At The Incident Scene, Who Handles Media Inquiries?
In an emergency, the public must understand what’s happening. A Public Information Officer (PIO) or Public Relations Officer (PRO) can be dispatched to handle media inquiries.
After arriving on the scene, an incident commander (IC) develops an Incident Action Plan based on tactical priorities. Using the acronym RECEO VS+RIT, an IC prioritizes the hazards that need to be addressed in an incident and assigns resources accordingly.
Public Information Officer
When a major incident occurs, the Public Information Officer on the scene handles media inquiries. This is a critical position and requires extensive training. You will work closely with the Incident Commander to communicate the event’s details and ensure that the media understands all aspects of the incident.
This position is responsible for releasing official press releases, fact sheets, and other materials regarding the incident to local media outlets. They also provide updates to the news media and work with other agencies to coordinate interviews and press conferences.
These professionals are on-call 24/7 to answer media requests. They typically work in a governmental department and act as the agency’s spokesperson.
Many PIOs have bachelor’s degrees in communications, journalism, or public relations. They may specialize in strategic communication or emerging media strategy and social media, which can help them develop the skills to convey information effectively about various government initiatives and events.
The best information officers are avid consumers of news and current events about their industry and what is on the horizon for it. This can help you better understand the issues that affect your clients and build effective campaigns to meet those challenges.
You will also need to be able to create marketing campaigns, write articles and speeches, and manage social media accounts. You can get the skills you need through a college degree in communication, journalism, or public relations, as well as hands-on experience creating these campaigns.
For example, the online Bachelor of Arts in Communication program at Maryville University is designed to give students an in-depth understanding of modern communication campaigns and strategies. In addition to coursework, you will complete internships and client-based assignments to build your skill set and get real-world experience.
In an emergency, the Incident Commander often appoints the Public Information Officer to be on-scene to handle media inquiries. This can include providing a press conference, arranging interviews, and distributing information to the media, the incident management team, other agencies, and the community. The PIO at the incident scene will also monitor media reports and public perception of the incident to make sure they are accurate. They will also address any rumors or misconceptions about the event.
Public Relations Officer
A Public Relations Officer (PIO) may be a part-time or full-time employee at the incident scene who handles media inquiries. This role is important during emergencies because it helps to coordinate the release of information. The PIO is often a member of the Incident Commander’s team responsible for responding to media requests, writing press releases, and providing news agencies with information about an incident.
This position is a great entry-level job for those interested in communications. A good PR officer can communicate clearly and efficiently. They should also have key contacts in various media outlets to get information to the public as quickly as possible.
Some of the duties of a public relations officer include writing press releases and managing social media sites. They can also prepare brochures, handouts, promotional videos, and photographs. They may organize press conferences, open days, and other client events.
The main responsibility of a public relations officer is to ensure that their clients are not negatively portrayed in the media. They work with their clients to establish how much and what type of communication they have with the press, and they make sure that their client is clear about what tone they want to have with the media.
Another role of a public relations officer is to help their clients resolve any conflicts that they may have with the press or their internal employees. This can involve a lot of work because they have to understand the client’s needs, their brand, and what kind of image they want to portray.
It is also important for a public relations officer to be able to handle any potential legal issues that their clients might have with the press or the public. They can help their clients to find solutions that are workable and satisfactory for both parties.
A public relations officer can also be responsible for protecting private information that is worth protecting, such as an event that is being celebrated or a new product or development. This could be a medical or pharmaceutical breakthrough, a new technology, or a major change in the company’s services.
Media Services Section
At the top of the food chain is the Media Services Section, better known as FMS. The department is responsible for keeping the occupants of the City Hall and environs informed about their surroundings on a moment-by-moment basis.
It also serves as the point of contact for local and national news outlets. The department has a whopping nine staff and an impressive backlog of inquiries. They are on hand at all times to answer a wide variety of questions. Using an agile approach to delivering a timely response to the many requests is the name of the game in FMS.
The Incident Commander at the incident scene is the person who commands and manages all the resources involved in an emergency. During an incident, the Incident Commander directs and controls responders to achieve the most effective outcome in the least time and with minimal loss of lives.
