Managing Communications: Reno Air Races. ACI-NA Small Airports Conference June 5, 2013

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1 Managing Communications: Reno Air Races ACI-NA Small Airports Conference June 5, 2013

2 Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority Who we are Owners and operators of Reno-Tahoe International and Reno-Stead Airports RNO - Medium hub airport RTS - General Aviation reliever RNO RTS

3 Experience...is a great teacher Learned to create a plan: before, during & after a crash 5 fatal crashes in career 17 dead Extensive experience working with NTSB Needed all that experience and more last year

4 National Championship Air Races More than an Air Show...a Race Reno Air Race Association (RARA) Aircraft reach speed of over 500 mph Air racing looks wild and it is Crash every other year 22 crashes in 48 years Before 2011, only pilots had died

5 National Championship Air Races Sept. 16, killed, 70 injured - many maimed for life Our actions, before, during and after the incident Praised by NTSB Chair, Deborah Hersman at AAAE Convention

6 National Championship Air Races

7 Crash response started 8 years earlier 24/7, always accessible Never no comment Food trays at holidays Help with travel Builds credibility bank We needed all that credibility and goodwill to get through

8 Approach Crisis Communications begin years before the crisis One spokesperson Part 139 Triennial disaster drills Spirit of cooperation with NTSB One voice, one face At RNO, Board Chair and Trustees do not speak with news media CEO speaks when it is positive and prepped by PIO Media knows how we roll - no different in crisis situation

9 Triennial Disaster Drill Full-scale disaster drill key to preparation More than Ops and safety Practice crisis communications and great PR Educate community mitigates second guessing and politics

10

11 Triennial Disaster Drill Educate the Public Officials and Community Leaders VIPs attend breakfast overlooking Triennial response Narrated event Learn what happens and why Role of their first responders

12 Triennial Disaster Drill Family Assistance Center Staff trained by NTSB and Southwest Practiced with Red Cross, hospitals, coroner Media tries to sneak in

13 Triennial Disaster Drill Involve the local media Media starts with Moulage Embedded in drill with first responders Turn Disaster Drill into an educational opportunity Explain how information is released in a crash scenario Educate those that will educate the public

14 Triennial Disaster Drill Involve the local news media Explain NTSB role Invite NTSB to participate with mock press briefing Hold mock press conference for you and media Require hard, aggressive questioning Practice for me and education for them When done, explain why you can t say more

15 Triennial Disaster Drill Important: RNO held triennial 90 days before the Air Race Crash First responders and media had all recently practiced their roles Triennial was key to: Successful triage of victims Lack of political fallout Media understanding of an air crash and NTSB role

16 Friday, September 16, 2011 Day of crash Arrived as last triage was being completed Choppers and ambulances being loaded Most horrific sight of career Had to mentally block out the scene

17 Friday, September 16, 2011 Day of crash Had to get to CEO, she was in the middle of triage Calm down, go over responsibilities Focus on next steps Any casualties within Airport Family? Phone calls Board Politicians Additional staff Alerts on website & social media Planned a strategy to shut races Had support of City Mayor

18 Friday, September 16, 2011 Reno Air Race Association Response Shocked by unpreparedness No crisis communication - numb No plan for families, media Held press conference on milk crate Talked about losing a friend - the pilot NO mention of victims

19 Friday, September 16, 2011 Direct the response Met with RARA board in hangar Explained NTSB was coming Take over the scene Take over the media Must follow all NTSB directives Told no memorial for pilot Put victims first

20 The first 12 hours Organize a response Set up family assistance Stood up mobile command center Turned maintenance building into EOC Brought out tech team to set up press conference Prepared second floor for NTSB

21 The first 24 hours Coordination with NTSB Moved media - RARA resisted Parked 50 media vehicles in yard Held press conferences Briefed NTSB on RARA history, politics, community Ran all media inquiries through NTSB Set up 3:00 a.m. interviews Handled media jealousy Can t be a partner to NTSB, but can be professional and assist

22 The first 48 hours Coordination with NTSB Catered lunch and dinner Ate with NTSB team For three days we worked together for the sake of aviation Very proud of airport staff and NTSB relationship Helped take media pool to site at sundown Solemn - sacred ground

23 Back at RNO Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority Media came the Monday after the crash Had a statement Only one offered for months Prepped with lawyer Set myself as advisor, but not to be quoted NTSB is the media voice on the crash Media respected this because we trained them

24 In the months afterward RARA started political pressure to keep races Lawyers tried to control message but backed off We were already positioned with media Media coverage was focused on RARA, not the airport

25 In the months afterward Maintain a low profile Cancelled charity events Stopped e-newsletter CEO kept very low profile Ground rules for interviews on other topics Off speakers circuit

26 In the months afterward Maintain a low profile FOI filed for every document relating to RARA Eight years of documents Never what can t be seen on the 10 o clock news Staff told by attorney they could not talk about crash in public Stayed out of fight

27 Lead up to 2012 Races Political pressure mounts Newspaper headline: $85 million in eco impact Convince lawyers that airport must set a plan for dealing with RARA Safety number one priority Persuade board and attorneys to attach new permit to NTSB recommendations 2012 Air Races were held with no crashes

28 Lessons Learned Going forward Practice what you will preach - Triennial Single spokesperson - stick to it Work in concert with NTSB - do what s right Family Assistance - do what s right Communicate to staff and stay united Stand up to attorneys Scenarios for crisis levels Help the media everyday, so they respect you on the worst day

29 Lessons Learned A sad truth Chair Hersman asked airports with air shows to contact Reno-Tahoe about its experiences Learn what to expect Not a single airport has contacted RNO

30 Questions?

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