Crisis communications in Santiago's derailment accident

More than a  week has gone since a passengers' train derailed in Santiago de Compostela (North Spain), causing at least 79 death people and more than 100 injured. Despite the fact that Galicia 112 Twitter account was not operating and @Xunta shared  its first message 50 minutes after the derailment, social media proved an effective way to inform about the incident and, what is more, VOST teams as well as local influencers  were capable of countering criticisms, helped spreading the right information and cooperated intensely to stop a bad habit in Twitter: uploading  pictures where injured or dead people are shown  with no respect to the victims’ intimacy. Citizens also used Twitter to ask for help to find their loved ones, sharing pictures with birthmarks, tattoos or some other physical description to facilitate the task and asking for a RT.

@VOSTSpain beware their followers not to rumors into consideration

Let’s try to analyze how authorities used social media here, what they did well and what improvements could have been possible.

First of all, it is a pity that the official account @112Galicia is still not working. The account is set in Twitter. It has 104 followers but, for the time being, it has not been used, despite the fact that there are very good and qualified journalists working in Galicia 112 capable of managing it. The local authorities may know why they lost this chance to inform citizens directly using an official and credible source.

@Xunta, almost an hour to inform

@Xunta, the official account of the local Government, did try their best to cope with the situation. Before going on, I’d like to point out that they are not specialist  in crisis communications. The information delivered was accurate and useful, but it was a bit too slow. The train derailment happened at 20.41 on Wednesday 24th. @Xunta wrote its first tweet at 22.24. 50 minutes late and only to say that they would offer official information soon.

It took then 20 more minutes to say blood was needed (22.44). In the meantime, people were sending messages about this issue and it was really a bit difficult to be certain whether it was best to go to hospital to donate blood or to stay home and leave the roads free for emergency services because messages saying one thing and the opposite were simultaneous.

The donating blood issue was to me, a fail, saved, partially, thanks to the National Police account @policia , who put a bit or order here.


Using hashtags to follow the conversation

@Xunta, the official account with more than 27.000 followers didn’t create a hashtag to follow neither they use any to facilitate following the conversation. If you wanted to know what they were saying in Twitter the best way was to add a column in Hootsuite or TweetDeck. The problem to me was simple: lack of expertise, besides the obvious fact that they were overwhelmed by the tragedy.

Despite the delay and the confusion, @Xunta provided useful information helped by VOST teams, like @VOSTGalicia, @VOSTSpain, many influencers using their personal profiles and @112cmadrid, the official account of 112 in Madrid. The later seemed to turned into the official 112 voice in the absence of @112Galicia and, probably, due to the insufficiente response's capacity of @Xunta.

Up to 3 different phone numbers to search information

The information phone numbers issue was as well a failure. I founded at least 3 different
(I’ve been told that there were up to 5).

Nonetheless, I  don’t like to finish this article without pointing out that @Xunta did their best and that, despite all possible improvements, they managed the situation quite well considering, as I already said, that it is not their duty to handle crisis communication.

I also want to remark that I am very proud of how voluntary services as well as ordinary citizens reacted to this tragedy, offering all the help they could, in the derailment's scenario, and using social media.

José Sieyro, President of Caldas Civil Protection having a rest
on the railway after working all night

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