My short bio: Hi Reddit! I am Ken Jenkins - disaster response consultant and professional emergency response manager. I have responded to 12 major aircraft accidents, including deploying and commanding a team of 500 people in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks.

I have a Masters Degree (with Distinction) in Aeronautical Science. I've also personally assisted air crash survivors and victims' family members.

I wrote a book titled Resilience: Stories of Courage and Survival in Aviation Disasters, which you can find on Amazon here:

You can also find more information about me on my website:

Ask me anything about the airline industry, flight safety, disaster scenarios, precautionary measures, grief counseling, etc.

My Proof:;

Thank you for all the questions today. I appreciate your interest in the topic of aviation emergency. Time to get back to ER planning. Thank you again for your time!

Comments: 64 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

Malvolio114 karma

First off, you do some pretty awesome stuff! I would imagine that you've seen some pretty horrible things. Do you, or others in your teams have a hard time coping with the job?

Edit: autocorrect fail

kenjenkins13 karma

Thank you for your kind words. It is hard at times. For the most part, we are able to compartmentalize the response from our everyday life. However, I have found over the years the importance of critical incident stress debriefs, defusing's etc are of great benefit.

Malvolio14 karma

I suppose compartmentalising must take some time to get used to. How do the debriefs work?

kenjenkins9 karma

Overall, there is a moderator/facilitator for the group and they ask questions regarding the response and how we are doing. Each participant has the opportunity to share or just listen. For me, it is very therapeutic as we can share how we are feeling in a safe, caring environment. We also hear how others are doing and many times find, we are all experiencing similar emotions.

Malvolio17 karma

It's good to know that you guys get the hell you need, thanks for the replies, and for doing what you're doing!

kenjenkins5 karma

Thank you!

IamBanditRacoon11 karma

Is there anything the public can do in the first few minutes of a major event that makes your job easier?

kenjenkins18 karma

With regards to an aviation disaster, one of the most important things the public (and the media) can do is to respect the privacy of the survivors and the family members.

Lord0fglohorn10 karma

Hi Ken! Unfortunately, there's been a number of air disasters that had at the very least some mystery about them (Malaysia flights 370 and 17, as well as 9/11). There was quite a bit of confusion as to what the facts were, which I'm sure is very difficult for the surviving family members. Do you think it better to give constant updates to survivors, even if the facts are unclear and may change, or wait until there is some relative certainty on what happened?

kenjenkins6 karma

From an accident response perspective, involving commercial aviation accidents, the investigators will typically only respond to factual information, which the airline team members will also follow. If a family member hears of a theory and they ask the investigator during a briefing about it, the investigator will usually only confirm what they know to be factual. It is challenging at times, because the media (social and otherwise) perpetuate the conspiracy theory. Families are typically advised by the airline team members and the investigators they will only speak to what they know to be true at the time of the conversation.

Lord0fglohorn5 karma

I'm reminded of the time following the disappearance of 370 where it got to the point of a black hole being offered as a possible cause on CNN, partially due to what seemed to be conflicting information coming out of the airline almost daily. I assume they were attempting to save face, but it only served to make the situation more confusing. Is it frustrating to watch some of that public messaging that might confuse people who are genuinely waiting to find out what happened to their loved one?

kenjenkins2 karma

You made an excellent point. Conflicting information not only leads to confusion but frustration and compounds the grief. It is critical only 1 voice share the investigative information. In the U.S. that would be the NTSB. The airline would refrain from making comments about the accident itself outside of how they are supporting the investigative process and supporting the families. I am not sure why this disconnect occurred with MH 370 but it only created distrust between the airline, the Malaysian government and the families of MH 370.

half_diminished9 karma

What do you do between each event? Do you have some kind of other job that you can just drop on a dime whenever a crisis emerges?

kenjenkins14 karma

Thankfully there are not many accidents to have to respond to. The day to day work is ER planning. Coordinating with other departments, exercising our plans etc. It can take months to successfully prepare for a full scale exercise. In addition, with in the airline industry we are prepared to respond to airline partners etc.... The amount of coordination, training and preparation is extensive.

Jeremiahtheebullfrog6 karma

Thanks for all your amazing work and dedication. Did you find that any of your team had to deal with the health issues from the burning dust and debris from 9/11? If so, did any of them have a hard time getting financial assistance from the government for medical expenses as Jon Stewart made it publicly known recently? Did any of your team notice the smoldering molten steel that many firefighters made note of days after the initial collapse? How extensive was the search and rescue at the WTC 7 site?

kenjenkins1 karma

Thankfully no, we did not experience any of the burning dust. The airline CARE Teams primary response is to work with the families in the aftermath. So we were not based at ground zero. A few weeks after the 9/11 tragedy, AA and UA coordinated a site visit to ground zero for families. While the burning dust was gone, you could still smell fire.

