Crisis Counseling

Pace – Counseling

Problem:

A 12-inch pipe ruptured at a chemical plant in the panhandle of Florida releasing 30,000 pounds of ammonia/amines mixture.

Although plant emergency personnel stopped the release within 20 minutes, the external emergency response was not the best. The Community Alert Network System called some but not all neighbors. A major US highway was blocked for several hours. Neighbors called the plant and clogged emergency lines. Some neighbors were improperly evacuated; others sheltered in place.

Solution:

Ann Green Communications immediately brought community leaders—both opinion and elected officials—together. The group of 25 neighbors, all identified by the consultant, had been meeting monthly with the plant manager. The meeting provided a sounding board for the plant and helped the plant understand community concerns. The neighbors worked to disseminate information to the public about the accident in a newsletter. An open meeting, hosted by the group and facilitated by Ann Green Communications, was conducted to allow concerned citizens to speak directly with plant managers, as well.

Ann Green Communications set up a phone bank to answer neighbors’ questions about health care and insurance issues regarding the foul smell in homes and cars. The phones were manned 24 hours a day for the first 72 hours after the incident. During that time period, they responded to 180 calls.

Ann Green Communications also trained plant employees and sent them in teams of two to visit nearby neighbors. The employees distributed a letter of apology from the plant manager along with a shelter-in-place video and emergency response pamphlet. The personal contact was designed to help neighbors understand the workers were concerned about what had happened and were willing to listen to neighbors’ issues. They visited 834 homes and talked directly with 435 families in a three-day period.

Neighbors were very responsive to the plant’s efforts to reach out to them. The local newspapers, usually not friendly to industry, praised the plant’s sensitivity and immediate responsiveness. The plant and team of neighbors joined with local emergency responders to improve emergency notification, and the plant installed sirens at their fence line to alert immediate neighbors of an incident.