If ever there were a reason to ensure you have a crisis communication plan in place, the story of Tomas Lopez, a former employee of Jeff Ellis and Associates based in Orlando, FL, would be a prime case.
To briefly summarize the story. Lopez left his stationed area on Hallandale Beach in Florida to help a man who was drowning in a section of the beach not managed by the city nor the lifeguard company. Although the man survived and is currently in the hospital, thanks to the efforts of Lopez and a nurse, the company decided to adhere to their policy and fire Lopez for his actions.
Whether the company is in the right or wrong for their actions, it could be assumed they never expected to read or view this incident on a national scale. It could also be concluded, they do not have a current Crisis Communication plan in place. If so, the owner and a supervisor for their company would not be quoted providing different sound bites for the media.
According to the Associated Press and WFLA, supervisor Susan Ellis gives the quote below to the media.
“We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area,” supervisor Susan Ellis told the Sun Sentinel. “What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.”
Meahwhile, owner, Jeff Ellis, is quoted by WPTV as saying:
“We are not a fire-rescue operation. We are strictly a lifeguard organization,” he said. “We limit what we do to the protected swimming zones that we’ve agreed to service.”
“If we find our actions on the part of the leadership team were inappropriate, we will rectify it based upon the information that comes forward.”
City Manager Renee Crichton issued a statement Wednesday saying, “We do not have all the facts in this case. We take the safety of all visitors to our beaches very seriously. Whether they are in a protected area or unprotected area, we believe aid must be rendered.”
Who would have thought firing an employee could make national news?
What do you think? Should the company have fired Lopez? Should the city renew their contract?
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- Fla. lifeguard aids drowning man, gets fired (cbsnews.com)
- Hallandale Beach Lifeguard Fired After Saving Man’s Life – WBFS (miami.cbslocal.com)
- South Florida lifeguard fired for rescue outside beach zone (tbo.com)
- Lifeguard Fired After Saving a Swimmer (fox8.com)
- Florida lifeguard fired after saving drowning man (cnn.com)