Dead Body Found in Water Tank: a Hotel Crisis

No playing ostrich with this one, crisis management is needed, and fast

The story of the young woman who disappeared late last month and was found dead in a hotel’s water tank this week is still being unraveled, but what’s certain is that the Cecil Hotel, located in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, is in dire need of crisis management.

The corpse was found when maintenance workers investigated complaints of low water pressure, and it wasn’t long until reporters had captured several stomach-turning stories like the one below, from a CNN article by Alan Duke:

“The water did have a funny taste,” Sabrina Baugh told CNN on Wednesday. She and her husband used the water for eight days.

“We never thought anything of it,” the British woman said. “We thought it was just the way it was here.”

What she described was not normal.

“The shower was awful,” she said. “When you turned the tap on, the water was coming black first for two seconds and then it was going back to normal.”

The hotel has asked all current guests to sign a waiver acknowledging that they use the building’s water at their own risk, but beyond that the Cecil’s management is playing ostrich. In fact, guests learned the reason for the “flush order” (water cannot be used for anything but flushing toilets) not from the hotel directly, but by speaking to reporters camped across the street.

In order to avoid a costly crisis, the hotel should immediately release a statement and issue letters to potentially affected guests that include the following:

  • an expression of compassion for those affected, including the woman’s family and all current/recent/future guests
  • an explanation of improved security precautions
  • an explanation of steps that will be taken to prevent water tanks from being tampered with in the future
  • a way for concerned parties to get in touch

It would also be wise to include some sort of compensation for guests who drank and showered with contaminated water, as well as those whose travel plans will be impacted by the crisis.

Cecil Hotel management, you can’t sit silent, and any attempt hide the situation from your guests is bound to be futile. Your name is all over the L.A. news, and right now is when you decide whether this incident will cement your reputation as a seedy establishment or show travelers that you’re a safe, reputable place to stay.

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