Cathryn A. Outzen's Professional Web Site

Sacred Heart on the Emerald Coast

Summer of the Shark

Summer Camp

Contact Information

Summer of the Shark

Picture of Shark

I had been working all summer, and I had finally taken some time off to go on vacation. When I came back, I expected to find everything just how I had left it. Boy, was I in for a shock!


While I was gone, a major crisis had occured at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, and it was up to the public relations and marketing department to figure out how to handle it. Two days before I returned to work, an 8-year-old boy from Mississippi had been attacked by a shark at Fort Pickens on Pensacola Beach. Though his uncle was ultimately able to fend off the shark, Jesse Arbogast suffered massive injuries, including the loss of his arm and most of his blood. Jesse was airlifted by helicopter to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, in an attempt to save his life.
CNN Article: Boy Attacked By Shark

Though it was up to the doctors at Sacred Heart to save Jesse's life, it was our job at the PR and marketing department to try to keep the public apprised of the situation, while also guaranteeing the family's privacy.

The First Day Back

On the first day back from my vacation, the office appeared to be in complete chaos. The phones were ringing off the hook, and people were running around like crazy. This was my first introduction to crisis management, and I truly was not prepared for it.

Thankfully, with the help of the more experienced members of the department, I was able to make it through the week and learn valuable lessons in crisis managment, community relations and media relations.

I was amazed to see and experience how quickly word got around about the shark attack. TV crews and radio stations from around the nation were all clamoring to cover the story. All of the major news networks, such as NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN, sent crews into Pensacola, and even the major talk shows were trying to get in on the action.

My Duties

My main duties throughout that hectic week were to try and pick up the slack and keep the day-to-day operations of the department running smoothly. While most of the department heads were busy scheduling press conferences and attending to the media, I continued to write the normal press releases and articles that tend to get left undone when a crisis occurs.

However, because we were short-staffed, I also answered the phones, which really opened my eyes to the national importance of the situation. Not only did I field calls from the local media, I also had the opportunity to talk to the personal assistants of Larry King, Maury Pauvich and the governor of Mississippi. Until then, I hadn't fully realized the scope of the situation.

Besides helping with the day-to-day operations and answering the phones, I was also able to witness first-hand a true crisis management stituation. I was able to attend press conferences and see how they were set up, learn how to disseminate information quickly and efficiently to the community and the media, and learn the correct way to handle other health care professionals and attend to their needs.

Additional Information:

CNN Article: Uncle details Gulf Coast shark attack
CNN Article: Home 'a great place' for young shark attack victim
CNN Article: Expert: More people, more shark attacks
International Shark Attack File

Home | Sacred Heart on the Emerald Coast | Summer of the Shark | Summer Camp | Contact Information

Cathryn A. Outzen
Copyright Cathryn A. Outzen 2003
All Rights Reserved