Yesterday, we participated in a large scale disaster drill. Explosion, chemical release, dispersed toxins, numerous casualties–multi-county response, helicopters flying, “casualties” showing up a the hospital unannounced. While the JIC performed pretty well, the hospital was not part of the JIC and it is quite clear that they are not prepared to adequately deal with the old and new media crush that would come.
However, one hospital in Indiana has been living in the instant news world for some time, thanks to Fred Bagg, its director of communications. I am posting Fred’s comments about their communication policies and plans because I think they are an excellent example of the kind of continual information push that is now required.
From Fred Bagg:
I agree with the systems thinking approach. For more than a decade my hospital has used the 30 minute cycle release format…now blogs, podcasts and other new media make that even easier:
1. Upon notification of “whatever” IMMEDIATELY release the pre-prepared statement (live, on your website, recorded on a phone message or whatever.) Ours is short – “At X o’clock St. Francis was notificed that…(one sentence description of what we KNOW)…and we have initiated the crisis/disaster/incident response team to respond to the situatlion. We will have our first update at X o’clock (nearest half-hour that is 20 minutes or more away.)
2. Use 20 minutes to gather information…
3. Use 5 minutes to write a short paragraph summary of what you KNOW to be true and advise when the next information will be available.
4. Use 5 minutes to gain approval from whoever (in our case, the on site senior executive)
5. Post it, release it, record it…and start over every half hour on the half hour.
6. Keep doing it until outside help or your staff arrive and/or things simmer down enough for less frequent messaging.
Even in today’s “instant – Now is too late” (Thanks) world…that still works.