Approval process hangups

July 1, 2008

It is so clear right now–based on recent drills and a very large scale incident we are involved in responding to right now–that the number one issue facing those in crisis or emergency communication is convoluted approvals. A comment I just received from someone in the field: “Spending thousands on porta potties is an instant decision, getting approval to do anything with public communication takes an act of the highest elected official.”

Of course, the importance is different, the long term impacts can be immense, the effect on reputations is significant. But all this cannot mean that those responsible for communicating in a large event should be so hampered in their ability to communicate clear simple facts about the event details and the response.

The real issue, as I mentioned here before, lies with Incident Commanders and even more with the executive leadership responsible for the response. It starts with policy. Do they want their PIOs and JIC to be the voice of the response? Then there is only one answer today: be fast, complete, transparent. Anything less than that–particularly on speed–will result in others speaking for the response. There is no middle ground here. Speak now or forever hold your peace.


4 Responses to “Approval process hangups”

  1. Kami Huyse Says:

    I think the real problem is that we try to issue fully formed communication rather than understanding the art of incremental release, much like the way the AP writes its stories and updates them with new info.

  2. kellimatthews Says:

    In the case of situations like emergency response and wildland firefighting, the system is dense. The policy has been to cut and cut and cut the PIO jobs in the Forest Service for so many years that it’s clear communication is not the priority anymore (if it ever was, I’m not sure). I do work on the private contactor side of wildland firefighting and can see the sheer density of the Forest Service system in particular and how that carries into the contractor’s ability to make decisions about communication.

    Gerald, the Pierpoint system for the California fires looks great. Nice work.

  3. patrice cloutier Says:

    I believe that part of the solution is for better “education” of elected officials (and their staff) on the “non-normal” state of affairs during an emergency.

    Normal approval processes can’t be followed … there’s got to be some delegation of authority to the JIC/PIO … and a limited number (ideally just one) “political” approval steps …

    In my experience in Ontario (canada), political staffers and elected officials will “get” the need to keep things operational and have political approvals/involvement happened at the top level only …

    the other side of the coin though, is that all those staffers and elected officials have to be kept in the loop regularly …

  4. Real problem is communication between users at all.

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