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1984 Bhopal disaster


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The 1984 Bhopal Disaster is a classic example of crisis communication gone wrong. All PR professionals should look to examples in the past so that they don't commit the same mistakes.

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1984 Bhopal disaster

  1. 1. Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) Bhopal Disaster<br />
  2. 2. Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL)Overview<br />Chemical company established in 1934<br />At time of incident, employed 9,000 people at 14 plants in 5 divisions<br />UCIL was owned 51% by Union Carbide Corporation and 49% by Indian investors to include the Indian Government<br />In 1984, Union Carbide reported sales of $9.5 billion.<br />In 1984,UCIL had sales of about $200 million annually<br />
  3. 3. Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL)Overview<br />Produced products to include batteries, carbon products, welding equipment, plastics, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and marine products<br />In 1994, UCC completed sale of its interest in UCIL to McLeod Russel Ltd. of Calcutta. The company was subsequently renamed Everready Industry India Ltd. <br />UCC was purchased by Dow Chemical in 2001<br />
  4. 4. What happened?<br /><br />
  5. 5. Facts<br />Dec. 2nd, 1984 a UCIL plant in Bhopal, India began leaking 27 tons of methyl isocynate<br />Maintenance issues led to the increased magnitude of the issue<br />Though reports vary, most governments and agencies agreed that thousands of people died and many more were injured within weeks of the incident <br />To make matters worse, in the years that followed, many more passed away and people in the region are still dealing with medical issues due to the incident<br />
  6. 6.
  7. 7. Contributing Factors to incident<br />Maintenance of facilities ignored<br />Safety systems shut off to save $<br />Plant located near densely populated area<br />Lack of skilled operators<br />Inadequate emergency action plan<br />Failure to recognize previous plant issues<br />
  8. 8. Aftermath of Leakage<br />Local medical staff was unprepared to deal with issue of this magnitude and were uniformed on how to deal with chemical<br />Complaints of lack of information were widespread<br />Formal statements were issued within weeks of the incident stating air, water, vegetation and foodstuff were safe within city<br />Families of those who died were slow to receive minimal compensation or never did.<br />Those who were injured received no or limited medical care<br />
  9. 9. Problem<br /> Thousands of victims did/have not received medical care, information, or compensation due to fighting among UCC management and Indian government over the cause of the accident and who was at fault. Furthermore, the environment surrounding Bhopal has continued contamination issues. <br />
  10. 10. Solutions<br />Create Task Force <br />Reach out to international community<br />DON’T PLACE BLAME<br />Hire PR firm<br />Remember, it is about the victims and environment, not the bottom line<br />Let ethics guide all of your decisions<br />
  11. 11. Actions Taken<br />UCC stresses “immediate action” was taken<br />Medical experts contributed to assist local medical facilities in Bhopal<br />Millions of dollars contributed for immediate and long term relief<br />Donated $100 million to build hospital<br />Designed system with other members of chemical industry to prevent future spills<br />
  12. 12. Conclusion<br />The Bhopal disaster has gone down in history as one of the worse industrial accidents to ever occur. Thousands of people have loss their lives, countless others have been injured, and the environment has been contaminated all due to numerous bad decisions among those who owned the plant.<br />
  13. 13. Recommendations<br />The owners of the Bhopal disaster would have benefited to follow the practices of Johnson & Johnson, who dealt with a major crisis themselves two years previously with the 1982 Tylenol murders. Creating a Task Force, practicing ethical decision making, hiring a PR firm, and the continued care of the victims and the environment is what UCC could have done. If I could recommend one thing today, it is that those involved take what they have learned and apply it to helping out with the BP oil spill. You may have failed miserably previously, but you can start by giving back now.<br />