Caugherty Hahn Communications, Inc.

Image from the front page of The New York Times
nav bar
nav bar
nav bar
nav bar

CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS - When you see 2 helicopters hovering....

In a moment, everything can change.

At 12:42 p.m. on Tuesday, January 8, 2002 a 5-alarm fire was in full progress at the West Side Presbyterian Church, an 80-year old landmark church in Ridgewood, NJ.

By 1 p.m. when Caugherty Hahn Communications' Lisa Hahn arrived, two news helicopters were hovering overhead broadcasting images of the fire locally and nationwide via CNN and New York City stations.

Within 30 minutes, every news outlet in the New York metro area was on site. All needed information immediately, and sought anyone's comment.

Lisa, a lifelong member of the church and secretary of the Board of Trustees, quickly briefed the senior pastor, ministers and staff on what to expect, appropriate questions to respond to, and avoiding speculation. Hahn ascertained that they were ready to handle inquiries, and coordinated spokespeople. The primary goal was clear - West Side is a community of people not a building and the faith and mission work would not be interrupted.

Members needed comforting and reassurance, so an 8 p.m. worship service and briefing was arranged at a public school next door.

During the day, Rev. Mike Pulsifer, Fire Chief James Bombace, and Police Chief William Corcoran gave two press briefings.

  • $150,000 in unsolicited cash donations have been received to date, with $40,000 received within the first three weeks.
  • More than 120 news stories were logged over the initial week, with an equivalent ad value of $3.5 million.
  • Two Associated Press stories with photos ran nationally reaching West Side friends and members.
  • The New York Times published three stories including a Page One color photo (above) and a feature on the church's mission work.
  • The Record, the leading local daily newspaper provided eight stories, including three front page features during the initial weeks.
  • Within hours of the fire, area churches, synagogues and community groups offered assistance.
  • Free facility space was given for worship, nursery school and office. The office space alone is valued at $60,000 and was given in response to The New York Times coverage.
  • Members and more than 20,000 visitors have been kept informed and recorded messages on the Web site,
  • Congregants have been kept informed of all developments, as a result, attendance at services has increased 75%; the youth unanimously voted to continue plans for their mission trip; the dozen choirs continued rehearsal with little disruption.

As West Side's associate minister of music said, "West Side is fine. It's our building that's toast."

To discuss how Caugherty Hahn Communications, Inc. can put the power of Public Relations to work for your company, you can reach us at 201-251-7778, or send an email to


People | Clients | Testimonials | Contact Us! | Home