Home > BLOG 3, Crisis Communication > Blog Post 3: FEMA and More

Blog Post 3: FEMA and More

The FEMA public information systems training developed my knowledge of how to communicate both before, during, and after a crisis. According to FEMA, “The National Incident Management Systems or NIMS  provides the foundation needed to ensure that we can work together when our communities and the Nation need us the most.”  NIMS integrates best practices into a comprehensive and standardized framework that is flexible enough to be applicable across the full spectrum of potential incidents, regardless of size, cause, location, or complexity.  The main idea is to be able to be completely prepared in any type of situation whether big or small. NIMS was created after September 11th, in order to create a standardized preparedness and response team.

This training and information fits into our class’s understanding of crisis and communication in a number of ways. It has expanded on our information of the Incident Command in regards to the public information aspect, it also gives us more information on how to deal with the media and how to communicate with the public, as well as explaining how to use the Joint Information System and Joint Information Center when a crises does come into play.

Under the Incident Command System (ICS) that we learned about previously comes the role of the Public Information Officer, who is a key staff member that makes up the command staff which provides the information matters relating to the management of the Incident.  Their key responsibilities according to FEMA include:

  • Identify key information that needs to be communicated to the public.
  • Craft messages conveying key information that are clear and easily understood by all, including those with special needs.
  • Prioritize messages to ensure timely delivery of information without overwhelming the audience.
  • Verify accuracy of information through appropriate channels.
  • Disseminate messages using the most effective means available.

Organization chart showing Command Staff (consisting of Public Information Officer, Safety Officer, and Liaison Officer) and General Staff (consisting of Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration Sections)

The next component that includes the PIO’s is the Joint Information System (JIS).  The JIS ranges from two PIOs talking on the phone about an incident to many PIOs from many agencies working from several locations, all working to ensure clear and accurate information is going to the public. According to FEMA:

The Joint Information System (JIS):

  • Provides the mechanism to organize, integrate, and coordinate information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible, and consistent messaging across multiple jurisdictions and/or disciplines with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.
  • Includes the plans, protocols, procedures, and structures used to provide public information.

Graphic showing advantages of Joint Information System (JIS) (represented by on-scene PIO, agency executives and spokespersons, and other levels of government) speaking with one voice. JIS coordinates messages, reduces conflicting information, instills public confidence/trust, and improves resource efficiency.

The Joint Information Center is the actual operating location where PIOs can gather and make sure there is cohesion. Benefits include

  • A central working facility where PIOs can gather. Whether it is a small office, the corner of a command center, or a pre-established facility with multiple phone lines, computers, and media-monitoring resources, a JIC makes coordination easier by bringing PIOs together.
  • Pooled resources. A JIC offers more access to resources than possible in the field using a go kit.
  • Strength in numbers. When more PIOs are working together there is a greater opportunity to make use of individual PIO talents. PIOs can focus attention on specific activities, rather than having to “do it all.”
  • Safety. Working out of a JIC provides a measure of safety not afforded to PIOs working alone in the field. The JIC is also a central location for families and others to check in and make contact with PIOs working the incident.
  • Recognized source. The JIC is the recognized source for the news media to get official information.

Finally, we learned about how the PIOs deal with getting the information to the public and dealing with the media.  The process of getting information out is an ongoing cycle that involves four main steps that include gathering information, verifying information, coordinating information, and disseminating information.

Graphic showing continuous 4-step process of getting information to the public:  Gathering, Verifying, Coordinating, Disseminating.

As far as the media is concerned, the PIOs are making sure that they watch what the media is saying, make sure that they are receiving a coherent message from FEMA.  Also, they have to make sure this is done in a timely fashion.

Overall, this training fits into our class as far as crisis and communication are concerned, because it deals with new aspects of public information for before, during, and after a crisis.  Also, it helps to understand the different ways to communicate with FEMA during a crisis.

If you would like to know anymore information about NIMS or FEMA here is a link: http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/

  1. October 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Nice post. Very comprehensive. The formatting and use of graphics was very good. Made the post look nice. Good work.

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