Home > BLOG 3, Crisis Communication, Uncategorized > Blog 3: FEMA and Crisis Communication

Blog 3: FEMA and Crisis Communication

You can’t separate FEMA and crises. Google “FEMA and crisis,” and you get more than 6.5 million returns. The federal government created the agency to respond to disasters — or crises. The way the agency responds is through action…and communication. In that sense, there is no difference between FEMA training and the principles of crisis communication. It’s one and the same.

The role of a public information officer (PIO) at FEMA is the apex of a career in crisis communication — from the earliest stages of communicating risk…

…to full blow responses to catastrophic disasters…

The similarity between FEMA’s training for a PIO and the teachings of crisis communication both boil down to a simple truth: get accurate information out to stakeholders in the most efficient and timeliest way possible. The theory learned in the classroom says that approaching a crisis in this way saves lives. FEMA can back that theory up with practice.

The FEMA training for PIOs adds an additional layer of professionalism to crisis communication training. It walks trainees through step-by-step of specific roles for crisis communicators — even laying out a system for multiple PIOs to work in a Joint Information System, and instructions on how a Joint Information Center should be established.

A Joint Information Center (JIC) is a place that's set up where multiple PIOs can work to communicate coordinated messages to stakeholders.

The best way to think of FEMA certification in disaster response communication, is that it’s the tree. Crisis communication theory is a forest. FEMA training is detailed and specific to disaster; while crisis communication theory is a broad, general overview of how to handle unexpected events.

  1. October 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Good final thought. You are correct that the crisis communication book and theories give us a broad overview of crises and communication, while the FEMA information (and the CDC book) are the specific, applied versions of that information. For communicators, it is good to have both.

    Those people in the Deepwater Horizon press conference look happy, eh?

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