Communications Crises and the Public

2021-07-28 by EPR Staff
Falling Dominos GettyImages 1138429304

Tragically in Florida, there are 10 dead and 151 people missing after a building collapsed in Miami. It’s been very difficult to find survivors and there are videos and photos of the building collapsing.

Many of the building’s residents ended up getting trapped in the segment of the building that didn’t collapse, and there were over 80 rescue teams working to find people in the rubble. According to a real estate profile for the condo building, it was built back in 1981, and although the reason for the collapse is unclear, the building itself was subject to a maintenance suit in 2015.

In that lawsuit, filed by one of the residents in the building, it was alleged that one of the outer walls of the building wasn’t maintained properly. The 2015 lawsuit also stated that the owners of the building didn’t properly repair some of the “common elements and the outside walls of the building.” Additionally, a year earlier, the same resident stated that water had started coming inside their apartment through cracks in that outer wall through the terrace, which caused additional damage.

The court records show that the building owners were liable in that 2015 case, and ended up settling that case.  It’s not clear which section of the building was subject to that lawsuit, and whether those issues had any effect on the collapse of the building, public officials are still trying to find its underlying cause..

Another study on the land where the building was located, done in 2020, found that there were signs of sinking, although that’s not the likely cause for this collapse. Furthermore, many buildings situated in close proximity to the sea in the area tend to have recurring structural issues because of the rusting steel inside the concrete.

Additionally, buildings in Miami are required to undergo a complete structural inspection 40 years after they are built, and although this building was finished 39 years ago, it had recently started the inspection. A report from 2018 also reported “cracking and spalling” inside the building’s parking garage, and structural damage to the concrete under the pool deck of the building.

Aside from the rescue teams, a number of people volunteered to help with reuniting families, and delivering and handing out necessary supplies to residents. Despite the number of warning signs that have been surfacing around the building’s structural integrity and the potential reasons for its collapse, public officials have been careful with their language when talking about the situation.

As with many unfolding crisis situations where the reasons for the crisis aren’t fully clear, it’s best for communication to be transparent and honest, as public officials, in this case, have been doing so far. Finally, a number of public officials have also stated that there are organizations already researching the reason for the collapse, as more data is required before making any judgments.