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Role of the Public Information Officer (PIO)

Thu, 7 Jul 2011|

The new free training program from the Firefighters Support Foundation outlines the responsibilites of the public information officer and discusses media relations and more.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

By this purposes lectures on public information officer. And we wanna learn is to -- to establishing guidelines for fire departments flow of information between department. The news media and the general public. The actual covering this -- will be department's public information officer. As well as quite apart personnel cooperating -- fire diplomacy revenge. With the ability to deviate from the guidelines lies within the fire chief was appointed designate. The fart -- recognizes the needs. To deal effectively with the general public and the media the fought -- -- strive. To provide correcting factual information to the public and news media in a timely and impartial -- What -- responsibility to the public information officer. The PI out public information of is responsible for coordinating the flow of information concerning departmental policies and operations. -- are on the specifics because the specific statements concerning issues that could arise concerning to the plot -- Did the PIL will act as the main source of media contacts. To me it's the commander in May be responsible for the release -- the news. Information this emergency. But at no time will emerge the operation be compromised through -- -- the news information. The event of extremely newsworthy incident incident -- -- -- notified dispatch. The communications center and have a PIL public information officer. This back to the scene. This battle notified the BIL and it really advice of our other situation. The PIL report to the scene of all major incidents and coordinate all media information. -- does mentioning the PI don't get this factual major incidents let's look at that maybe it's good to see what they off. Any multi alarm fire incident involving industrial commercial occupancy fire is this -- on fatalities or serious injuries. Any incident involving multiple fatalities or serious injuries and made -- had his material emergency fund -- incident requiring major evacuation. Extended a complicated rescue operations. Any incident involving death -- seriously to -- fired upon personnel. All serious -- -- -- and fire vehicles are resulted injuries or fatalities. The civilians of fire personnel. Cirrus aircraft the railroad accidents. And it PIL all with the -- and the safety or thought we notified at any time. When supply -- this additional -- to be laid out to a fire situation. What's the PIL -- this -- he was spot that he is the command the command post. And -- to as the command up all the information that needs to be released. -- time to certain situations within media would like to talk to the first respond that first hand. Only all. -- a chain of command -- the PI outfit that released information. From for the kids in the command -- without first responder who go talk to the media but it must be gone completely following the chain of command. That is up to bid the fought. To make sure to maintain that -- chain of command at all situations. We don't have to have firefighters explaining to the public what the situation was what occurred. We've got train our firefighters to be careful what talking to -- the public. Where we're talking to the public and while we're talking to the public we don't need and partner information be released into. The media went out PIL and achievement the -- -- -- The PIL -- approval -- -- a fire chief prior to release and information. On internal investigations. Personnel matters as citizen complaints to the fire personnel or media representatives. If -- commanded a public information officer. It's of the commander shall be responsible for management of the public information on the fly ground. Any major incident. Likely to track news media shall be brought the attention abided by of the CIO but -- the command that they mentioned before up. And once it's one thing so what's happening is the command should be notified PI out. What practical and -- commander shall establish immediate effect there. And -- central office of central dispatch all this location. And there will -- to -- who knows me or news cameras -- reported go to one location. Not that applies -- in the -- operation. This ecumenical requested this be done be -- page and a group -- media faxes. At a multi jurisdiction agency incident. -- -- the Arab primary jurisdiction will be responsible for the coordination. A release information to the media. Members of the media all of the respond to a scene that normally would not required -- presence but PIL. In such case the incident command that -- be -- provided media briefing as soon as the command responsibilities. Permit. Why should department establishes a PIO office that they should have was called information released guidelines. And these guidelines to help you. -- dictate what it calls for the media information allegiance to the media should really only to the facts of the incident. No determination is that a cause or is -- -- be released. Question -- they think bush ever referred to the appropriate investigation agency. So maybe he's had a local fire Marshal summit county fire Marshall county Austin squads somehow the state police. All those questions -- go go to them directly. Under no circumstances. Should the names of fatalities -- the injured. Personally believe was authorized by the CIA out or appropriate investigation latency. You know while we don't want the media release and people's names but not Mexico king or relatives finding out there's been an injury or serious staff. I know Todd fired far personnel information be provided -- the news media. All the questions such information shall be merely referred to PI -- a chain of command. We don't want up without its -- so it's been a member of twenty years and uses his career is all about we want that information value analyst -- -- -- to go lieutenant command. And the -- department says yes she can do that. When the opinion of this the commander and as it results in what may be potentially controversial situation. The PI what would not have been notified immediately so -- -- gone on the incident commander thinks it