Responses to Question
When using the critical aspects of communication, issuing warnings to the public and handling
inquiries from the public, these aspects are very important to ensure life and safety for all of
those around. In case of a HAZMAT incident, these aspects can be adjusted by relaying the
information in many different forms as oppose to just word of mouth. In this day and age,
technology has become such a normal way of life to include the use of social media. Many
federal agencies, to include the Department of Homeland Security have utilized social media as a
means of relaying information to those who need to be informed of possible threats. As an
Incident Commander, I would have be to able to know which methods I could used to relay
pertinent information to those who could possible be effected by a HAZMAT incident.
Each of the critical aspects of communication are necessary and very important when it comes to
incident response, but each of these aspects can also be harmful if not implemented correctly.
For example, if an Incident Commander does not provide accurate information during a public
inquiry, then this information can be detrimental to incident response as not the misinformation
can be relayed effectively. When issuing warnings to the public, if this information is delayed or
is not provided to the right demographic of people who can possible be effected, this can cause
for a lot of people to be injured or killed, which was evident during theTornado, Wichita Falls,
Texas, April 10, 1979 () when officials failed to put out warning bulletins and withheld warnings
until the last minute, because they felt that the inevitable panic would be almost as dangerous as
the disaster itself.
During a disaster or event, there are a lot of people who are involved in the recovery process as
well as the Incident Commander. The Incident Commander, who is essentially in charge of the
response operations, is not readily available at all times to talk to the media and share
information, so a Public Information Officer (PIO) is assigned. The Public Information Officer is
the conduit for information to internal and external stakeholders, including the media (FEMA,
n.d.). The PIO is responsible for researching, writing and editing various materials for media,
and presenting information for a state agency to the many different media platforms as well as
others who are not directly involved in the relief efforts. The PIO conducts tasks like maintains
contact with media by relaying information from the incident command staff, provide only
accurate and pertinent information to the public as they serve as the liaison between the incident
and the general public.
Disaster Response, (n.d.). “Chapter 9: Communicating with the Public”. APUS Library.
Retrieved from https://edge.apus.edu/access/content/group/security-and-global-studiescommon/EDMG/EDMG330/Week%205/Chapter09.pdf
Communications can make or break response efforts on any incident. Effectively communicating
with the public regarding risks and actions needed can be the difference between life and death
as was seen during Katrina. As we have seen in our readings this week two of the most important
components to examine when determining messaging is if the risk will be considered “less risky”
or “more risky” in the eyes of the audience (Sandman, 1986). If they determine the risk to be
higher (even if it is not) they will be more likely to take the messages to heart. These factors can
be adjusted for by crafting messaging that takes into consideration how individuals perceive the
risk. Know what factors make something riskier to the general population and addressing those
in the messaging can help ensure that individuals will take heed of what is being said. Also
ensuring there is a sense of equity and public involvement in the process will help with buy in.
These factors if not taken into consideration can definitely have a negative impact on how your
messaging is received. This is especially important with regards to hazardous materials incidents
where specific instructions may need to be relayed to impacted segments of the community.
Another component that can present issues to crisis messaging efforts is if the needs of socially
vulnerable segments of the community are not taken into consideration. Any time messaging
goes out accommodations should be taken to address the needs of these populations.
In any major incident one of the most important members of the ICS Command Staff is the
Public Information Officer (PIO). The Incident Commander will rely on the PIO to craft and
coordinate public communications through a variety of media outlets. They generally have the
contacts with media outlets and can obtain buy in from these groups. Finally, if the incident
becomes large enough and a Unified Command is instituted, PIOs from each jurisdiction or
involved agency can group together to ensure consistent messaging is going out to the public.
This will help reduce confusion and conflict in communication efforts.
Sandman, P. (1986). Explaining Environmental Risk: Dealing with the Public. TSCA Assistance
Office, Office of Toxic Substances, U.S. EPA.
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