A couple of weeks ago, Gerald Baron posted on an ongoing discussion about who does emergency notification. Is it the folks in Operations (with all of the cool gear) or the folks in the JIC (with their tiny laptops) whose job it is to give the public the very first warning that somethings up?
Our Ops folks have traditionally had the job of sounding the alarm bell. And at many levels, it makes sense. Your Operations staff are amongst the first activated, so they’re most likely to be responding when the notification needs to be sent. Besides which, Ops can coordinate the public’s movements to jive with their operations. The problem is that your public information folks sitting in the JIC will conduct all communications with the public aside from that initial notification. In fact, my favorite document in the whole world, the FEMA TCL, says that the public alert function should be done by the PIO.
Now, as much as this blog has focused on these types of issues, the whole issue is problematic. Many times this discussion revolves around issues of control and ego. I’m a communicator at heart, so my thought is that this role is primarily a public information role. I take pride in the work that we do and think we do it better than most. We should control the whole message. Operations folks probably believe the same. And you know what? If my IC pulls that function out of the JIC and gives it to the Ops folks, I’m going to wonder who she trusts more: them or me.
At the end of the day, though, the job needs to get done come ego, hell or high water. Hell and high water are more difficult to deal with, but ego can be worked on provided it gets worked on soon. Gerald thinks, and I agree, that the best way to handle that is to shorten the distance between the players. Public information needs to work closely with Ops. There is a legitimate blurring of their roles, so they should be able to pinch hit for each other. Besides which, the more interaction there is between Ops and public info, the more they can learn to trust each other.
And hopefully it’ll just be hell and high water between us.