is going to be. Pretty newsworthy. You must notify the if a representative of the news -- requesting interviews and information. From the farm personal at any time other than as described in the above situations. That we question -- be referred to the PI -- I think -- the chain of command so they're coming to -- -- -- -- on endorsing want to that the nation. Call -- PIO officer O'Grady chief for the Paul -- and today questions. Also all of BI thought talking about is on radio communications. When do we start talking -- releasing names and saying victims' names over the radio. To be stopped too also for the PI shows you how to get involved with -- procedures. On radio communications. This information is important we do not want that stuff being transmitted over a radio could look at the news media has radios in their cars and vehicles. The public has radios at home we don't want that information about personnel matters over the radio. Do not released the following information. And identity a victim of a sex crime. If you have to do any of mass market -- promised when he MS work he had involving a sex on -- released the name of victim over and over to the news media. The identity of a juvenile suspect you don't want the names of juvenile on the -- he is all out in the paper. The identity of other identifying information. There's a captured a football team or -- we don't want that information brought out. All and -- and he attempted suicide you know -- that information being brought out to the media. Stay in an operation procedures were written for -- response -- reaction. Pre fire action plans we don't we Calumet about -- immediate cause that's our. That's our information if they get the media they could try using the SS lawsuits so you gotta make sure that stuff -- and -- the fire department. And information on suspects who have been at the view but not charge. There have been times we go out -- thought to any investigation. I told that all citizens to not being charged for any crime is trying to get your information on this this -- Do not give out those names to the public elected to the news media the public does not need to know who those people law. Release of names as an -- biographical information evicted including mines is not restricted. No information on the identity of any critical -- -- or deceased precious W may prior to notification. -- -- a kid this is definitely have to keep to ourselves until we get get it we'll get to that Mexican and the person. Other people in the family we don't want -- we don't really get all these names. Individually that have identifiable health information obtained by fire department is confidential. That's on that it hit the laws we can't be going not tell everybody about solace by the patients to medical problems. By -- we cannot do that. And release of names of deceased person shall be handled but a primary responders. If the police department let them go -- and don't tell no -- -- the -- There's been a death in the firewall step by accident -- voted case might say. Is very important that the very early on makes arrangements. To guided me through vantage points to safely get coverage without -- -- of emergency operation. Failure to do will result -- free lance and by the media and we have numerous times where you turn around. -- how the media's coverage areas are set up got to block and the media sneaky minute -- get good footage. You need to set up a good relationship. And show on this is the area where we've been setting up having news conferences and news briefs. In a large scale operation. In May require immediate -- to be set up in the staging area. Or other locations where transportation to the incident site -- arranged by the PI now. Are we might be used in city buses you have down a block -- this large scale incident. We don't need him coming up thereby they Hazmat incident we'll have the bosses have the media sect is set up down a road. While buses transported back and -- this all set up by the PI go. -- have seen him of the event of a public entries. Representatives at a news -- -- permitted to conduct interviews take photographs otherwise perform their assigned tasks. Provided that the actions and not violation that he but the guidelines that you established and you departments and so geez. -- revise such activities not dispute the -- -- and operations. -- you know a lot of that there was certain things just long that I -- -- -- -- our operation. And fought tough photograph. Videotapes maybe take it from areas but -- news media have been given access. Bodies the commander of the PI out once they -- this it's okay that you actually starts not taken pictures with the cameras and no video machines. There are -- -- the news of his Amazon has seen evidence that will include any areas open to the public. Any designated area set aside for news -- briefings you have that was set the area would -- briefing to be a card. Any area -- which -- news media representatives. -- provide guided access by the PI out as -- command or his designate. News media representatives shall be permitted to interview victims of an incident. Who have considered consented to such didn't -- provide so that if Republicans. Parsons says yes we'll be interviewed -- in Newsweek interview that the that if the public. The victim is -- undergoing medical attention if the person not on medicines and coherent could talk. The PI out should grant them up -- to talk to the media. The victim appears to be able to make sound decisions. Once again. I would be able to -- is not upset. Severely injured -- mostly distort the last -- you need is that person with a bloody gang have been and it is hanging out all over the place and a news media talking to them. Armed at the victim decides not to be interviewed the media represented should be -- so of the of the public says look I don't be involved with this. I don't think -- viewed the PI I was responsible tell the news media that -- not to be anything used today with his victim. We've talked so far up public information the role of public information officer in the importance of public information -- -- C. -- -- to talk about now is more along the strategic planning site. How -- we planned for an address the needs of the media. And the needs -- district really distributing information during prime crisis. -- mapping is the process. That we're to talk about it's the