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Qatar Airlines emergency at Manchester Aiport poses challenges for crisis management planning

August 5, 2014 by Jonathan Hemus

Just after 1pm  on 5 August news broke that a Qatar Airways jet bound for Manchester Airport was being escorted to its destination by a military jet following a possible bomb threat.

For a number of organisations this was the moment when all of their crisis management training and planning was put to the test. Quite how many organisations and individuals became involved in crisis communication about this incident is instructive for other organisations who may one day have to manage a crisis.

Within less than three hours, multiple Tweets and statements had been posted by official channels of directly involved parties including Manchester Airport, Greater Manchester Police, Qatar Airways and the Ministry of Defence. These organisations had clearly invested time and attention on crisis communication planning and so were able to respond swiftly and exert positive influence over a rapidly developing situation. These official sources were joined by unofficial commentators including passengers such as Josh Hartley (who also posted video and multiple pictures including one which has been retweeted around 3,000 times already) and Matthew Qox.

Crisis management planning

Fortunately, the incident came to a peaceful end, but it poses important questions for organisations wanting to ensure thorough crisis management planning. These include:

  • Who are the other parties who would most likely be involved in a crisis affecting your organisation?
  • Do you have their contact details?
  • Have you been briefed on the key principles of their crisis management plan? (and vice versa)
  • Do you ever conduct crisis management exercises with them? (desktops or crisis simulations)
  • How would you use social media to communicate in a crisis?
  • How would you monitor social media in a crisis?
  • How quickly could you issue a statement?
  • What additional resource can you call upon to respond to unprecedented media attention?

This incident shows just how quickly a crisis can emerge and the volume and diversity of communication which surrounds it. Recognising this reality and planning accordingly, is essential for any organisation which wants to have its voice heard when it matters most.

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