Indiana stage collapse highlights hospitals’ crisis planning

In the wake of a tragedy, Indiana University Health communicators were glad they had updated their protocol. But there were still lessons to be learned.

When high winds hit the Indiana State Fair recently, Libby Manship happened to be there.

As director of eMarketing for Indiana University Health, she took shelter in a cow barn, unaware that violent gusts had toppled a band stage and its rigging nearby. It would kill six people and injure scores.

After she learned the news from Twitter on Aug. 13, it soon became clear the hospital system would be flooded with patients. But as IU Health rushed to respond to the tragedy, its staff could draw on a newly updated crisis-communication plan.

The communications team found itself dealing with a tragedy that involved all the elements of a major contemporary news event: viral video, press conferences, social media and distraught families fending off reporters.

“Having updated the policy was critical,” Manship says. “It gave us the time in a non-stressful capacity to think through what are the scenarios that may happen, and then what are the channels or levels that we need to pull in if it does happen?”

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