On a Wednesday evening just before 9pm, the Pharos team were notified that a client’s charity 500km cycle challenge in Africa had been involved in a serious incident.
On a Wednesday evening just before 9pm, the Pharos team were notified that a client’s charity 500km cycle challenge in Africa had been involved in a serious incident. A peloton of cyclists had been hit by a speeding, out of control car. One cyclist had tragically died immediately and another, the team doctor, was left in a critical condition. Our client was the event organiser and travel operator but the event was publicised under the brand of a third party charity who the cyclists were raising funds for.
Understandably the client team were in a state of shock but had done a brilliant job with planning the immediate response. A Pharos director chaired the initial crisis team meeting which saw their crisis team form to work through their critical incident plan. Immediate priorities were established and tasks allocated to the team from both an operational and communications perspective.
Pharos was able to quickly source a trauma counsellor and put them on standby. The Pharos Communications Director drafted media statements and provided counsel on the wider stakeholder communications, in particular on liaising with the charity’s media team. Social media monitoring was also set up by the Pharos team so the client could keep abreast of what was being discussed both in the UK and local to the scene of the accident in Africa.
For the next few days Pharos remained in regular contact with the client’s external PR consultant to manage the communications response alongside the charity’s response as this incident generated media and social media attention This included drafting a comprehensive Q&A to be prepared for the wide range of questions likely (and less likely) to be asked.
From an operational perspective, Pharos provided guidance on liaising with the police in Africa and gathering/preserving evidence for the investigation in addition to walking through the process for the repatriation of the deceased. Guidance on logistics such as insurance and international medical assistance agency liaison as well as preparing for a post-incident investigation and risk assessment reviews was also provided. Although the trauma counsellor did not need to travel to Africa in the end due to the timings of the group’s return, Pharos did arrange for him to speak with all the members of the group and to help them process what had happened.
Thankfully, the second cyclist made a good recovery after an extended time in hospital. Media coverage of this awful event was well handled and not disproportionate to the incident or critical in any way of any of the organisations involved.
After the event the client told Pharos how incredibly valuable they had found the specialist support. They pointed out that one of the first bits of advice Pharos provided was to suggest the uninjured cyclists are moved from their proposed tented accomodation to a nice, comfortable hotel. They felt that this set the caring tone for the whole incident response that made all involved feel like they were well supported and cared for.
In critical incidents, we can’t always make what has happened better but we can usually stop it from deteriorating further by acting quickly, effectively and considerately. Doing the right thing by the people involved in any incident makes them believe the organisation cares and will do their level best to make things right.
Pharos’ guidance through this incident helped our client to prioritise and make good decisions quickly based on Pharos’ previous experience. Thankfully they had never been in this position before. Access to Pharos’ specialist resources meant they were far better able to cope under the pressure and demands of dealing with a fatality abroad alongside the communications challenges this presents.