The FEMA public information systems training is a type of training that ties in perfectly with the University of Missouri’s Crisis Communication course. Thus far into the semester we have learned many common practices that FEMA’s training focuses on. Examples of these include the importance of establishing a common message, staying consistent , and communicating to the public messages of importance. FEMA’s training covers the information we have covered but at points takes us even deeper in understanding how to reach these goals.
One of the main means to reach these goals is through what FEMA calls a Joint Information System aka a JIS. As depicted below there are multiple individuals or organizations dealing with the same crisis or situation. While they may not be in the same location it is important that they are all communicating and remaining on the same page. Some carry on the role of a PIO, operating the JIC, or a spokesperson (all of which are also described in the graphic below). Through the constant communication with each other, the media, and the public they are able to send out a message that is consistent and factual. To confirm truth behind the message, PIOs are constantly following the media’s outputs to make sure what is being said is valid. Just as in Crisis Communication, a truthful and dependable message is the goal of those working in the midst of a crisis.
As previously mentioned, the JIS must send out a message to the public that is consistent and factual. Another component of the message is making sure what is said will not unnecessarily alarm the public. These goals are reached through similar goals we have learned about in Crisis Communication. In FEMA’s words, they are reached through gathering, verifying, coordinating, and disseminating information. To gather a deeper understanding as to what occurs in each of these phases refer to the graphic below.
Lastly, FEMA also recapped the importance of planning ahead. In class we have learned that it is extremely important to prepare for a crisis because while crises may not be expected they are inevitable. With all of this information from FEMA public information systems in addition to what we have learned in class, it is easy to understand the importance of communication in a crisis or situation. But more importantly it is easy to understand the importance of how to communicate in a crisis or situation.
FEMA’s public information systems training does fit with our class understanding of a crisis/ disaster communication. The training covers what to do in a crisis situation and the different branches that are a part of the NIMS public information system. NIMS, which is the National Incident Management System, says that public information consists of the processes, procedures, and systems for communicating timely, accurate, and accessible information on:
- An incident’s cause, size, and current situation
- Resources committed
- Other matters of general interest to the public, responders, and additional stakeholders (both directly and indirectly affected)
This training has provided additional information to what we have covered so far.
For example, we were introduced to the concepts of a JIS and a JIC.
The JIS is the joint information system, and it provides mechanisms to organize, integrate, and coordinate information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible, and consistent messaging across multiple juristictions and/ or disciplines.
The JIC is the joint information center, and it is the pysical location where the JIS operates and it is used to coordinate:
- Critical emergency information
- Crisis communications
- Public affairs
Below is a picture of the Missouri River Joint Information Center
I just recently finished the FEMA training for NIMS and was surprised by the way that it related to what our Crisis Communication class.
NIMS, or the National Incident Management System is the system used for bringing multiple parties together in order to solve a crisis or emergency. It is what is used when the local group by itself will not work. I was surprised by how it related to our class for a number of reasons.
I was always curious as to how an issue like the terrorist attack of 9/11 was handled in the aftermath. We are learning how to deal with crises in class, but so far our dealing have either been with a small incident, or a large incident attributed to one company or organization. I was always confused as to what happened when there would be a large scale crisis with multiple organizations involved.
NIMS showed exactly what was to happen. Much like the ICS, NIMS lays out a very specific plan of action and hierarchy that allows communication through the system to be very easy and effective. NIMS takes everything that we have learned thus far, and blows it up to a larger scale.
This FEMA training for NIMS applies directly to what we have been learning because it is just the next step. Once someone has learned about the Incident Command System, the next progression is to think bigger and move to a larger scale through NIMS. I took the training and became certified, and so should everybody else.
After completing the FEMA Public Info Systems Training, I felt that it corresponded very well with what we have learned in class about crisis/disaster communication.
How are the they the same?
- Communicate during a crisis to internal and external stakeholders
- Coordinate with Federal, state, tribal, and local governments
- Must be well developed and effective when communicating evacuation routes, measures to save lives, potential threats, etc
- Communication must be timely and efficient
FEMA’s Public Information Systems Training also gives people the knowledge of how to respond to a crisis as well as the proactive steps they should take in order to prepare for a crisis or disaster. We have also learned about this in class, and our team press conference allowed us to put what we have learned to the test. We have learned that it is very necessary for everyone in a company or organization to be on the same page as far as what needs to be done when a crisis occurs. This video shows how FEMA prepares a school for possible crises.
