Crisis Communication

Communicating Directly with Constituent Groups

firstchurchEach morning, law enforcement and rescue officials communicated with the Oklahoma City community regarding the progress of the recovery process. Family members were given a personal briefing each day at the First Christian Church in Oklahoma City. Here, family members would learn several times a day as to the progress of the rescue, and were notified of any new information before the public at large.

Governor and First Lady of Oklahoma Frank and Cathy Keating describe the direct communication links that existed during the rescue and recovery process. This direct communication was essential to family members who were still awaiting news of their loved ones. Survivors of the bombing created networks within their own agencies to keep each employee updated on the rescue and recovery operation.

Public as Volunteers

haircutJenifer Reynolds, an anchor for KWTV at the time of the bombing, recalls the droves of people who gave blood after the request was made on local television. “People were wound around these blood donation sites, people just wanted to do something,” said Reynolds. Former Oklahoma Governor and First Lady Frank and Cathy Keating explain this outpouring of support in what became known as the “Oklahoma Standard.”

The Oklahoma Standard has been defined as a new level of caring. It was first publicly noted when some members of the media observed that citizens in Oklahoma ran toward the Murrah Building immediately after the bombing rather than away from the building. When a need for blood was broadcast, it had to be followed by an advisory to stay home, because more people lined up than were needed.When an announcement was made that work boots were needed at the site, workers pulled up and took off their boots and left them. First responders from out of town found that they could not go to a restaurant and pay for their own meals. Either the restaurant owner would refuse their money or another diner had already covered the ticket. The legend of the Oklahoma Dollar is based upon a first responder commenting that he was leaving Oklahoma with the same dollar he had when he arrived because, during his entire stay in Oklahoma, he had been unable to spend that dollar.


The media serve as conduits for information to both those directly impacted and the general population. At the same time, it serves as a resource for the first responders to fill needs and distribute information. In Oklahoma City, the media provided information regarding points of contact for victims, called for specific needs, such as blood, and notified the public when supplies were no longer needed. The Daily Oklahoman produced a special section in the daily newspaper that provided comprehensive information on the incident including how the public could help and the latest on the rescue and recovery.

The bombing provided unique and completely different perspectives of how to cover a crisis. National journalists saw a new and challenging opportunity to cover terrorism domestically, and tried to focus on understanding the bigger picture. Local journalists had an emotional involvement that was not reflected in the coverage by national journalists. For local journalists, it was personal. Local journalists considered national journalists as “fly-ins.” Each perspective was important to the story, and more can be found on these differences in the Memorial Museum’s Reporting Terrorism special exhibit.

Maximizing Technology Partnerships

Dave Lopez, President of Southwestern Bell at the time of the bombing, speaks of the herculean effort it took to get rescuers cell phones and access via a temporary cell tower.

3dbuildingDuring the rescue and recovery process, government officials met with Southwestern Bell, to solicit their assistance with Computer Aided Design. Accurate floor plans, and a three dimensional model of the building both before and after the explosion were needed for rescuers to more accurately predict victim locations. Southwestern Bell provided the hardware, software, and trained personnel to input the data. A similar three dimensional representation of the building and the blast can be found in Chapter 6 of the Memorial Museum.