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PIO Duty in Crisis

PIOs and PICs and ARES

Public Information Coordinator (PIC) and ARES

The ARRL Public Information Coordinator is a section-level official appointed by and reporting to the Section Manager as the section's expert on public information and public relations matters. The PIC is responsible for organizing, training, guiding and coordinating the activities of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) within the section.

The Public Information Coordinator must be a Full member of the ARRL and often has  professional public relations or journalism experience or a significantly related background.  While a PIC has many responsibilities, these are the responsibilities that apply to emergencies:

PIC Responsibilities

Before an emergency:

Helps local PIOs prepare emergency response PR kits containing general information on Amateur Radio and on local clubs, which should be distributed in advance to local Emergency Coordinators and District Emergency Coordinators for use in dealing with the media during emergencies.  At a minimum, prepare and distribute the one page form found elsewhere in this book.

During an emergency:

The PIC will normally proceed immediately to the state or highest level Joint Information Center (JIC) in the region. 

Maintains contact with other section level League officials, particularly the Section Manager, Section Emergency Coordinator, ARRL Media & PR Manager and others, bringing appropriate information to their attention and help to assure and promote a coordinated and cohesive ARRL Field Organization response and media projection.

Working with ARRL and other organizations’ PIOs, develops and maintains a comprehensive list of reporters, all media outlets, both electronic and print and contacts of those who are working the event.  Provides the PIOs accurate, timely and helpful information about Amateur Radio’s role, situational awareness updates, and helping PIOs create and meet media requests for information about ARES and Amateur Radio. (Pre-developed materials should always be close at hand for such uses).   

Verifies the appearances, methods and key talking points being made by ARRL PIOs and assures a consistent message.

Assures that local organizations and PIOs are prepared to follow-up on Amateur Radio interest generated by these activities.

Public Information Officers (PIO) and ARES

ARRL Public Information Officers (PIOs) are appointed by and report to the ARRL section Public Information Coordinator (PIC) generally upon the recommendation of an affiliated club and only with the approval of the Section Manager. ARRL PIOs are usually (although not limited to being) club publicity chairpersons and must be full ARRL members. ARES Teams should be encouraged to develop PIO’s as part of their groups to act during emergencies, who can be deployed with ARES responders to handle media relations during an emergency or callout.

In an emergency situation, the role of the local PIO is crucial. 

PIO Responsibilities:

Before the emergency:

With the PIC, helps prepare an emergency response PR kit, including general brochures on Amateur Radio and specific information about local groups and units. These should be distributed to SECs, ECs and DECs before an emergency occurs. At a minimum, the one page form provided in this book should be widely distributed.  Then, during emergencies, these kits should be made available to reporters at the scene or at a command post.

During an emergency:

The PIO becomes the primary contact for the local media and assures that editors/reporters who need accurate information about Amateur Radio and ARES know where to find it. Note that the PIO’s job is to be available to and work with news media.  These will probably be at a Joint Information Center (JIC) and most likely also where the PIO should deploy. Developing relationships with media members well in advance is a good way to promote trust from them. 

Other ARES members can work the radios and nets.  You need to work the media.  It is not possible to effectively be both an EC and a PIO.   

The PIO maintains contact with other League officials in the local area, particularly the Emergency Coordinator and/or District Emergency Coordinator. The PIO should help summarize Amateur Radio activity in an ongoing situation, be in contact with reporters and follow any significant emergency communications activities with prompt, accurate reporting to the media of the extent and nature of the Amateur Radio involvement. 

PIO’s must always be well-groomed and have a neat and appropriate appearance at all times when they might deal with media of any type.  Good visual impressions are long lasting and  have an impact on the perception of amateur radio and its standards.  

The PIO must also keep their PIC (or in the absence of a PIC, the SM) advised of current situations on an ongoing basis. After action reports are useless to a PIO.


VIPs and Media Interaction Guidelines for non-PICs/PIOs:

In the course of an emergency event, or even a drill, it is possible that you will come into contact with reporters and important people.  It is the work of your ARES-linked Public Information Officer to handle them, not you.  Your job is communications.  But there are times when you are put on the spot and asked questions by these folks and your reply will be used by media and others.  At that moment, you are Amateur Radio’s representative to the world. Remember that anything you say can and often is taken as gospel.  If you do not know the answer, defer to those who do.  Refer such questions to the appropriate representative of the served agency and/or its PIO, or an ARRL PIO.

Remember,  you can NOT speak for the agency you are serving.  You must defer any questions about those topics to the agency itself.  You can only provide basic information about your role and ARES, nothing more

The easiest way to do this is to print out and keep this form in your go-kit.  At an event, fill it out as best you can, being sure to provide the contact information for your ARES PIO or leadership.  Keep copies handy.  By simply handing this to the Media or VIP you will be giving them the information that they really need while avoiding the pitfall of passing on comments that can get into trouble.

If possible, get the name and contact information of the reporter or VIP and pass it on to your PIO when you can.

FROM COURSE: IS-702 - NIMS Public Information Systems
Basic responsibilities of the PIO include the following:

* Respond to inquiries from the news media and the public;
* Monitor the news media to detect and correct misinformation and to identify emerging trends or issues;
* Advise Incident Command on public information issues and advocate for the community to ensure its public information needs are addressed;
* Manage the release of emergency public information and warnings; and
* Coordinate, clear with appropriate authorities, and disseminate accurate and timely information related to the incident.

Through the JIS, PIOs are able to create coordinated and consistent messages by collaborating to:

* Identify key information that needs to be communicated to the public;
* Craft messages that convey key information, and are clear and easily understood;
* Prioritize messages to ensure timely delivery of information without overwhelming the audience;
* Verify accuracy of information through appropriate channels, including Incident Command and relevant agencies and program areas; and

Disseminate messages using the most effective means available.

To respond to an incident, you will need the basic equipment to do the job and it must be portable and ready for rapid deployment. In addition to the basics like paper and pencils, your “go kit” should include technology such as:
* Cell phone (with voice messaging and caller ID; keep spare battery and charger for wall and car; pre-program primary contact numbers);
* Pager (great backup to the cell phone; can work in areas where cell phones won’t);
* PDA or handheld device (e.g., Palm, BlackBerry™, etc.);
* Digital or film camera (with extra batteries and fresh film);
* Audio recorder (good for documenting interviews; with extra batteries and tapes if needed); and
* Notebook computer (have extra battery; consider features like docking station, wireless network, CD burner).

Go kits should include more than just equipment and technology resources. Some other resources to include in your go kit are:

* Contact information for disaster employees and other PIOs who may be called into service;
* Contact information for news media;
* Pre-scripted Emergency Alert System messages, news releases, factsheets, and backgrounders; and
* Your “Smart Book.” Your own creation, your Smart Book can include any factual information you might be asked, such as population, number of schools, number of hospitals, size and description of geographic or infrastructure features (e.g., size of State park, length of bridge, amount of water in reservoir).



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