On Tuesday, March 4th, Nassau County Emergency Management hosted an All-County Crisis Communications Seminar. The event was well attended by emergency response leadership, private partners, and stakeholders interested in ways to utilize the county’s Joint Information System to coordinate and release information during an emergency. Several real-world scenarios that garnered national media attention were presented and discussed, many of which could easily happen in Nassau County. The question asked of everyone in attendance was, “if this tragedy happened in your facility or impacted your agency, how would you handle the media interest?” Former Channel 12 News Director, Dave Richardson, explained how reporters are assigned and news stories are selected for air, changes to the information/news cycle and the impact of “citizen journalists”, as well as the needs of the traditional news media.
EM Director Billy Estep shared experiences and reminded everyone that attention surrounding an incident can quickly escalate; that local capacity to manage an extended barrage of inquiries from reporters, as well as monitor electronic media and quell rumors is limited; and effectively managing public information while trying to conduct normal operations is nearly impossible. It is critical that Nassau County agencies and stakeholders collaborate to develop a cadre of personnel able to accomplish the behind-the-scenes tasks necessary to support a successful spokesperson. To that end, Nassau County Emergency Management is hosting a series of free courses designed to increase the number of trained persons who will be able to operate the county’s Joint Information Center in an emergency. The first of these events will be held March 26-27 at the Emergency Operations Center and all interested individuals may attend.