The Costa Concordia and Fact-based Crisis Response

The evolving story of the ill-fated Costa Concordia is an almost casebook illustration of the dangers in crisis response of rushing to place an interpretation on  a murky situation too quickly.  It may well be that the “hero/villain” narrative  elevating the Coastguard captain and demonizing Captain Schettino turns out to be correct.  However, the emergence of conflicting data about the pattern of Costa Cruise ships route deviations suggests that much has yet to be learned that may not reflect so well on the company, as FT.com suggests today (“Focus Shifts from Ship’s Captain to Company”).  It can be very stressful to withhold judgment in these circumstances but it is critical in order not to box oneself  into a corner.

By contrast, some steps in crisis response should be undertaken without delay even before all the facts are known.  In this spirit, it was much better news that  the parent company Carnival is launching a “stem to stern” audit of all its safety and emergency practices for every one of its cruise lines.  This makes emotional and psychological sense and represents a logical human response to the fear and pain people feel in response to such a crisis, irrespective of the cause ultimately determined.

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