Quarterly meeting recap: Cultural considerations and PIO Lessons from the Nurse Wubbels incident

Thank you to Salt Lake City Emergency Management, who hosted the May 9 meeting.

img_5956.jpgKenya Rene, SLC EM’s PIO, opened our meeting with these words of advice for communicators:

“I hope as we train and evolve with our communication skills, we include and become aware of uncomfortable subjects, like white privilege, cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions and equity vs. equality.

Our state is becoming more diverse as we welcome people from all backgrounds, Let’s connect with everybody, making sure we include them in event decisions and think of them when writing a press release, an invite or social media post.

If you don’t know, ask. Get informed about the culture or community you want to approach.”

Thanks, Kenya! For hosting the meeting, Kenya gets in free to the annual PIO Conference in September.


Moving on to our keynote presentation:

How do PIOs respond when their agencies are on opposite side of public sentiment?

IMG_5960Our many thanks to Kathy Wilets from University of Utah Health, Chris Nelson from the University of Utah and Christi Judd from Salt Lake City Police Department for presenting on the Nurse Wubbels incident.

No doubt, you have seen this video:

Here are the lessons Kathy, Christi and Chris shared during their presentation:

  • This was a crisis decades in the making. Agencies need to figure out now who is in charge and who has jurisdiction.
  • It’s important to sit down with players as soon as possible during an incident and in the aftermath. Lots of communication has happened between Nurse Wubbels and the SLCPD, between SLCPD and the hospital and to other groups, such as the nursing association, as well.
  • People will call 911 to report what they see on YouTube. Salt Lake City’s 911 dispatchers were beset with 911 calls for days because people were calling to report the Nurse Wubbels incident.
  • The incident affected the morale for officers at SLCPD and the university. They were all taking verbal punches for the decisions of one man. Remember your people who are still out working in the public eye in the aftermath of a crisis.
  • Have your talking points ready to go ASAP. Kathy received a call at the end of one day that started like this: “You are live on the BBC in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…”
    Because she was prepared, this encounter didn’t faze her.
  • Get your war room together. Prepare to pull in every resource (human and non-human) so you can get your strategy built and develop your messaging.
  • If you can, designate one person to field all media inquiries. Christi Judd called back every media person, which made messaging consistent to all media outlets.
  • PIOs, even on opposing sides of an issue, can be friends. Christi and Kathy talked often following the incident and continue to maintain a good relationship.
  • Be prepared to talk internally, as well.Don’t leave co-workers in the dark. They are part of your team. Your co-workers will also go home at the end of the day and neighbors, family members and friends will ask them what is going on. Help them be effective spokespeople.
  • What is your ongoing strategy to regularly communicate with the community? It’s not just about messaging the community during the crisis, but what are you doing now to serve the community and tell your story to build good will?

Thanks again to our hosts and to our speakers. The next quarterly meeting will be August 15 in Eagle Mountain City. Come ready to learn what we took away from the Government Social Media Conference, which took place in Denver in April.


Joe Dougherty is the PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.
Find him on Twitter at @PIO_Joe

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Conducting your local PIO meetings

The “Liberty County JIC” during the Feb. 2018 APIO Course at EMI.

You’ve suddenly found yourself as the chair of your local PIO group! Congratulations! What a great opportunity to lead the enhancement of public information in your area.

It can seem daunting to have to wrangle PIOs to get them to attend a meeting, but if you provide valuable content, and someone can help with the occasional snacks or lunch, you can have a robust local PIO group. Below are some topic ideas to get you started with the content for your first meetings. Don’t forget to ask local participants what they would like to learn.

Topic ideas:

  • Ask for a status update.
  • Ask about any upcoming issues.
  • Hold a tabletop exercise to discuss emergency response or mutual aid plans for PIOs.
  • Conduct a JIC callout exercise.
  • Conduct a workshop where planning or operational documents are researched or created.
  • Provide training on various topics
    • Social media best practices
    • Social media monitoring
    • Live video considerations
    • Graphic design
    • Photography principles
  • Speaker ideas:
    • Invite media members for a discussion .
    • Lessons learned from a recent incident.
    • Find a State PIO to discuss their role in assisting your efforts during emergencies.
    • Discussion with local elected officials.

What other ideas are out there? What has worked well for you?


Joe Dougherty is the PIO Association Secretary and
PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management
jdougherty@utah.gov | Twitter: @PIO_Joe

PIO lessons learned from the Uintah Fire

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Click the image to play a recap video of the Uintah Fire produced by Weber County

We were fortunate to hear from three PIOs who worked on the 2017 Uintah Fire during the Jan. 17, 2018, Quarterly Meeting. Their presentations are embedded after the notes on each section and are posted on Issuu here.

Holin Wilbanks, Weber County

We had to make sure all of the social media accounts were saying the same thing.

Wins:

  • As we were sending out critical information, we were also telling them about what we were doing well and why we were ready. Residents began to share that information and the Governor shared that information, as well.
  • We established the hashtag #UintahFire early on and that allowed us to track our data, as well.
  • Weber County became the accurate source of  information for residents and the press.
  • We briefed the families first and the press second.

