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by Steven Hancock: A local emergency manager's perspective

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May 10, 2012

This is great! I was doing some research on crisis communications and came upon some information that I felt would be of value to all of us who, in some way, shape, or form take on leadership roles during challenging times. While these points were developed specific to crisis management, you will see they can be applied in any high profile, or potentially contentious issue. While some of this may not be new to you…a reminder is always good. I have referenced the document I pulled the information from at the end of this and highly encourage everyone to review it, it is fantastic.

Five communications failures that KILL operational success

  1. Mixed messages from multiple experts
  2. Information released late
  3. Paternalistic attitudes
  4. Not countering rumors and myths in real time
  5. Public power struggles and confusion

Five communications steps for SUCCESS

  1. Execute a solid communications plan
  2. Be the first source for information
  3. Express empathy early
  4. Show competence and expertise
  5. Remain honest and open

Employ the STARCC Principle

  • SIMPLE -Frightened people don't want to hear big words
  • TIMELY - Frightened people want information now
  • ACCURATE - Frightened people won't get nuances, so give it straight
  • RELEVANT - Answer the questions and give action steps
  • CREDIBLE - Empathy and openness are key to credibility
  • CONSISTENT - The slightest change in the message is upsetting and dissected by all

This information was pulled from Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication by Leaders for Leaders made possible by the US Department of Health & Human Services and produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can click here to see the full document or email me and I will send it to you.

Cheers 


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April 03, 2012

So who am I to take up writing a blog for Emergency Management Magazine? I have asked myself this question numerous times before actually sitting down to write this.

I am a local government emergency manager. Ok, that is a reason, although by itself not a good one. I have public safety and emergency management experience at the local, state, and federal level for nearly twenty years. Ok, there is another reason, although still not one suggesting I should be writing and adding to the blogosphere. I am tasked by my agency with ensuring our community's preparedness, our agency's resilience, and our collaborative emergency management approach with our partner agencies and organizations. Ok, all that just means I really don’t have time to write a blog. So why am I writing this? And even more importantly, why should you read it?


Wait, it has come to me. I remember what it was that made me so passionate to reach out and share and my views with the ether-world. Are you ready? This might offend or surprise some of you. It may catch some of you by such surprise that you gasp, fall out of your chair, and knock your head on that pile of manuals and plans sitting on the floor by your desk. Here it is. I have been involved in public safety and emergency management at all levels of government for nearly 20 years now, and after all that time one important element has proven true time and time again. All disasters are local! That's it, earth shattering news, right? I bet a bunch of you just shrugged your shoulders, threw your hands up, and said something that I'm not supposed to write, but it's similar to "no duh!"

 
I bet many of you reading this blog have probably already been exposed to all the international, national, and state emergency management trends. Well, as you are all readers of Emergency Management Magazine, I know you are. You have been provided all the latest information on new or updated Federal initiatives, best practices, and industry standards. You are provided numerous grant opportunities intended to provide all the resources needed to meet the needs of your agency and your communities. You are shown the latest of emerging technologies that will fill all of your emergency management needs, all of these making your agency's emergency and disaster response forever more efficient and effective.


With everything that is provided, we as emergency managers should be able to proclaim that all of our agencies are at their optimum level of readiness, that our communities are at their highest level of resilience, and that our collective ability to recover from any disaster is at its finest, right? Probably not. My guess is very few, if any of us, can agree with these statements. When it gets down to it, the challenges at the local level of emergency management often don’t allow us the opportunity to incorporate any of these new trends, standards, and technologies.


We have been told time and time again that disasters are local. Ironically, we very seldom hear about the realities of emergency management from someone at the local level. Things are different down here. A grant fund does not always provide a solution; a new technology does not always fix the problem; and the political and budgetary realities always outweigh everything else. At the local level we are increasingly forced to do more with less, which for many of us awakens our fighting spirit, while for others it only reinforces a sense of defeat.

So there it is. This is my fighting spirit coming in form of a blog. I am here to share about the realities of being a local emergency manager and the challenges that are faced. I will tell you about the grants that come with more stipulations and requirements than can possibly be met. I will tell you about the community member who wants to know why we don’t have whatever it is they want and why we haven’t fixed it yet. I will describe the painful process of watching your budget cut so deeply that you know the only thing left to cut is your own position - which has not been ruled out.


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March 23, 2012

Those reading this blog have probably already been exposed to all the international, national and state emergency management trends. We are provided all the latest information on new or updated federal initiatives, best practices, and industry standards. We are provided numerous grant opportunities intended to provide us with all the resources we need to meet the needs of our agencies and our communities. We are shown the latest of emerging technologies that will fill all of our emergency management needs, all of these making our emergency and disaster response forever more efficient and effective.

With everything we have before us, we as emergency managers should be able to proclaim that all of our agencies are at their optimum level of readiness, that our communities are at their highest level of resilience, and that our collective ability to recover from any disaster is at its finest, right? My guess is very few, if any of us, can agree with these statements. When it gets down to it, the challenges at the local level of emergency management often don't allow us the opportunity to incorporate any of these new trends, standards and technologies.

We have been told time and time again that disasters are local. Ironically, we very seldom hear about the realities of emergency management from someone at the local level. Things are different down there! A grant fund does not always provide a solution, a new technology does not always fix the problem, and the political and budgetary realities always outweigh everything else. At the local level we are increasingly forced to do more with less, which for many of us awakens our fighting spirit, while for others it only reinforces a sense of defeat.

Join me as I share with you my adventures, challenges, successes and ultimate journey as an emergency manager in a small city. Share with me as we navigate together through the ever changing world of emergency management. If you have questions or comments for me, share them, I would love to hear from you. I truly believe together we are stronger.

Send me an email: localem@gmail.com.


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