MarthaGail5 karma

Hi Ken! So, you were there for 9/11? Were you in NY and how were you involved?

How do you feel about it looking back 15 years ago?

kenjenkins9 karma

Good morning Martha! I was in NYC for the American Airlines response to 9/11. On 9/11 AA was able to send 4 aircraft to the following cities: Boston, Los Angeles, NYC and Washington, DC. I went to NYC. The flights had CARE Team Members on board who went to assist family members in the aftermath of the tragedy.

The 15 year anniversary was particularly hard. It was very emotional for me as I am sure it was for those who lost someone that day and for those who responded. For some reason the 15 year anniversary hit me very hard.

MarthaGail3 karma

Wow, that seems unreal. Follow-up question: What were you doing when you got the call that something was happening?

kenjenkins6 karma

Irony at its best Martha. I was co-facilitating day 1 of our 2-day CARE class on 9/11. About 30 minutes in to the class, the phone rang in the conference room. I was advised that one of our planes hit the World Trade Center. I was puzzled, I asked you mean the wing clipped the building? I was not prepared to hear or see, the plane was actually flown in to the building. I was told to cancel the class and immediately head back to my office which was located next to the AA Command Center.

BornaCat5 karma

Is there a specific event that has stuck with you? Do you get flashback of specific incidents; or nightmares? Is there anything I can do, as an individual to help?

Thank you for helping so many people during horrible events. I applaud you for fighting in time of flight. <3

kenjenkins6 karma

All of the events stay with me to some extent. I will always remember the family I assisted with the first fatal accident I responded to. While each response has a history, they each pop up in my mind especially on the anniversary of the accidents.

qwaszx9515 karma

During the 2008 flood in Iowa I know the news made a really big deal about all the strangers that came and helped out each other. I personally know my dad and uncles went into the city and just walked around helping anyone that needed it. Is there any difference you've noticed in certain regions in how they respond to tragedy? What is the most heartwarming "restored my faith in humanity" moment you've witnessed in your line of work?

kenjenkins9 karma

Please thank your family for the help they provided. I am sure they made a difference in someones life.

9/11 was the by far the most significant event where I saw the best of humanity. In the aftermath of 9/11 we saw an out pouring of support to the passengers and crew of all the affected flights. American and United received countless cards, flags, memory books, financial donations etc for the crew and passengers on the affected flights. It was a huge undertaking to collect all the items and then send them to the families. It was an amazing thing to experience. Complete strangers reaching out to other strangers. It still warms my heart today.

cruxix3 karma

How do you feel about all the conspiracy theories that are out there when you are one of the few people who have had a chance to review the actual evidence first hand?

kenjenkins9 karma

Depends on the accident. For example, AA Flight 77 that was flown in to the Pentagon. There was a conspiracy theory that a missile hit the Pentagon not an actual plane. I take it very personally because our team worked with many of the families in the aftermath of that terrorist event. While I get upset, I believe it is more hurtful to the family members that are left behind. That more than anything is what makes me upset. The families have already lost a loved one. Now they have to hear the conspiracy theories.

jman4643 karma

What is the most important thing to do in dealing with an incident? Often times i've seen serious backlash towards airlines that experience an incident that they didn't do enough or they weren't as transparent as they should've been. Is there really anything to do to prevent this?

kenjenkins3 karma

There is a good framework for how airlines are to respond to an aviation accident today. In 1996, the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act (ADFAA) was passed by President Clinton. The Act provides various assurances the airline must adhere to in the aftermath of an accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is quite transparent with their investigative process. The airline involved should be as well with the families to avoid any secondary trauma to the family members.

Oreatex3 karma

How did you get to where you are now?

kenjenkins3 karma

By mistake to be quite honest. I was going to be a lawyer. I took a year off after my undergraduate work to go work for American Airlines. One year off turned in to a 26 year stint! In 1993, AA formalized (training) their CARE Program and I was invited to attend the class, that was in 1993. From there we unfortunately experienced a number of accidents and I responded to each. I began to teach the program I had just taken. Later became the senior analyst and then the manager. I gave up the idea of being a lawyer as my passion was with emergency response.

