Preparing for the Worst: Orlando Health Shares Lessons Learned from a Mass Shooting

September 19, 2019

// By Wendy Stark Healy //

Wendy Stark HealyHow well prepared are you to help your organization manage the aftermath of a mass shooting? Comprehensive preplanning and practice are critical to navigating a chaotic, evolving situation. Sadly, it’s not a question of if but when.

In the wake of three shootings in Texas and Ohio in August and September, Strategic Health Care Marketing reached out to Kena Lewis, APR, director, public affairs and media relations at Orlando Health in Orlando, Florida. Lewis managed communications after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting that killed 49 and wounded more than 50. We asked her about lessons learned, and what advice she might have for marketing and communications colleagues in managing crises.

Kena Lewis, APR, director, public affairs and media relations, Orlando Health

Kena Lewis, APR, director, public affairs and media relations, Orlando Health

Lewis is passionate about sharing what she has learned, and has spoken and presented more than 25 times in the U.S. and Canada in the three years since the shooting. “Today, whenever there’s a shooting, we get calls,” she says.

Lewis vividly remembers events on that day, including the exact time her cell phone woke her after the June 12 shooting. “It was 3:09 a.m. My cell phone is always by my nightstand,” she says. “I looked at the phone and my COO was calling. I said to myself, ‘If he’s calling at 3 a.m., something really bad must be going on.”

The voice on the phone said, “Have you heard about the shooting?”

Lewis says she was used to hearing about routine Saturday night shootings, but she knew right away that this was different. “This was real,” she says.

Just three blocks from Lewis’ office, a gunman had killed 49 and wounded 50. Lewis jumped out of bed, called the media relations manager-on-call for the health system’s eight hospitals, got dressed, and ran to the office.


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