The IC is directly supported by a Command Staff that performs various management activities critical to the incident’s success. These include the Public Information Officer, Safety Officer, and Liaison Officer.
While in less complex incidents, the IC may have sufficient time to single-handedly carry out tasks about information dissemination, safety monitoring, agency coordination, and resource monitoring, as an incident becomes more complex, the IC’s role evolves from hands-on activities to overall scene management and command.
During an incident, the IC is directly supported by a Command staff that performs various management activities critical to the Incident Commander’s success. These include the Public Information Office, Safety Officer, and Liaison Officer.
In addition, the IC is assisted by an Administrative Assistant and a Transportation Manager as needed. This support personnel is responsible for coordinating the activities of the other incident-related staff.
These administrative and technical positions help to ensure that the ICS organization remains flexible enough to accommodate any change in the incident’s scope and complexity as it develops. The Incident Commander also maintains a clear line of command and supervision responsibilities.
Another supporting element of NIMS is the Joint Information System (JIS). The JIS integrates incident information and public affairs into a unified organization that provides consistent, coordinated, accurate, accessible, timely, and complete information to the public and stakeholders during incident operations.
The JIS operates across and supports the other NIMS Command and Coordination structures: the Incident Commander, Unified Command, EOC Director, and MAC Group. The JIS includes the Public Information Officer and a Joint Information Center.
One of the most important roles of a fire department is Incident Commander. When an incident happens, the initial fire truck that arrives on the scene quickly assumes that title and then uses it as a radio identifier for everyone in the field reporting back or requesting instructions from the incident commander. Eventually, a battalion chief on the scene will take on that same designation to provide continuity of communication for all those responding to the incident.
At The Incident Scene, Who Handles Media Inquiries? Guide To Know
In an incident or emergency, the media will likely show up quickly to report on the
situation. The presence of the media can be beneficial for informing the public about the incident. Still, it can also be challenging to manage, especially if the incident is sensitive or high-profile. To manage media inquiries effectively, it is essential to have a designated spokesperson or team to handle media inquiries.
The primary responsibility of handling media inquiries falls on the public information officer (PIO) or the designated spokesperson. The PIO manages communication between the media, the public, and the organization involved in the incident. The PIO should have extensive knowledge about the incident and should be able to communicate accurate and timely information to the media.
One of the first things the PIO should do is establish a media staging area. This is a designated area where the media can gather and wait for information. The media staging area should be located away from the incident scene but close enough for the media to get updates quickly. It is essential to ensure that the media staging area has adequate facilities such as restrooms, shelter, and seating.
Once the media staging area is set up, the PIO should hold a media briefing to provide an update on the incident. The briefing should be held at regular intervals to keep the media updated. During the briefing, the PIO should provide a summary of the incident, any injuries or fatalities, the status of the investigation, and any actions being taken to manage the incident.
During the media briefing, the PIO should be open, honest, and transparent about the incident. The PIO should avoid speculating or providing unverified information as it could confuse and undermine the organization’s credibility. If the PIO is unsure about the answer to a question, they should acknowledge it and promise to follow up with the media as soon as they have the information.
It is also essential to have a plan in place for handling difficult or sensitive questions. The PIO should anticipate difficult questions and have a prepared response that is truthful, respectful and avoids speculation or rumor. If a question is sensitive or inappropriate, the PIO should address it professionally but decline to comment or refer the media to an appropriate authority.
Another critical aspect of managing media inquiries is to ensure that only authorized personnel communicate with the media. All employees should be instructed not to speak with the media and to refer all inquiries to the PIO or the designated spokesperson. This ensures that all communication is coordinated and that accurate and consistent information is provided to the media.
In conclusion, managing media inquiries is a crucial aspect of incident management. To handle media inquiries effectively, it is essential to have a designated spokesperson or team responsible for managing communication with the media. The PIO should establish a media staging area, hold regular media briefings, and be open, honest, and transparent about the incident. By following these guidelines, organizations can effectively manage media inquiries and maintain credibility during an incident.