LAX Shooting Updates at Tweet Speed

On Friday, Nov 1, a gunman terrorized Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). LAX is the sixth busiest airport in the world with more than 63 million passengers served in 2012. During the shooting, which occurred in Terminal 3, one Transportation Security Administration employee was killed, two fellow TSA workers were injured and several others wounded. LAX  had a major crisis on their hands and forced to spring quickly into action to keep travelers informed of the unfolding situation while minimizing the shooter’s rampage.

Within 20 minutes of the shooting, the LAX official Twitter account reported on the incident and said “more information to follow.” Over the next few hours, as the incident unfolded, both LAX  and the Los Angeles Police Dept Twitter accounts kept airport travelers updated on the suspect’s arrest, the terminal’s shut down and flight operations.  These tweets (listed below) potentially saved countless lives and kept passengers from heading into danger. This allowed officials to detain the suspect quickly so no one else was hurt.  One passenger was able to figure out what was happening only after checking his Facebook feed, so social media potentially saved his life.

 LAX Tweet 1

LAX Tweet 2

LAPD Tweet

A potential social media mishap occurred when reporters had to fight inaccurate reports and suppress misinformation amongst rapid Twitter rumors. A parody account said that a former NSA chief was a victim of the shooting, when that was not the case:

LAX Tweet 4

However, the spread of misinformation on social media is a problem in all crisis situations. In my opinion, the LAPD and the LAX security team excellently informed the public through Twitter of what was happening, while minimizing the damage done to the public’s safety. Most social media followers and travelers in the airport just had to pay attention to LAX’s official tweets for accurate, updated information. LAX could have potentially tweeted false information and had to hastily retract a statement but all of their tweets were clear and informative.

Do you think that more organizations should tweet in the midst of a crisis? What are the advantages and disadvantages of quickly responding in the heat of the moment?

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