Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Behind The Scenes In Groton

The New London Day has an article about the decision to activate the USS San Juan's phone tree when the boat was "out of contact" last week. Excerpts:
The squadron command had activated the phone tree for families of the crew. Master Chief Petty Officer Tommy Vatter, command master chief for Squadron 12, had assembled the staff earlier that morning to review the list of all those on board left by the San Juan before it departed.
“We needed to make sure we had a complete list before we started calling,” Vatter said. “There was a lot of emotion in what we were doing.” Volunteer callers and family members were told a specific message that they wrote down. Then they called their assigned contact families on the list.
“Typically our phone trees are, 'Hey, guess what? The boat is pulling in. Yay!' ” Burianek said.
The Navy wanted to ensure that the families received accurate information from official sources first, rather than rumors or news reports, McBrearty said. “We have to be very careful about what the families are told,” he said. “Part of our job, especially here at the homeport of the submarine, is to make sure the families get the facts. That's our commitment to our families in good news and in bad news.”
But before the first message made it all the way through the phone tree, the crew checked in, around 5:45 a.m. “A lot of the wives were very happy they did not receive that first phone call — very happy,” Burianek said. The Navy called off search-and-rescue efforts after hearing from the crew. The crew confirmed that it did not fire a flare and did not know the San Juan was thought to be in distress.
“At that point, we took a deep breath and put out another phone-tree message,” said Capt. Marc Denno, chief of staff for Squadron 12.
The one problem I've seen with phone tree notifications is the tendency for the message to sometimes get "elaborated on" as it moves down the tree. One time when the phone tree was activated when I was a JO on USS Topeka when we were pulling back into base for a quick repair right after leaving on deployment in 1992, the message morphed from "the boat's pulling back in for a couple of hours, don't bother coming down to the base" to "meet right away at the McDonalds on base for a briefing from the Commodore".


Blogger midwatchcowboy said...

Better that the families find out from the Navy vice CNN scroll bar.

Writing down the message is a great practice. Should limit the 'telephone game' issues.

3/21/2007 7:34 AM

Blogger Cameron said...

That reminds me of a game we'd play as kids. We'd sit in a big circle and one of us would whisper something to the kid next to us. Then the secret would be passed around the circle until it made it back to you. It was fun to see how much the message was changed.

3/21/2007 9:49 AM

Anonymous Melanie said...

In this case, I don't agree with cowboy - I think the phone tree message went down prematurely and the families would have been better off 'confused'. As an ombudsman I'd rather be briefed by Squadron and be ready to field the calls I'd get if someone heard something than to put down incomplete information in a phone tree. It has always been the common practice for a phone tree caller to listen to the message received, write it down exactly and read it back to the person that gave it to her. Reading it to the families from a script doesn't mean not adding inflection or tone, and that's where the message gets wankered (past experience as the reference on this).

3/22/2007 3:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

After speaking with a few of the San Juan wifes, they all agree that they would not like you as their ombudsman, melanie... cowboy is correct. I myself so not understand how you could possibly justify the not telling the wives that there is a problem with their husbands boat ....before some dummy with Internet access on a surface ship says that he heard explosions in the water and he doesn't think they are alive.....and gets quoted as an anonymous source by some AP writer. For the record - only a select few were called during the intial callout. Everyone else was called later on after they regained contact. Unless you are in the situation, don't think about what could have done better.... cause you have no idea what is going on.

3/23/2007 7:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymos. Melanie, if the callers on your phone tree have a hard time putting out the info in a factual manner without elabloration then they need not be on the tree. There have been times when the families have had to endure the false haphazard reports from "quoted sources" because the support people back home decided it would be better or as you indicate easier for them by waiting. Leaving family members confused is not and should not ever be an option. Perhaps you are missing something that as Ombudsman you need...what if your child rode a buss to school and you heard it turned over and caught fire on the radio but the school decided to wait and call the families that the kids weren't on it later after the fire was out and a replacement bus was loaded....signed...Best Regards, Boomer Bob.....

3/27/2007 11:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of those “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t”. No mater what they did, someone is going to bitch. Ya just can’t make everybody happy.
Bubblehead, I remember when the Topeka came back in. I was one of the ShipSups on the McKee. There was a lot of discussion on who would take the boat due to people knowing what “he who must not be named” was like.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa

3/28/2007 1:32 PM


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