MTA in-house team handles derailment crisis response

MTA Metro-North Railroad's in-house communications team has stressed a message of safety after Sunday's train derailment that left four passengers dead and 75 injured. The organization has not brought on an agency for crisis response.

NEW YORK: MTA Metro-North Railroad's in-house communications team has stressed a message of safety after Sunday's train derailment in the Bronx that left four passengers dead and 75 injured.

In the two days since the incident, media reports have stated that the commuter train was flying down the tracks at 82 mph when it reached a curve signposted at 30 mph.

The MTA is not using an external PR firm to respond to the incident, said organizational spokesperson Meredith Daniels. Its internal team is made up of 12 staffers.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are going to use what we learned from this incident to prevent this from happening again,” she said. “We are in full cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board and the investigation is continuing.”

The railroad's communications strategy is focused on the general public, instead of specific stakeholder groups. The in-house comms team is not responsible for outreach to victims' families, Daniels told PRWeek.

“We have been sending out press releases, are constantly updating information on our website about train service, providing Twitter and Facebook updates, and we just posted a YouTube video at the scene of workers during recovery operations, which has been retweeted by a lot of people,” she said.

Sunday's incident was the fifth derailment this year for MTA. In July, a CSX freight train went off the tracks in the same area of the Bronx; in May, a Metro-North train derailed in Connecticut injuring 76 people. Other derailments involved Long Island Rail Road trains and a No. 1 subway train in Manhattan. The MTA formed a rail-safety panel in September to review the issue.

“The MTA is, unfortunately, used to having this kind of crisis, and we don't intend on responding any differently than we have in the past,” Daniels said.

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