Though most of the information provided by the Public Info Systems Training is knowledge we have already gained from our crisis communication class, I did learn some additional information about how this system is split up. There are 3 parts:
- Public Information Officers (PIO’s)
- Join Information Systems (JIS)
- Join Information Center (JIC)
*The PIO’s, unlike members of public relations departments, must communicate during crisis in a more limited fashion because they are guided by government and law.
*The JIS organizes the message sent to the public during a crisis. They ensure consistency across all of the necessary jurisdictions. They deal with planning, protocols, procedures, and structures for public information.
*The JIC is the central location that holds the JIS. This is where the JIS performs their emergency communications to the public and other stakeholders.
In conclusion, the training provided much of the already known information from our crisis communication class, however, I feel that there is always something more to learn about preparing and responding during a crisis. Because this job is so vital, one can never acquire enough information on how to complete the role efficiently.
The question at hand is if FEMA’s public information system training is prevalent in the things that we have already learned in class. The answer to that question is yes, and it expanded my knowledge of how to communicate with the public before, during, and after a crisis. The point is to get accurate understandable information to the public in a timely manner.Seeing how a PIO is part of the Incident Command Team, having someone as a public information officer, could have been better prepared when doing our mock press conferences.
The role of the PIO:
1 Identify the key information that needs to be communicated to the public.
2. Craft messages, conveying key information that are clear and easily understood by all including those with special needs.
3. Prioritize messages to ensure timely delivery of information without overwhelming the audience.
4. Verify accuracy of information through appropriate channels.
5. Disseminate messages using the most effective means available.
By having this information we can better understand the protocol and how to deal with the media and pubic. By having someone on your team who is an advocate for the community, you will be able to put out better information for the people who live in your region and not be off guard to what the people want and need. Other substantial tips that were on the training is thing that you need to do now to be ready, where you improve outputs, systems, logical factors, and human factors. I thought it had some valuable tips that help to be ready for any crisis that you may come against. The last thing I deemed important is NIMS goals through the incident, gathering, verifying, coordinating, and disseminating information.
In an emergency it is important that all levels of government and emergency services respond quickly and efficiently. According to FEMA the National Incident Management System or NIMS
provides a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life and property and harm to the environment.
This weeks FEMA training touched on many things that we have discussed in class, including how PIO’s or Public Information Officers should handle stakeholders involved in a crisis and how to coordinate messages and information within an organization. This training also showed us new ways on how to handle public information during and after an incident.
Many of the things that we learned in class were reiterated in the FEMA training course. This includes making no promises about what may come and making sure that the public receives correct and factual information. They also talked about having a plan for every situation and using the media and technology to your advantage. I definitely feel like there was a lot of crossing over of information between what we have discussed in class and the FEMA training.
One of the things that was new to me in the training was the “cycle of disseminating information”. The gathering, verifying, coordinating, and disseminating stages of the cycle are a very good idea and should be implemented in all scenarios. The setting up of the Joint Information center was also new. I think JIC’s are a very good idea because they allows for a central working facility, pooled resources of other services and PIO’s, more PIO’s in one place for a greater source of knowledge and expertise in one place, and it gives people a visible place to get information. I think that more people in the general public should have to take the FEMA training courses.
The FEMA public information training fits very well with what we have been covering in this course. It repeated some things that were discussed in class so far and introduced some new ideas.
One thing that the course went over that we have been discussing is the importance of having a spokesperson. This was something that we have discussed several times, with the CDC module, textbook, and now with NIMS. It is important to have a key spokesperson to avoid confusion and to make sure the right message is getting out to the stakeholders. Another thing that we have gone over is staying on the same page. Ways of doing this include; speaking about your own program only, developing 1 or 2 key messages, and coming up with rhymes and acronyms.
Some things that FEMA went into detail on that we did not discuss as much in class were the PIO, JIS and JIC. The PIO (public information officer) is in charge of keeping track of messages by gathering, verifying, coordinating, and disseminating them.
The JIS (joint information system) is the actual system used to coordinate information and integrate all parties involved. The JIC (joint information center) is the actual location where parties come together to gather ideas and messages.
I think that the FEMA training was a helpful addition to this course and helped me realize that the things we’ve been going over in class are real and are used during “real life” disasters.