NorthStar Memorial Group’s Chapel of the Chimes Oakland (CCO), an end-of-life services provider, hired Landis Communications (LCI) to increase awareness and manage communications efforts for the facility which has served Oakland and the Bay Area for more than 100 years. One Friday night in early December 2016, a three-alarm fire broke out at the Ghost Ship warehouse in downtown Oakland, claiming the lives of 36 people. As dawn broke, news of the Ghost Ship Fire spread quickly as people were desperate to learn the whereabouts of friends or family who may have been inside. LCI, in partnership with executives from CCO and NorthStar convened via conference call to formalize an action plan to support the community.
Within hours of the event, LCI, CCO and NorthStar drafted an action plan outlining three ways community members can express grief and show support for the victims’ families:
- Attending an interfaith candlelight vigil on Saturday evening at CCO
- Visiting CCO’s Meditation Chapel for anyone needing a place to mourn and reflect
- Signing memorial books which will be given to families; CCO makes these available at the memorial park for the community to leave condolences
Within 12 hours of the fire, LCI drafted and distributed a media advisory to publicize these opportunities. The information was disseminated to all local news outlets, as well as to national stations including National Public Radio (NPR), Associated Press (AP), The New York Times, United Press International (UPI) and CNN, which were beginning to cover the story. Meanwhile, LCI and CCO staffers connected with the Oakland mayor’s office and Oakland police and fire departments to help spread the word. The information was also disseminated via CCO’s social media channels in order to reach as many people as possible. Throughout the weekend, LCI proactively pitched and facilitated contact with multiple news organizations seeking real-time information and updates from CCO as events continued to unfold.
More than 200 people attended the vigil, which was covered live by outlets including CNN, NPR, Telemundo and local television stations KGO-TV (ABC San Francisco) and KTVU-TV (FOX San Francisco). In addition, reporters representing AP, The New York Times, Reuters, NBC News, UPI, KPIX-TV (CBS San Francisco), KNTV-TV (NBC San Francisco), KRON-TV (IND San Francisco), KGO-AM, KCBS-AM, East Bay Times, San Francisco Chronicle and many others covered the news. Media also shared details about the vigil, Meditation Chapel and memorial books in real time via social media.