Communicating transportation safety in a global context

ISSN 2369-873X

3 January 2013
Posted by: Jacqueline Roy

Communicating transportation safety in the world

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is renowned world-wide for its dedication to excellence, its thorough investigations, and its commitment to advancing transportation safety. Our mandate includes providing assistance to foreign countries upon request, and potentially becoming involved if a Canadian-owned, based or operated company or a Canadian product is involved in a transportation accident abroad. And we communicate publicly when we have something to report.

The TSB has strong working relationships with a number of foreign organizations around the world – including the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the United States, the Australian Transportation Safety Board (ATSB), the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile (the French authority responsible for safety investigations into aviation accidents [BEA]) and the New Zealand Transport Accident and Investigation Commission, to name a few.

In the TSB Communications Branch, we don’t have occasion to collaborate as widely as our investigators do, so when I see a chance – I like to take advantage of some interesting opportunities!

United States — National Transportation Safety Board

Earlier this fall, I visited the Washington DC area to meet with Kelly Nantel, my counterpart at the NTSB. In our bilateral meeting, we had a chance to discuss communications best practices and compare notes on the challenges and risks in communicating transportation accident investigations. They are doing some creative things at the NTSB, and we’ve definitely taken examples from their excellent website.

Their approach is a bit different as they use the Board members to speak at deployments (they call them launches) while we rely on our investigators and managers—but their goal is the same as ours: to ensure their citizens, media and stakeholders receive timely information. They provide the facts of the accidents immediately, and once they’ve taken the time required to conduct a thorough investigation, they then release the findings as to the causes of the accident. The TSB does the same.

While there, I also attended an outstanding course they give on communicating an aviation accident. The course held at their Virginia training facility brought together 80 participants from 12 countries. The session “provides guidance to employees who, in the event of an aviation disaster, would need to provide a steady flow of accurate information to media outlets, the public and other airport, federal or local authorities.” In addition to great direction provided by the NTSB’s Peter Knudson, there were several case studies and a panel of journalists who helped to make the two days very interesting and informative. It was also a great opportunity to hear what is going on in other nations with respect to communicating during a crisis.

France — Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses

Martine del Bono, Director of Communications with the BEA (pictured above) recently visited the TSB to learn how we communicate our occurrences, and how we release our investigation reports in Canada. She shared her experiences in communicating the Air France 447 tragedy. The opportunity to exchange best practices with a counterpart from a foreign organization is invaluable—especially when discussing the lessons learned from an accident like Air France 447. In terms of communications, the BEA learned a great deal from such a complex and high-profile investigation which had world-wide media and public interest.

In addition, not only do these exchanges help to validate our communications choices, but it gives one a different perspective as to how other countries’ journalists cover the transportation accident stories and how certain issues have more traction than others.

Applying best practices at the Transportation Safety Board

Over the past year, we’ve taken great strides at the TSB to become more proactive with our communications. We’ve revamped our website, launched a new blog, and entered into the realm of social media—we are very active on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. We are also enthusiastically promoting transportation safety through innovative Watchlist videos.

When an accident happens, we issue a deployment notice immediately if we go to the scene, we tweet photos as soon as we are able, and build webpages when we launch investigations. When our investigation is complete, we publicly release the findings in our reports. Our mission is to identify the causes of the accident, determine if there are systemic problems, and to make recommendations to ensure those types of accidents won’t happen again. Like the other countries we associate with, we effectively provide our citizens with the information they need to know—information they deserve to know.

Image of Jacqueline Roy

Jacqueline Roy, a 20-year federal public servant has been the TSB Director of Communications since September 2011. She is an avid traveler, enjoys singing and is a BC Lions’ fan.

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