The Sago Mine Accident in January, 2006, left the world wondering how things were so bungled. Communication in the incident was almost as large a disaster as the mine explosion itself. Many questions still hound the company and the families of those who died. If the mine had been cited for numerous safety violations, why was it not shut down until those were repaired? Why had the safety violations not been address by company, union or mine safety officials?
Reports indicate it was nearly an hour and half after the explosion before rescue crews were brought in. Why? Furthermore, when rescue workers began to receive information about the fate of the trapped miners, why was the information released to the families and the news media before it could be verified. While there was nothing the company could do to change the fate of the miners, being told they were alive and then learning that they had died, except for one survivor, demoralized the nation and the families, compounding the tragedy. The question remains why did the company not have better emergency communication procedures in place and why, once rescue workers were in place, were facts no verified before being released to the waiting families?
At first glance, it appears that simple communication preparation could have helped the entire incident to be handled more smoothly. If the union, the company and mine safety officials had better documented the infractions and the response to those refractions, they would have been spared the negative attention from the national media. If the company had had a designated procedure for dealing with crisis communications it might better have been able to reach rescue workers and get them to the mine sooner.
The timing of the incident contributed to the communications errors because people were on vacation and the mine had to find other ways to communicate with mine safety officials. Finally, the communication problems during the mine rescue could have been avoided if all information were channeled through one person and then distributed accordingly.