process of creating a play books that we have a strategic plan of how we're going to. Collect data and process data and issue verified validated information. Two media and other stakeholders. As first responders we do quite a bit to prepare for response. We do drills we. Just go to class as we study we process. Si management's that we understand. What we might face in time of crisis. The same thing for public information. The emergency management discipline requires that we focus on. Building strategic plans to address the problem concerns that we're going to face in time crisis. Public information officers do the same thing they have to plan and prepare for. What they could expect as far as media inquiries. And other stakeholder requests for information. During an emergency. The first thing obviously is to define. Who our stakeholders. We can look at YouTube or any online video and find examples of where public information has going Iraq. The officer who is not prepared at the time offer -- requests for information from the media or is bombarded by media with. Hundreds of questions and 32 time -- We also can find really good examples of personnel who are well trained -- had the cancers before they ever got in front of the media because they knew what data they needed to collect. We're gonna go over some steps that we can plan for and build almost a script. Of what information is needed -- how to go about collecting the information. So that we can get the information to get the story out to the media to meet their deadlines. And meet our operational requirements could remember the media can also be used to help us manage the C. And the community's reaction to crisis. Who -- some of the stakeholders in public information. The responders and their families families want to know what's going on the larger the -- that the more I disconnected families may -- from their loved ones -- they're going to want that. Our regulatory agencies -- world who are going to want to know what's going on -- what timeframe. Citizen groups who have feel that they have a stake in what's going on obviously I that the economy of the community or bomb. Somehow they're involved are fielder involved in the answer that whether you believe they are not is not important their perception. Media parents especially where children are involved in environments that they believed were safe. Parents for example respond to schools because they heard school -- -- -- lock down. Or because they might hurt a fire -- a school when it was simply an alarm system having a methodology to deliver. That information to the parent so that they're less stressed arriving at the C would only make your job better. Public in general has a need for information especially if we start managing traffic control -- are we look at disrupted community activities. And the last obviously is elected leadership. Policy -- and elected leadership wanna know what their personnel -- don't. Because they're also getting questions from people they're getting phone calls I need to know how to effectively respond. -- strategic planning tool for public information officers is message mapping it provides an integrated structure to determine. What information is needed and the process for collecting it. It also has core content forty developed. Parts of the incident in a calm environment that we keep control the message that we're putting out. Watch the words that were using and be more clear and concise and our delivery. We provide the we then can interact with the PIO at a time before an incident when we have the time. To research to allies. To practice together so that the PI go and -- command officers are prepared. Four. Media are onslaught of all the stakeholders asking for information when you're trying to manage operations. I do want to point out that much of the information and I'm providing. Is was created message not message mapping of the concept was created by Vincent -- -- Who is Ph.D. out of the center for risk communications in New York City. Additional information can be found at the senator's website. There are three goals to message mapping. To organize information in easily understood process. To make sure we have a framework that. Is understood by all. To express. The -- organizational few points. I want to focus on important issues and questions and concerns. Particularly. The concerns of the incident commander. And the third is to promote open dialogue both inside and outside the organization. Part of thing we have to remember it's in many jurisdictions the particularly as incidents grow in size. And become more regional public information might be a shared responsibility. Or might be delegated. To different jurisdictional authorities. So you think the message map format mistake about a standard how far. You're you're responding at 3 o'clock in the morning to a structure fire standard residential structure. And so we're going to. Create the map for residential structure far. The title the -- quite big single fire. Residents of single family dwelling residential fire initial suppression. So we know that the timeframe for this is during that initial period of response and suppression. And don't think media may not show up -- that same time you're -- it may happen. The stakeholders for this for the general public. People are going to be seeing this first thing in the morning. The elected leadership may be who's going to want information. I want your response and what we did. Particularly as council members are solicitor show up at 3 in a morning because they live nearby. Questions or concerns. Won't what are the first confirmed in standard structure residential structure. How many apparatus do you have one C. Home. They may ask you did everyone get out of -- Have you contacted anyone to help these people because now -- displaced are they even displaced. How many children were involved. These are some of the questions that may come up. One of the other concerns that might come up is this a key influence or your community. Is the mayor's house is. A board member of one of the boards and influential boards on the City Council -- all questions that should be there and be prepared for. Next the overarching message what is the over -- 27 worked with the overarching message. Well. City fire department responded. -- this alarm at 3 AM. Everyone was evacuated. No fatalities. We're in