Neighbors of California Gas Leak were Inconvenienced Too Long with Too Little Communication

PR Crisis BacklashPORTLAND, Oregon, February 2, 2016 - DPK Public Relations Founder, Daniel Keeney, APR, offers his public relations expertise in the article, "Sempra’s Message on a Massive Natural Gas Leak Isn’t Working," published by Bloomberg. The article examines the response to a methane leak that had originally been detected in northern Los Angeles County, California, in October 2015. The leak at a gas well and storage facility owned by SoCalGas, a business unit of Sempra Energy, prompted the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents from their homes over health concerns.

In the Bloomberg article by Harry Weber and Mark Chediak, Keeney, who established DPK Public Relations in 2003 to help organizations plan for and respond to crises, compared the response to the California crisis to the water polution crisis in Flint Michigan. 

"The thing I thought of when this first happened was the problem with lead in the water in Flint," said Keeney in the article. "I would be advocating for very close and constant contact with residents to try to keep them happy."

It allegedly took SoCalGas several days to report the leak after discovering it, which prompted Las Angeles County prosecutors to file suit. Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others have admitted that the response to Flint's water crisis was too slow, which may have contributed to compounding public health risk.

Keeney says organizations in crisis are often overwhelmed by the size and scope of the issue, and it is typical that they make regrettable decisions in the early hours of response. This is the result of fears about litigation and poor PR crisis planning.

"The first rule of crisis response is to identify human suffering, find the cause and stop it as quickly as possible," Keeney says. "If people are displaced, ensure all their needs are met with the least amount of inconvenience possible. Do not make the victims of your mistake jump through hoops. Remember that even what may seem like a small inconvenience, such as spending a night or two in a hotel at your expense, is a very big disruption and should be treated as such. They are doing you a big favor by cooperating."

As noted in the Bloomberg article, Keeney called Sempra's requirement that displaced families submit receipts for expenses a "public relations blunder." 

DPK Public Relations has helped clients in a range of industries, including oil and gas, energy, chemical manufacturing and aeronautics, among others, plan for and respond to crisis. Any organization can find itself thrust into a crisis at any time without warning. How an organization and its leadership responds, especially in the crucial early hours and days, can have an enormous impact on reputations, brands and bottom line.

For more information about how DPK Public Relations can help your organization with crisis planning or PR crisis response, call 800.596.8708 or visit

About DPK Public Relations

Established in 2003, DPK Public Relations is a leading virtual PR firm serving Texas, California and the Pacific Northwest from offices in Houston, Dallas, San Diego and Portland, Oregon. DPK Public Relations' on-demand business model provides clients exceptional value, with a higher level of service and superior strategic counsel through hands-on implementation by experienced and highly capable PR professionals. Visit

Photo by Mike Lowe