DoYouQuarrelSir3 karma

Right after a crisis/disaster happens, what are the first initial steps you take as a crisis manager? Is there a checklist or to-do list you go through or some other procedure?

kenjenkins3 karma

Yes, we work through checklists. Not only did my team have checklists but other departments do as well. For example, Corporate Communications, Reservations, Safety, Flight and Flight (and many others) have various tasks to perform after notification of an event.

wernerkyle3 karma

Being in the business of crisis response and management, I have to imagine you've examined quite a wide variety of aviation disaster scenarios, both real and imaginary, in an effort to prepare yourself for any unsuspecting situation you may be faced with in your profession. With this in mind, I have to ask: any idea as to whatever happened to Amelia Earhart?

kenjenkins3 karma

Interesting question. I do think about Amelia Earhart and wonder if her aircraft will ever be found. I continue to think that with today's technology and advanced search and rescue processes, someone will find her.

TopicalTV3 karma

I've wanted to get into aircraft crash investigation for years. My Uni has a hands-on course for it, but without going back to school, how can I get in this field? 7 years in airframe structures and propulsion engineering.

kenjenkins1 karma

There are accident investigation courses available through the National Transportation Safety Board. I would start there.

sirderpingtonthe8th3 karma

Hi, ARFF fire fighter here. In the past few years ARFF vehicles manufactures have been pushing piercing tip nozzles to penetrate a fuselage and deliver agent into the passenger compartment. My opinion is that without being able to see what is on the other side you risk hitting a passenger or passengers. My question is have you been to any incidents where this has happened or that the usage of the piercer tip made a difference?

kenjenkins1 karma

I am not the best to answer that question as I am not a firefighter. However, I do agree with you that not being able to see what is on the other side of the fuselage would be of concern. An aircraft evacuation is suppose to be complete within 90 seconds of the evac being called. So that time frame would certainly have to be considered.

fastlaneinteractive3 karma

What is the most effective way to console someone who has lost a family member in a disaster? What do you say to them and how do you even begin the conversation? Are they usually angry? Thank you for being there for these people!

kenjenkins2 karma

The most effective way to console someone (in my opinion) is simply to let them experience the emotions they are experiencing. As a responder, our goal is to provide information and access to services with compassion and empathy. We should never discount or try to take away what someone is feeling. Personally, I feel empathy and validation are the most important crisis communication skills. Of course, listening and being comfortable with silence are also important.

billypmacdonald2 karma

Is there much PTSD in your line of work. If so, how do you deal with it?

kenjenkins3 karma

I wish I could answer that question for you. I do not know. I do know the airline family assistance teams provide various options with regards to mental health care, during and after the response. This goes a long way to mitigate the risk of PTSD. In addition, the team members are given hard copy information on symptoms of stress and what to do to combat the symptoms. All of these measures are to reduce the possibility of PTSD.

aerospacethrowaway2 karma

Do you have any opinions or comments you can make on Malaysia Airlines response to the MH370 and MH17 incidents?

Of particular interest to me is the cooperation with domestic and foreign agencies during a response to a complex incident.

kenjenkins2 karma

My only comment/thought on MH 370 is from the early days of the response. There seemed to be a huge disconnect between the airline and the government in terms of information shared with families. I am not sure where the disconnect came from. The families were caught in the middle when they should have been put at the front. I am a huge family advocate when it comes to being transparent with information. A number of high profiles accidents in the U.S. in the late 80's and early 90's drove the government to the ADFAA of 1996. My hope is other countries learn from the U.S. on importance of sharing information with those impacted.

aerospacethrowaway2 karma

I worked on a disaster response planning project in an aerospace context with the assistance of independent consultants that helped us with our risk assessment. In this project, the government holding jurisdiction (western but non-US) forced us to modify our risk assessment to artificially increase the risk of attack by disaffected individuals (terrorists) despite the risk assessment having been done using industry standard methodologies and appropriate data. The rumours at the time indicated that there was pressure being applied indirectly from the US government.

Have you had government agencies interfere in similar ways with your own planning? Do you have any experience you can share with how terrorism is treated differently in disaster planning compared with other risks?

kenjenkins2 karma

Thankfully, I have not had that happen. However, there have been times when the government (non-U.S.) impacted the overall response.

The following does not necessarily apply to your situation.

I mentioned earlier the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996. There are Federal guidelines airlines (and others) must follow in the aftermath of a commercial aviation accident. Up until that point, the airlines did not have any government guidance/input as how to respond in the area of family assistance. 9/11 was not an accident so the Act did not apply. However, most airlines still follow the Act guidelines because the guidelines are good response base. The FBI was in charge of the 9/11 response rather than the NTSB. The airlines impacted had not worked with the FBI from a response stand point before and initially created some challenges. Additionally, airlines that fly internationally have to be aware of the nuances of each country they fly in to when it comes to accident response. Another reason why ER managers have full time jobs.

wheat7111 karma

are you Bob Kelso?

kenjenkins2 karma

Unfortunately not! He is a good actor