Who Handles Information During a Disaster?
As emergency managers we are tasked with preparing for large incidents, responding to them and helping our communities recover after they occur. More specifically, as Public Information Officers (PIOs or public affairs personnel) we are the handlers of information that flows in and out of our Emergency Operations Center (EOC). We often are charged with receiving and vetting information, creating messaging and making sure crucial information gets to our communities. Information might include where emergency shelters are, evacuation orders or where you can find potable water and food.
We have a saying in emergency management, “never exchange business cards during a disaster.” To ensure that doesn’t happen, we brought together local and state PIOs to discuss how we develop and share information with the public during an emergency. In San Francisco, we coordinate this through Emergency Support Function #15: the Joint Information System (JIS) plan. The JIS provides a framework for how we’ll communicate with our partners and the public in the City after an emergency.
We not only wanted to discuss how we’d work together within this framework, but we also wanted to learn about each other’s capabilities and resources. It’s important to get an idea of what we can really expect from one another in an emergency. This workshop was the first in a series leading up to our annual Fleet Week disaster response exercise that we conduct with the local first responders, state and federal emergency officials, and the military. This year we’ll review how to setup Field Care Clinics, request mutual aid from the state and work with federal capabilities and assets following M 7.9 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault.