Home > BLOG 3, Crisis Communication > BLOG 3: Public Information System FEMA Training

BLOG 3: Public Information System FEMA Training

The FEMA Public Information System’s training fit in a lot with our class discussion of crisis. Specifically, the phases of emergencies and crisis from the CDC Modules. Just about every phase in the system matched up with something that a public information officer did in the FEMA training. The main responsibilities of a public information officer included: providing accurate information to the public, providing that accurate information in clear, concise way, prioritizing messages for the public, verifying information through appropriate channels, and disseminating messages correctly. All very similar to what needs to be done by crisis communicators during the initial and maintenance phases of a crisis.

This video clip gives a good representation of the job of  Public Information Officer, especially the confusion and need for information that typically categorizes this phase: 

According to the FEMA training, before a crisis occurs, crisis organizations have to develop a relationship with the news media, build relationships (foster alliances), gather resources including a to-go kit (be prepared), etc. This is similar to what we learned about in the pre-crisis phase of the Crisis life cycle.

Finally, the resolution phase in the crisis life cycle is categorized by making sure that a crisis does not happen with the same magnitude through public policy and pubic education. Also, the crisis organization needs to make sure it met all its goals for response and recovery as well as asking audiences and stakeholders about what could be done for next time. This is similar to the job of PIO’s after a crisis as they have to find out whether their audiences got the right information, did the media get the right information, was response and recovery handled correctly, and were their problems with miscommunication and confusion.

One of the concepts of the FEMA training that could add onto our knowledge of crisis communication is the Joint Information System and Joint Information Center. According to the FEMA training the JIS is system designed to develop, coordinate, and send out information and strategies for the public, stakeholders, and crisis responders to an incident.

Likewise, the Joint Information Center is a physical location where crisis commanders can meet to coordinate and disseminate their messages and strategies during a crisis. A JIC allows for a controlled, unified environment where each crisis organization can pool their resources, in a safe environment, where they can have the strength of numbers to organize the crisis and become a source of information.

Public Information Officers and organizations are always the main sources of information during a crisis and they need to be the people that the media and those directly involved with the crisis go for information. As we have learned so far, there is a lot of pressure to properly give the correct messages during a crisis but if an organization is well-prepared, aligned with the media in a respectful, helpful and concise in their information given to the public, and aware of their mistakes to fix for future crisis, public information officers are valuable individuals to seek out during a crisis.

  1. October 26, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Good post. Very thorough. And good overview of the topics. Nice use of video. Next time I teach this class I am going to have students view some of these example press conferences before we do our mock press conference in class. I think this will be helpful.

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