suppression operations now. You're within 27 words. You've gotten all the points that you needed to get out three critical elements that you then -- message map further wrong. Key message number one that I -- is we Reese is we responded. Because obviously especially in a small community. It not time to do to get to that seen as critical. Department responded within three minutes to the alarm. Good message. The second message is that everyone was evacuated and there were no injuries. Not as critical as the first certainly an important message. You may argue whether that should be the last message -- the middle message. The third -- -- The city fire department is involved in suppression operations now and we anticipate that the -- will be under control shortly. Were active and involved and we're here. Are the messages -- that the point that you're giving out -- out. You're supporting facts can come from the job itself. When you first arrived. Obviously you're doing your size up -- going to determine what was the occupancy and is the occupancy evacuated. You're going to initiate surprise rescue and suppression operation. It's critical responsibilities on that initial response. And you're gonna collect that data at your command post -- the back here vehicles that you have this information prepared for whatever -- coming won't. Imagine if you have a form to write this information down our cue card and be able to hand -- all. To an officer or individual can have the media for -- -- training the media for you. Collection of that information is that's and when that quick. What you see on this slide is a standard format for building a message not. You could see across the top we want to put what the overall map this war was a topic we're trying to address. Following that -- titled the map so that we know not just what it's for but -- know at what time frame. We'll see then the stakeholders who was at that we're trying to address. And will also address questions and concerns that might come -- this is important. We know what types of questions media might ask we -- for example they may want to know. The number of apparatus responded -- alarm is the fire. How many people are displaced are involved was anyone killed or injured. What time with it dispatched. We can build those general questions are concerned right there -- that we know why we've focused on these three. Our key messages below. Next you'll see the key message points 12 in the race. Key message number one is the most important message that we want to get out. Remember that each of these three messages are going to be broken into -- second sound -- 27 works. That's very important remember nine seconds and 27 worked for each of these messages that the time that you have to get your point across. The first message is going to be the most important. The second message will be the least important and the third message will be the second most important. Why so that we're leaving them with information. And relieving -- with a focus. Following the interview are following the announcement. You'll see that right before that we're going to put our supporting information what facts do we know and again these are validated verified facts. That we know that we want to get across or that created the message. The supporting information facts also below that make sure that that information is there because. As the media ask you questions. You want to get back on message and the way to do that is to know what it is you want to deliver. And also the supporting facts that go with each of the messages that ask questions -- asked you were able to follow up. With individual media inquiries are concerns. -- nine seconds 27 words. Quite simply because anything more than that is subject at it. You need to get your point out within those nine seconds and 27 words are run the risk of the important part of your message being added it. Opera time constraints within the story when it runs on the local news. This reinforces why we're doing this message mapping. Nine seconds 27 words is a very limited space to get your major points across. By practicing and building their strategic message and this process will be able to do that and you'll be ahead of the game. To be more specific goal in this format the title of the map is to address. What it is where we're focusing on also though the timing when is it best to issue this -- when we focused on these three points. That's the second thing is stakeholders. We really do need to understand who our stakeholders will be for this message so that we can. Build the message according to who the receiver is. Remember most people don't do fire suppression -- rescue operations and have no idea. Of the terminology we may use so it gives us an opportunity to select our terminology. Based on the receiver not the sender of the message. Questions or concerns. Is the other section that the -- of the data sources that the audience may want it also focuses on predictability. We really do now when you go research online the hundred standard questions that a journalist collapsed. So that we know which of these questions may come relevant in time of an emergency whether it be a car accident. A fire a -- whatever response operation were involved and there's a series of standard questions that the media is going to want to know. We can build message maps to address those common requests. Under questions -- concerns we -- identify subject matter experts to help us collector have information. Stored -- prepared a good example would be. In a pandemic emergency public health can assist us in building our message maps. If war EMS service is going to be involved in transporting. Those that are -- are reported with flu like symptoms so that we can start to assist in getting information out. Also it allows us to sort our concerns. Into manageable chunks. And that's very important. We -- building messages that are concise. Brief and clear to the point. We want to develop three key elements are points of information for concise in his. We want to deliver each of these that no more than nine seconds and we wanna make sure that we use no more than 27 words. For the entire set of messages. They need to be written to a sixth or eighth grade level. So that we make sure that what works sending out with information is readily reasonably understood. For example. We can build a message map