Disaster Stylebook

In anticipation of the upcoming tenth anniversary of the
9/11 attacks, the Associated Press has done something I’ve never heard
of: developed and released what folks are calling a “situational
stylebook.” Dubbed the Sept. 11 Style and Reference
Guide
,
the AP has compiled a list of terms (including pronunciation) that
reporters may use in their stories about the event, in addition to a
full account of all related events from 8:00 a.m. until 5:25 p.m.

What. A. Resource.

Normally something this cool would be enough, but I had a thought. Why
don’t we do this as PIOs? Now this obviously isn’t for everyone and
every emergency. But for those long-term responses? Think public
health emergencies or wildland fires or oil spills. Something that’s
going to go on for days, weeks, months and has lots of confusing
terms, spellings and pronunciations. There are names to remember,
players that may be difficult to sort out and critically important
timelines.

And really? How difficult would that be? A two-page document that
gives the history of your emergency. That allows reporters and
bloggers and the public to get it right the first time, no matter at
what point in the story they’ve become interested.

A disaster stylebook, if you will. You’ve probably already got all of
the information you need to put one together. Now, just remember to
post it to your Media
webpage
.

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5 thoughts on “Disaster Stylebook

  1. What a great idea! Some things – the wildfire example comes to mind first for me, of course – could be done up in advance generically. Terminology, definitions, pronunciations, and the like could be done well in advance, and supplemented by incident specific information, be it community names, street names, victims/witnesses/public safety officials, including ICS positions. Even a fire that just goes into a second operational period would be a great candidate, and even “routine” incidents would benefit from pre-publication of the “generic” definitions/glossary/pronunciation guide. Kind of a (very) mini-version of the “academy” that some FDs and PDs are lettiing reporters attend. What a great tool for the media – and the public – and what better way to help ensure that accurate information gets out there. I’ll be promoting this idea heavily… Great thoughts, John!

  2. Man, wish I could edit earlier comment – saw I wrote John instead of Jim just as I was hitting “send.” So sorry…. I know better!

  3. Very smart idea. Would be great to have a multi-agency stylebook for some events. Think FEMA, State Govt, Red Cross, etc.

  4. Thanks so much for stopping by, Carrie! It seems like such a simple idea, and so easy to prepare beforehand, it's almost silly that we haven't done it yet. -Jim

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