You're a press officer for ExxonMobil. It's 14:35 pm on Friday 21 February 2003 and there's been a fire at your distribution terminal on Staten Island, New York.
These are some of the facts that you know about and some of the questions that have risen over the last few hours.

fire started at 10:10 am; 200 New York City firefighters battling the blaze at the moment
a second Valdez? Another 9/11?
a barge, owned by contractors Bouchard Barge Company (based at Hicksville, New York), containing 100,000 barrels of unleaded gasoline was being unloaded when a devastating explosion occurred
oil prices: rise of a dollar per barrel on world markets since news of disaster
one ExxonMobil employee injured in the fire and hospitalized
the body of an employee of Bouchard has been found; another person from Bouchard unaccounted for
flames hundreds of feet over Staten Island, can be seen as far away as Trenton, New Jersey, about 35 miles from the terminal.; black smoke: probably no significant health effect
fire fighting still going on: local fire department
ExxonMobil Terminal Manager: Hank Muller
contract company Clean Harbors will clean up
cause of the fire will be investigated
people first thought it was a terrorist attack
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks it was no sabotage
ExxonMobil is in a dispute with New York State over allegations of environmental law violations at the Port Mobil facility. An inquiry is being held but it has nothing today with safety or with the fire.
Info about the terminal: 31 ExxonMobil people work there; max. capacity: 2.5 million barrels (premium and regular gasoline, low sulphur diesel, other distillates and jet fuel); 750 barges per year.
ExxonMobil HQ is in Irving

First decide if you want to issue a press release on the accident or not. Why (not)? When would you issue the press release? Immediately? Or would you wait? How long would you wait?

Next, make up your mind:

  • what the central news really is that you want to focus on.
  • what else you will be talking about in your press release.
  • what is irrelevant, etc and should be left out.
  • what missing details should be added.

Throughout the case keep in mind some of the basic guidelines for crisis communication. Also remember that you are free to make up any missing details, add further developments (as long as they are in line with the overall script), write up quotes for fictitious characters etc.

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