EMERGENCY SUPPORT FUNCTION #31

PUBLIC INFORMATION


LEAD:

Community & Environmental Program (Public Information)


SUPPORT:

Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)

Emergency Management

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Purpose

To ensure effective dissemination of emergency information and instructions to the public before, during, and after an emergency or disaster.

B. Scope

This ESF addresses responsibilities to process, coordinate, and disseminate information for Thurston County, County officials, employees, the media, and the public.

II. RELATED POLICIES

It is essential that accurate, timely and consistent information be disseminated to the public when the EOC is activated. County Departments and Offices will coordinate the development and dissemination of all disaster related public information through the EOC Public Information Coordinator.

III. PLANNING ASSUMPTIONS

A. Normal means of communications in the affected areas may be either destroyed or largely incapacitated; therefore, only limited and incomplete information is anticipated from the disaster area until communications can be restored.

B. Sufficient support personnel will be available to coordinate public information and interface with the media and other agencies.

C. Demands for information from media outside the county will be significantly increased in a disaster.

D. Sufficient communications will be established to support public information efforts.

E. Following a disaster, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will be available to Thurston County.

F. In a disaster, State Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will establish a Joint Information Center (JIC) to coordinate federal, state, and local information.

IV. CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS

A. Overview

The need for rapid dissemination of essential information during an emergency necessitates the activation of a central public information system. This system will be coordinated by the Public Information Coordinator within the EOC. The extent to which this system is engaged will be defined by the nature of the emergency and the level of EOC activation.

Level 1: Routine Operations and Low Impact Emergencies

The Emergency Program Manager as Emergency Director will coordinate public information needs in consultation with the Public Information Coordinator. Additional assistance will be requested as necessary.

Levels II and III: Medium and High Impact Disaster

The Public Information Program Manager will activate the public information system and assume the position of the Public Information Coordinator.

B. Objectives

The public information objectives during a disaster are:

C. Dissemination

1. Methods for dissemination of local emergency information and instruction will be determined by the Public Information Coordinator depending on available means as appropriate to the emergency including radio, newspapers, television, electronic communications, mobile public address systems, and door-to-door.

2. Information will also be disseminated to the Board of County Commissioners, elected officials, emergency personnel in the field, and other county employees so they know what information and guidance is being released to the public.

3. Dissemination of public information regarding county activities and services relating to an emergency should be reviewed and coordinated with the Public Information Coordinator.

4. A Joint Information Center (JIC) may be established to coordinate emergency public information where multiple jurisdictions are involved in the emergency response. This facility would be in direct contact with the EOC, may include information officers from other jurisdictions, and may be in conjunction with state/federal information efforts. The location of the JIC will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

5. Up-to-date distribution lists will be maintained by the Public Information Program Manager.

D. Special Groups and Instructions

1. There are several non-English speaking communities in Thurston County. In the event that public information needs to be translated, interpreters will be coordinated through the EOC.

2. Special instructions and provisions may be made for hospitals, nursing homes, schools, or other groups.

V. RESPONSIBILITIES

A. Local

1. County Commissioners

a. Establish policy pertaining to the release of emergency public information and instructions.

b. Represent the County at press conferences, public hearings, and other public events as appropriate to the disaster.

2. Emergency Management

a. Prepare and disseminate emergency information and official news releases in conjunction with the Public Information Coordinator.

b. Provide adequate training for the Public Information Coordinator and support staff.

c. Plan and coordinate with the local news media to ensure assistance in disseminating emergency information and instructions in conjunction with the Public Information Coordinator.

d. Maintain local EAS Agreement(s).

e. Coordinate with State and Federal agencies on the release of emergency information and instructions, as appropriate.

f. Provide facilities where media representatives can be briefed. Whenever possible, these facilities will provide telecommunications capabilities for media use.

3. Public Information Coordinator

a. The Public Information Program Manager will function as the Public Information Coordinator.

b. Identify additional staff to support the emergency Public Information function.

c. Establish and coordinate emergency public information prior to, during and after an emergency.

d. Prepare and distribute public information releases regarding disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

e. Review and coordinate releases of information from other county offices and departments through the EOC.

f. Respond to media inquires.

g. Provide information to county elected officials and to employees, as necessary.

h. Monitor news media coverage of the incident.

I. Establish rumor control capability.

j. Coordinate the release of public information, or establish a Joint Information Center, with other jurisdictions, as appropriate.

4. Other Response Agencies

a. Provide pertinent information (e.g. road closures, emergency instructions, available assistance, place of contact for missing relatives, restricted areas, etc.) to the EOC for use by the Public Information Coordinator for dissemination to the public.

b. Provide emergency public information support to the Public Information Coordinator upon request.

B. State

1. Throughout the emergency, public information staff from the state EOC will work with the Governor's press secretary to develop and disseminate information regarding the emergency and state response efforts. State EOC staff will also be available to assist local officials in disseminating emergency instructions to affected communities.

2. In the absence of the Governor's Press Secretary or assistant, the State Emergency Management Public Information Officer (PIO) directs, coordinates, and supervises the emergency public information functions.

3. Coordinates with local and federal agencies on the release of emergency information and instructions.

C. Federal

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides for the assignment and establishment of Public Information operations at the Joint State/Federal Disaster Field Office after a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration. All emergency public information will be coordinated with the State PIO and with local PIO's.

VI. REFERENCES

A. Washington State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan

B. The Federal Response Plan - Public Information