Wheel Well Boy Raises Crisis Management Questions at SJC

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    Are San Jose airport officials making you feel secure?

    The story of the teen who managed to sneak into San Jose International Airport, cross the tarmac, and climb into the wheel well of a waiting plane – and then actually survive a flight to Hawaii, is making headlines around the world. It’s sensational, and it also raises an awful lot of fears. In other words, media gold.

    Of course, the microscope is on San Jose International officials now, as they attempt to explain how a teenage boy managed to bypass millions of dollars in security technology and the supposed heightened awareness of the post-9/11 airline industry to access an extremely vulnerable area of a passenger plane undetected.

    Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes gave the standard line that they are cooperating with law enforcement and concerned about the boy and threw in the message (repeatedly) that the airport’s system “meets and exceeds” all federal requirements. Barne’s statements didn’t leave anyone feeling too reassured, especially after she dropped this gem:

    “Despite this, no system is 100 percent, and it is possible to scale an airport perimeter fence line, especially under cover of darkness, and remain undetected, and it appears this is what this teenager did.”

    Aviation Director Kim Aguirre didn’t do much to help stakeholders feel protected either, telling reporters, “If we see any gaping holes, we will work to fill them.”

    Uhm, Kim, how about the gaping hole this kid just slipped through?

    We’d much rather hear something to the effect of, “This incident has brought a gap in security to our attention, and we’re doing everything in our power to seal it up while locating any other potential flaws in the process.” The denials and weak excuses in the face of a clear issue convey a lack of competence, not the image you want to be sending when you’re desperately trying to do crisis management on the international stage.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]