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Sago Mine Disaster Case (Pr)

In: Business and Management

Submitted By abhimanyu25
Words 2393
Pages 10
17th June 2014


------------------------------------------------- Crisis Communication


Assignment #3


Sago Mine Disaster

By abhimanyu karnatak
Situational Analysis
Background and overview on the crisis
On 2nd of January 2006, at Wolf Run Mining company’s Sago Mine near Buckhannon, West Virginia, at 6:26 am it was believed that methane explosion in the recently sealed area of mine had prompted. This ignition blew off seals and impelled smoke, debris, dust and lethal carbon monoxide in to the area of work. With 29 coal miners underground, 16 miners managed to escape however, 13 of them were trapped for nearly 2 days awaiting rescue and trying every bit to survive and escape. The disaster claimed the life of 12 miners who suffocated to death because of lack of breathable air but only one “ Randal Mc Cloy“ had succumbed from the deathly incident.
The Cause
Among the Federal Investigators, MSHA who started investigations on the cause immediately after the explosion pointed out that the most plausible cause of ignition source of methane is the “lightning”. They also quoted that, the explosion resulted forces that easily surmounted the strength of seals, seals that were meant to keep active mining areas unharmed. The Seals were constructed in 1992 and could resist pressure upto 20- psi (pounds per square Inch) however; the investigations estimated that the explosion had pressure that leveled up to 93 Psi making the seals ineffective and reason of death the poisoning from carbon monoxide.
The stakeholders in this case were internal like the company, shareholders, employees, families and friends of the coal miners deceased or alive and external would include media, government, regulators advocates, competitors and public.
What could have prevented it?
According to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration -
The seals should have been much stronger, there should have been proper methane monitoring and controlling and the removal of a pump cable from the sealed area where the explosion occurred etc could have resulted less disastrous in this case. Apart from that functioning of self contained self rescue breathing devices should be checked frequently.
The calls were made to the rescue team and MSHA two hours following explosion. After long wait for 12 long hours the rescue team with the help of hole drilled found out that the air contained 1300 parts per million CO, which was beyond a threshold level to support life and the reason for the miner’s death. With internal communication system non functional the positions of the miners were unknown and their only survival was the self-contained, self- rescue device which gave then an hour of breathable air. The fear of another explosion slower the rescue team and on the 3 rd January at 5:00 p.m first body was reported found. Two mines inside the mine is where the rescue team found the men.
Double disaster
The media involvement in this disaster was extensive and had worldwide coverage. The news on survival of 12 miners out of 13 had spread like wildfire with the help of media’s like CNN and New York times and other media sources. The rescue team corrected the news stating only one miner had survived, half an hour after news was reported. However the company CEO hadn’t yet announced the news as bogus up until 3 hours of news spread. This created confusion, anger and miscommunication among miner’s family and friends, news media, public and government and the company had to bear great criticism regarding poor handling of the news release.
After the disaster ICG partnered with several other federations in order to get to the root for more than a year. From statistics and fact-finding on what factors that caused the explosion which involved collection of victim and accident information and conducting interviews. Followed with post explosion examination of omega seals, mapping of explosion forces, finding out the origin of explosion, analyzing the pressure on seals and methane concentration etc.
With breach of violations and the company questioning the safety of miners, in spite of reopening, ICG permanently closed the mine on 19th march 2007 and announced on their website in 2008 that it will be a permanent shutdown. The reason being 1) law calling for higher fines for safety violations and better emergency supplies in the nation's coal mines 2) weak coal prices and 3) Rising operational cost.

Media Coverage of the Disaster
On nearly midnight of 3rd January 2006, after 41 hours of explosion when the media announced the bogus news about 1 deceased and dozen survivors of the coal mine disaster in sago, West Virginia, the church bells clanged and the people in town were ecstatic of the news. In the beginning most of the critic raised eyebrows’ and pointed fingers at the news channels for its news credibility however, on finding that it was all a terrible chain of miscommunication, hell broke down on ICG who had to face severe repercussions like heavy criticism by everyone directly and indirectly involved in this case and breach and violations all because of its untimely media response on the faulty news spread.
The Beginning
The communication debacle that had false news ricochet across the world in seconds was a result of spectacular array of communication devices such as hand-held radios, mobile phones, church bells and satellite trucks. What happened was, more than 40 hours after explosion the rescue team, two miles inside the mine found 12 miners dead and one hardly alive. The first report sent by the rescue team was a simple message citing “12 found” and “one alive” which was believed to have not transmitted through radios thus passing the message through the underground dispatch stations who heard it all wrong and by the time it reached sources news morphed into “12 Alive!”
Call it boon or bane, communication devices acted like the catalyst in the spread of this faulty news. The announcement by command center, which was overheard by nearby spectators, spread the news around through their communication devices. Sago Baptist church where hundreds were praying for the life of their loved ones, a news like this one was a call for celebration. News channels like CNN and New York Times went live about the miracle, the whole town was roaring in jubilation.
The confusion
Half an hour after, the rescue team corrected the false news about 12 survivors to the command center who informed policeman to spread the provided previous news to be hasty and flawed. The company went silent for over 3 hours upon knowing the real news, in confusion and with no spokesperson to speak on behalf until the CEO “Ben Hatfield“addressed the Sago Baptist Church. This could be tagged as one of the greatest mistake of the company upon handling the crisis. Before the revilement of truth, people cried the joy of tears, thanked god, families cheered and fell into each other’s arms, state governor, the company and the world breathed a sigh of relief, as it was a miracle for 12 miners to survive, it was all just for a moment before all that joy went cruelly crushed after finding out the truth about sole survivor. The elation was transformed into anger, sorrow and distress. Families were outraged, prayers turned into cursing. This roller coaster of emotions had a very negative impact on the company. Some were disgusted at the audacity of the company to not disclosing the truth. Though CGI wasn’t intending to hurt feeling by their actions, however it was a failure on its part to not have promptly stepped in and invalidate the buzz about 12 survivors, or if not at least beamed about the prematurity of the message. The worst thing this case resulted was - the hopes were at highest and then crushed in the worst way possible. The company now would not have to bear violations of regulation and bear severe criticism by everyone.
On the other hand the news media was in disarray, communication devices that allowed news organizations to spread the erroneous information around the world in seconds also had the same effect in correcting the news with claiming it to be premature and faulty leading it to be to more perplexing. However, it was the print that had created more confusion the morning of 4th January with headlines “Miracle” and “They Survived” as the untimely correction of the faulty news had print news media face humiliating repercussions. The inaccuracy of information was a blow to the company, but most the stakeholders and public in general. The worse of all was misinforming the public. The blame is not just on The CGI Company but media too; from New York Times to Pittsburgh Post Gazette all the news media should have questioned the authenticity and source of news before reporting it instead of letting out of the false news and bearing its repercussions. Believable, there was a pressure about news disclose however despite demands regarding the information and pressure put in by public about the constant updates news organizations should have checked the facts.

