If you read my post of a couple of days ago you know I expressed some great concerns about the upcoming major drill. Since I am normally the PIO for the organization involved, I was very concerned about the intent of one agency to assume that role and what it would mean for our ability to do the job at hand. It worked out very well. The agency representative served as PIO with me as Deputy and it really couldn’t have gone better. We were very well prepared to communicate and he was very impressed with being able to come into a situation and really hit the ground running. Since we use PIER, the Joint Information Center software application, we had some concerns about the information in the system being visible to everyone in the JIC which is a very good point and something we will work on. We had problems, as always, getting Unified Command approval of the next information releases but learned what is probably the most valuable lesson of all. Don’t give them press release verbiage to approve. They love to wordsmith. Instead, give them key facts in bullet form and spoon feed it on a continual basis one or small group of facts at a time and get them to approve the information–not the way it is presented. Once we started doing that with bullets to add to fact sheets, it went much faster and we were able to substantially pick up the pace of continual information updates.
Those who had not seen our JIC operation at work, were amazed that we are able to push out of PIER a continual flow of updated information to pre-staged audiences–not just media, but community leaders, elected officials, response groups, activists and NGO, and many others. Once information is approved, it literally takes 30 seconds to get it up on the website and email or fax to thousands. And of course, what was not lost on anyone was with the inquiry management function, you really didn’t have to be in the JIC to work together on responding to the inquiries.
Another lesson was on JIC truth and what it takes today. We tried some new things that worked very well but I will save that for another post.