency by holding a conference call soon after the accident.

Using Twitter as its primary channel (the company has not posted about the incident on Facebook), Amtrak posted seven updates in the hours following the crash, including an emergency hotline for passengers' families to call. It also went live with a microsite, which included updates, FAQs and contact information for the media.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the company expressed it was "deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries" and announced an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the derailment.

Amtrak also tweeted a comment from president and  co-CEO Richard Anderson: “We are deeply saddened by all that has happened today. We will do everything in our power to support our passengers and crew and their families.” Anderson then held a conference call soon after the incident to provide an update regarding emergency efforts.

While it has done a textbook job of crisis communications thus far, Amtrak will likely face intense public scrutiny for some time. As the NTSB investigates the accident's cause—seeking to interview the engineer, who remains hospitalized—The New York Times reported that the train reached speeds of 80 mph, far above the 30 mph speed limit.

Amtrak representatives were unavailable for comment as they continue to address the crisis, but advised the public and the media to keep an eye on Amtrak's microsite for ongoing updates.


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