for. -- fatality at a fire. We know the media is going to want to know the name of the individual which we just learned we don't wanna give out but they're still gonna want information. We know that they're gonna -- -- the age of the individual or relative age. What were the conditions -- environment that the individual might have expired. We know that they're going to ask who rescued the individual what were the circumstances around that they're looking for stories they're looking for information. No comment doesn't work as a matter of fact no comment we'll simply extend the period that they're seeking information. So let's have managed controlled information available. We know that an individual past -- in the fire we are researching now the individual's name and identity. The individual's age appears to be. Older we were ugly woman young child what whatever -- -- and you may not want to issue that information that is subjective to your community. We know that we can say yes she was rescued by this fire department. Or the other fire department. We know that we can say. EMS worker relatively on the individual -- but unfortunately -- not able to revive the individual. -- is currently working on the individual and she's being transported to the hospital as we speak. Whatever the situation calls for very concise very specific and the points we want to get out as individuals rescued -- recovered. What are we doing with them now. And who -- the individuals that address. I wanna leave you -- two thoughts. The first is an emergency. Our future and responders may hang on a -- work. Provided by someone in authority. As we face the fateful decision this was said by -- communication expert. On March up fish off. Of the Washington Post and there'll never -- -- The second thought that I want to leave you with the media that distribution system. They need to collect information and send it out to the public. Content is important to them. We want to make sure that we partner with the media prefer -- before an event. To make sure that that trust and -- is there so that we can give them informed the validated information. And they don't go seek information from alternate sources which may or may not be credible to our -- We've talked an awful lot about standard operating guidelines for public information we talked about the strategic planning that goes on in delivering information. How we pick a PI. But it's actually a really good question picking a public information officer is not. Like picking someone to make entry. Public information officers have to be specifically trying eight. To deliver the message we want deliver and deliver the information that we need delivered in a matter that. Projects authority. Responsibility. And integrity. We need a public information officer that looks the part but we also need one that is well trained. And understanding what the media's needs are what all the stakeholders need to our. And how to. Build these message -- how to look for this strategic information. In some jurisdictions the public information officer for all department comes out of the administrator or mayors office. In other jurisdictions each department may have -- own public information officer. In smaller towns it may be the chief that handles all those functions. The fact of the matter is we need to understand that we're taking a -- public information officer. That we need to take the training and build an understanding. So that when we're in front of the camera or when we're addressing the community. We're doing so with integrity and honesty we're doing it with authority and we're projecting. That confidence that's needed so that the public feels good about the information be provided is real and factual. I would focus on a public information officer for all emergency operations. That has experience in front of -- camera. That hasn't maybe had experience in talking to community organizations. Public speakers are available you may have public speakers in your community that are educators. That our politicians that are retarded looking for a -- to stay involved in her community. You may have firefighters that are well tree. The point of the matter is the find an individual that -- those three criteria. That hot and understanding of the environment that you're operating -- -- as firefighters and inspired leadership. And also understands the other side the needs of the media and the stakeholders for information. And can work that balance. So that we're getting good information out. We're keeping the public in the stakeholders informed as we need to -- and at the same time we're not interfering with operations. And blocking. Our success -- emergencies. It is important point out that under the incident command system the public information officer whether he's operating out the mayor's office when -- -- the matter. Whether it's the joint operating out of a joint information -- -- or out of an emergency operations and are even on the -- grounds. The public information officer is part of the command staff his message and his activities. Are accountable to the incident commander -- C. That half the -- the IC have to control the messages that are going out. To make sure that they're verified and factual also to look for trends and patterns of the information that's being requested. Whether your small or large department. Situation may even dictate that you have a public information officer. You may know how a career season trained information officer available. But you want someone to to address the media and to delegate that responsibility. -- -- step off to an information officer. -- -- well it really starts before the event like any operation. You have a firefighter that is directly from central casting. The perfect build the home looks just right -- -- whatever -- right out of central casting -- -- formally trained you may not use them all the time. Where can you gotta get training there's a variety of places. Your office of emergency management at the state -- county level -- have training courses available for public information officers. FEMA has courses available through the national emergency training -- There's also -- curriculums that are available to assist you in building that confidence in front of the camera and how to work with an affect communications. For your department.

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