Lessons:

  • It’s not over when the fire is out
    • Community recovery included putting out 10 Dumpsters for green waste, involving USU extension horticulturalist for training for homeowners, taking recovery documentation to homeowners in neighborhoods and posting all info to the county site.
  • Keep a PIO in incident command
    • We had a bunch of PIOs all working in different directions. We finally got together partway through the first day.
  • Keep a PIO assigned as an evacuee advocate
  • Now we have a communication plan with the Wildland Urban Interface Plan.
  • All info should have gone through a single channel.
  • Share your social media passwords.
  • Have your communications form up and ACTIVE for press and constituents
  • Maximize your team members and coordinate.
  • Know your role!
  • Engage with your GIS department. I wish I had a map.

Lane Findlay, Weber School District

  • Initially had no contact from law enforcement or fire
  • So, decision to evacuate Uintah Elementary happened at 11 a.m., more than three hours after the fire started.
  • Parents were picking up students and once we received notification from dispatch, started to evacuate. We got 13 buses to take children to Dee Events Center.

Win:

  • Reunification was complete by 1 p.m.
  • Great leadership team

Lessons:

  • Have a plan in place
  • Build partnerships
  • Be flexible
  • Media were able to get inside the Dee Events Center and take photos of children.

Chris Williams, Davis School District

  • Fire was 500 yards from South Weber Elementary and kids were already there.
  • We have 89 schools, 72,000 kids and we have the ability to change any school website, so we did for South Weber.
  • We moved students to Clearfield High School, huge challenge with geography for evacuating students.

Win:

  • Most parents picked up their kids.
  • Have someone embedded with command post.
  • Contact other agency PIOs – For Davis Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. DeeAnn Servey
  • Stay within my lane.

Thank you to everyone for sharing your insights and a huge shout out to University of Utah Health for hosting us!


Compiled by Joe Dougherty, PIO Association Secretary and
PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management
jdougherty@utah.gov | Twitter: @PIO_Joe

When you need digital/social media support

UtahVOST1 square-02

Today, Cheryl Bledsoe (Twitter.com/CherylBle), from Virtual EMA one of the pioneers of the VOST movement, held a webinar to discuss the Virtual Operations Support Team and how the team works.

In 2010, emergency managers were talking about how to harness the power of social media. They came up with the concept of the VOST to use social media “trusted agents” in diverse locations to help incident leaders have better information and complete web-based missions for emergency response.

As we know, social media helps you be more dynamic, listen to the public, share information and help incident command get intelligence.

Some web-based teams you may have heard of include Humanity Road or the American Red Cross’s digital engagement teams. But VOST is different.

The goal: Provide a snapshot of what is happening on social media as a member of the EOC or incident command. VOSTs can look for rumors and misinformation, threats and copycats, unsolicited volunteers, etc.

They curate and bring that information together and prepare narrative listening reports, filtering out the noise and clutter of social media.

Missions can be long (during a wildfire) or short.

Case study: Umpqua Community College shooting, October 2015

  • 10-member VOST, but only used 2-3 people per day. Mission was active for 17 days.
  • Evaluated spontaneous volunteers and fundraisers.
  • Presidential visit

VOST training available

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Where we would like to go in Utah:

  • Conduct training: Virtual EMA does training on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Build our team to be capable identifying rumors and misinformation.
  • Become skilled at curating social media messages and images.
  • Understand and become proficient at the tools that are available.
  • PIOs should consider becoming VOST team members.

If you would like to be part of UtahVOST1, contact Joe Dougherty, jdougherty@utah.gov.


Joe Dougherty, @PIO_Joe

Crisis Comms 101

This is an abridged version of a blog post that originally appeared on Ragan’s PR Daily today. Subscribe to PR Daily here if you want more good stuff like this.


5 crisis comms tips from the FBI

 FBISeal
By Russell Working | Posted: June 13, 2017

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

1. Address the public’s three main concerns.

Jeff Lanza’s most important case as an FBI agent, he says, came in 1998 when a Missouri couple kidnapped a newborn from her room in the maternity ward while her mother dozed nearby. The ending was a happy one—FBI got the baby back—but Lanza, who now works as a communication consultant, recalls the shock of the hospital’s CEO and board members when he first met with them.

They asked what they should do.

The advice he offers holds for crises in general. He told them that people would want to know:

  • What happened
  • How you will fix it so it doesn’t happen again
  • That you care about the harm your crisis had caused in their lives—empathy, in other words

“If you do that,” he says, “you’re going to be able to recover from almost any crisis.”

Other tips include the following items explored in more detail:

2. Be the first and most credible source of info.

3. Don’t ask your mother how you looked on TV. Do this instead.

4. Remember the adage, ‘An ounce of prevention…’

5. Build relationships with journalists.

Read the rest of the blog post at PR Daily here.


Posted by Joe Dougherty, PIO
Utah Division of Emergency Management
Twitter: @PIO_Joe