Advice to the wolf runs management team
Recommendation for internal issues- 1) Investigate cause of disaster and corrective actions
Investigation with the joint partnership with MSHA and other organizations to finding out root cause of such disaster and getting into elimination of such causes. * Forces on seals – since the explosion was a result of ineffective seal, understanding different forces that can result in explosion and making sure to design the seals in a way that it can withstand the pressure could be stated as one of the first of many reasons that the company needs to work on. * Examine individual accidents and communicate alternative methods to all minors regarding dealing with such accidents * Proper monitor and control of methane * Work on emergency plan, and evacuation routes * The functioning of breathing rescue devices to be constantly checked and maintained.

2) Improvement, installment and maintenance * Improvement, installation and maintenance of tracks, track equipments, brakes and ergonomics of riding department * Alteration in the warning reflectors of roof bolts beginning with the 2nd to the last row. * Improve housekeeping around power centers and feeders areas * Upgrading dewatering system in order to lessen slips, tripping and stumbling * Purchase ladders for the use in the installing face ventilation curtains in high area and designate storage locations * Consider employing a roof bolting crew on the midnight shift to eliminate unbolted places existing for extended periods of time * Provide adequate manpower to accomplish the job, provide proper training to foreman as to what is expected. Foreman is expected for the safety of people and responsible for the sections * Provide training in proper lifting techniques and look at labor saving devices * Clarify methods used to draw rock issues

3) Review plans and inspections * Organized safety meetings on usual basis * Review the dust control plan so as to eliminate contact to fugitive dust from the continuous mining machines * Plan a structured new inexperienced miner program and also adopt structured program for newly employed * Adopt and update a plan for structured training on equipment operation and managerial skills * Review procedures ensuring compliance with the federal and state personal protective equipment regulation and policies * Update plan on eliminating site specific hazards before setting up a new area * Have state office of technology perform a computer and communication assessment frequently * Hire safety instructors and vehicles to visit the mine site * Present more safety awareness materials

4) Improve emergency response plan and capabilities

* Provide training focused on practicing caution and patience during emergency situation * Develop comprehensive emergency plan integrated with federal, state and operator roles and make sure it’s inspected occasionally * Review of West Virginia mine rescue system, along with regulations, training, equipment and co-ordination with West Virginia’s homeland security and emergency management.

5) Improve emergency response communication * To ensure that wireless two way communication system is installed, tested, approved in all underground mines * Implement one way electronic and personal emergency and tracking device * To have a spokesperson or a Public relations agent to take charge of media release and response during crisis.

Wolf run’s management did not very well manage the crisis about the wild spread of erroneous news effectively. In fact the silent approach did not result dealing with the crisis effectively it was indeed criticized severely. The company in order to deal with such crisis in the future should take reference idea from those companies that dealt with the crisis commendably. * Tylenol - tylenol were pain relief pills by Johnson and johnsons , when it took life of 8 because of some alteration done to product after manufacturing . J&J took a bold step and called back all the tylenol from shelves , even though it was not there fault . Wolf ran corporation shld learn how to take responsibility and act what is necessary, it did cost J&J a 100 million loss but it was successful in winning trust of its consumers without tarnishing the image of company. * Toyota - Toyota case is classic example of how a secondary crisis can be much harder for a company than primary one , like it happenedwith wolf run when it tried to hide their false reports about the deaths of miners . When after repeated problems with acceleration in its unit company refused to take responsibility and kept on denying and even blaming coustomers for not changing oil on time the company faced severe criticism and lawsuits after a 5 members died in its lexus car bcoz of same issue . After this incident company had to call back all the units and even face serious charges in court . * Mine disaster in chile in 2010

* Early Warning sings * Risk and liabilities they face now and in the future

Reference * * * * * *

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