CommCore Blog and News

Prepared for the Onslaught

The West Clinic of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital was among those institutions affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. Not only did they have to deal with the influx of 24 victims including the suspect who died, Tamarlan Tsarnaev, but with some 1,000 media requests. Two of the hospital’s three-person media relations department were on vacation.


Working remotely, the media relations team worked 23-hour days and managed to balance the media’s and the public’s thirst for news with the restrictions in place that guaranteed both patients’ right to privacy and law enforcement agencies’ demand for secrecy while they searched for the second suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. When the gravely wounded Dzohkhar was captured and brought in after his older brother had died at the hospital, knowing not to release potentially sensitive information themselves, they fed the news to the FBI first, which vetted it and then posted it on the FBI Twitter account.

Media Relations Director Jerry Berger credits the hospital’s up-to-date emergency management plan and staff training with helping them balance everybody’s interests. “It’s the biggest story in the world, but you do what you need to do,” Berger said. “That’s where the adrenaline comes from — knowing how big and important this is. You need to get out there and do your job, and be helpful with the restrictions you have to work with, because that reflects on your institution, both nationally and internationally.”

At CommCore we remind our clients that crisis communications skills are only as effective as the complementary training and crisis response simulation required to minimize the chances of mistakes and the reputation hit that will follow. When a crisis hits isn’t the time to break out the plan, figure out tasks and learn the protocols.