We can only wonder whether a faster release of critical information about the actual path of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight would alter the outcome, such as a rescue of passengers, a discovery of wreckage, or the quick pursuit of leads in a criminal investigation before they dried up.
Instead we are witnessing a communications nightmare, of which we are no strangers in the United States. The chaos stemming from a lack of command-and-control communications is reminiscent of FEMA’s early response to Katrina. Government leaders treated it as a localized disaster, unaware of the scale of national and global concern for the people suffering in New Orleans. So too in Malaysia: “They’re handling a huge global issue as if it was domestic politics,” Clive Kessler of the University of New South Wales in Sydney told Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was also a PR disaster, this time for BP. The company held back information about the scale of the gusher, which severely damaged its credibility and may have delayed the ramp-up time to the full response that was truly needed. It wasn’t until Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen asserted total control over the response and public communications that Americans began regaining confidence in the situation.
There will no doubt be many lessons learned from the loss of flight MH-370. Unfortunately, some of them must be learned over and over again.
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