In the overall scheme of things, there’s two ways to manage crisis incident response, and the communications component that is part of it — just wing it and make it up as you go along, or take a systematic approach. I’ve witnessed both, and (spoiler alert!) the former might produce occasional successes (due, mostly, to luck), but the latter is always effective and efficient.
Part of the systematic approach of crisis incident management is the use of job aids. Helicopter rescue pilots use them. Incident commanders during hurricane response and recovery use them. Good public information officers – those people charged with internal and external communications during a disaster – use them. In the chaotic maelstrom of circumstances surrounding disaster, job aids should be simple and help you maintain focus on the tasks at hand.
Whether you’re preparing for the inevitable crisis you may face in the future, or are tasked with establishing a disaster joint information center, a cache of job aids at-the-ready now can help you during the initial stages and carry you through to successfully endure the crisis and carry out your duties — communicating vital information to affected publics and other stakeholders.
The U.S. National Response Team Joint Information Center Model is a nearly 200-page document that can give you everything you need to know before crisis strikes, during your response and what to do when the crisis is coming to an end. Here’s links to a few of the better, one-page job aids contained within the document, that you can print out and put into your plan, or load onto your mobile device for the go-kit:
- Establishing the Initial Response – A simple checklist for any public information officer or professional communicator who needs to assemble an organization quickly to meet media and community info needs.
- Establishing a Joint Information Center – As an incident moves along, the initial public information officer often hands the reigns to someone else, who may need to establish information dissemination partnerships for the long haul.
- Incident Communications Daily Checklist – Tree-top level reminders for the myriad tasks that need to be completed by a public information officer or joint information center staff.
- Message Design – This job aid prompts the user to use empathetic brainstorming to determine the information needs of publics affected by crisis.
- Media Analysis Worksheet – As more people work together to communicate incident information, record keeping becomes more vital. This worksheet is an effective way to keep track of media (or any other contacts), and track information requests and rumors.
- Risk Communication Strategy Sheet – A bare bones, but effective framework for constructing messages that address risk that may arise during crisis events. Pairs nicely with the message design job aid.
For an explanation of some of the acronyms in these job aids (there aren’t too many), or a more complete document to work from for your crisis communications plan, check out the entire model from which I’ve extracted these one-pagers.