Calm in the Storm…

by Admin on December 16, 2008

High Noon Film is a specialized production company, communications consultant, and marketing resource with expertise in law enforcement, emergency management, and related fields.

We’re a government contractor, but we’re outside the box & the beltway. Our work is consistently praised for blending education and entertainment. A leading industry publication recently called it “Must See TV” and compared our work to TV series like “CSI” & “24″.

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Last night, ABC Television’s hit drama, “Gray’s Anatomy” presented one of the most compelling depictions of an active shooter scenario ever captured on film. It was dramatic, frightening, and chaotic…exactly like the accounts of real-life mass shootings witnessed over the years.

Unfortunately, the horror of the event was about the only thing accurately depicted in the program. The season finale episode called “Death, and all his friends” centers on one man’s rage and grief over the death of his wife, boiling over into a mass killing spree inside the Seattle hospital.

The incident begins simply enough. A man wanders around the hospital, asking directions to the Chief of Surgery office. The focus of his rage is “Dr. Derek Shepard”, who he blames for his wife’s death. In reality, Dr. Shepard had simply followed the woman’s advanced directive, and removed her from life support when nothing more could be done for her.

Her husband, “Gary Clark”, seeks justice first with lawyers, and then failing that, decides to take matters into his own hands. He purchases a handgun, and goes to the hospital looking for three victims, “Dr. Shepard, Dr. Webber, and a young surgical resident, Lexy Gray”.

Clark enters the hospital, but gets turned around in his confused state. Unable to find Shepard’s office, and starts asking directions. He enters a restricted area, where a young surgeon is gathering supplies. She’s in a hurry, and is more than a bit rude to Mr. Clark. He responds by snapping, and shooting her in the head, killing her instantly.

Unauthorized visitors in restricted areas should be reported immediately to security.

Within moments, Dr. Shepard, the Chief of Surgery is alerted to the fact that a shooter is present in the hospital and that a member of his staff is dead. The details are realistically sketchy at this point. Shepard responds by calling his head of security. The head of security tells Shepard that he doesn’t know what to do, since an incident like this has “never happened before”.

It’s inconceivable that a modern hospital would fail to have an Emergency Action Plan that deals with active shooter scenarios.

Shepard leafs through the hospital’s Emergency Action Plan, and finally decides that the correct course of action is to institute a lockdown. Each floor is isolated, with a strict policy of “nobody in-nobody out”. This information is relayed by telephone and pager to the hospital staff.

While the lockdown policy is fairly standard, no attempt is to made to block access to the shooter by locking doors, no one is shown barricading themselves inside rooms, or other recommended actions in an active shooter response.

Hospital staff find safety hiding in storage rooms, and other places, but endanger their own life by leaving their hiding places and roaming the halls. While this makes for great television, in real-life it would only add to the body count. Lock the door. Turn off the light, and stay put. Barricade interior doors with heavy furniture or other obstacles. Escape through windows, etc. if possible.

Mr. Clark, grief stricken and confused, continues to wander the hallways, shooting a nurse, a security guard, and other random victims. He is shown reloading his weapon on several occasions. We learn late in the episode that he bought a lot of ammunition because “it was on sale”. The firearm, which appears to be a standard 9MM automatic was purchased a few days before the shooting in a “Super-Saver” on Aisle 8. What isn’t explained is how he managed to also buy several additional magazines, since this are not sold outside of gun store specialty shops.

Police arrive, and immediately establish a perimeter around the hospital. The “incident commander” appears to be a beat cop, takes charge and waits for SWAT units to arrive. When they do, a five man team enters the building and begins to clear each floor one at a time, evacuating patients and doctors as each floor is swept for the gunman.

Pure fiction. The correct response to an active shooter situation would be for arriving units to immediately enter the building in small units and seek out the gunman. Police are now routinely trained to deal with Active Shooter scenarios. Loss of life is minimized if the gunman is actively engaged and neutralized by arriving officers.

It’s also true that the first officer on the scene would assume control, and become the “Incident Commander” under the standard ICS response. But he would quickly pass that duty off to a superior officer as the incident progressed and other units arrived.

Clark finally finds the object of his rage, “Dr. Shepard” in the interior breezeway of the stage. Shepard attempts to calm the shooter, and seems to be reaching him. But their moment of calm is interrupted by a young resident, and Shepard is promptly shot in the chest. The gunman then turns the gun on the young surgeon. She rattles off a description of her life, telling Clark the names of her father, mother, and sisters. She describes her life on a farm, growing up as a child, and doing anything in her power to make herself seem like a human being to the attacker.

Well, at least they got this part right. Accounts of several active shooter incidents have demonstrated that these killers tend to dehumanize their victims, and that they can sometimes be convinced not to shoot if the victim can make themselves seem “human”. Another effective technique is to simply verbally confront the shooter, and order them to stop the rampage.

Several times during the show, potential victims are within easy reach of the killer, and even when they have an opportunity, no one physically confronts Clark or attempts to disarm him.

At one point in the show, Clark is preparing to kill young surgical resident, Lexy Gray, who actually “unplugged” his wife from life support. Clark holds Dr. Shepard, Dr. Webber, and Gray most responsible for his wife’s death. He calmly explains to her that he never meant to kill those other people, that he only wanted to kill the three of them.

A shot rings out, and Gray falls. We then see a highly armored SWAT officer, holding a HK sub-machine gun. Clark has been hit, and is down on the floor, still clutching his weapon and pointing it towards the young doctor. The SWAT officer motions for her to move away, and she runs down the hall. Clark struggles to rise, and move away.

Policeman are trained to “double tap” an attacker, firing two quick shots at the COM (center of mass) in this situation. It’s unlikely that anyone would still be able to continue their rampage after being shot by such a weapon. The officer would also continue to engage the suspect if they were still attempting to take more victims. The officer would not have taken the time to instruct the doctor, he simply would have advanced, and fired again.

Despite his gunshot wound, Clark continues his rampage for another half hour or so, ultimately shooting one more victim, “Dr. Owen Hunt”. Hunt is an Iraq war veteran, and is the only character who ever attempts to confront the shooter despite the immediate danger of further murders.

Throughout the show, the police perimeter is shown as being very poor. Characters enter and re-enter the hospital several times. “Dr. Richard Webber, the former Chief Of Surgery” is trapped outside the perimeter for most of the show, but somehow manages to slip past police and enter the hospital. He also manages to find and confront the gunman before the SWAT officers can manage to end the situation.

The show ends with the gunman committing suicide, shooting himself with his last bullet. This detail is also all too common in real life Active Shooter incidents. Suspects are often resigned to their own death, and have intentions to kill themselves if police do not accomplish the task for them. This self-destructive intent is the prime motivator to changing the response protocols from similar hostage scenarios, which can often be resolved through negotiation.

Despite the show’s flaws in depicting the response to this incident, it provides a great opportunity for Public Information Officers. The show’s portrayal of the shooting is frightening, dramatic, and realistic in it’s depiction of the horror of these types of incidents. The show is one of the most highly rated on television, and was watched by an audience of tens of millions.

PIO’s should consider contacting their local ABC affiliate stations, and suggesting a news segment that could address how real life incidents in your own local hospitals would be handled by your department. You can use this as an opportunity to educate the public on steps that they can take to help themselves in such an event.

The episode would also make a great starting point for Active Shooter discussions with hospital emergency managers, and safety officers. Make it the highlight of your next PowerPoint talk to your LEPC group, or briefing for school administrators.

In the end, Gary Clark’s fictional rampage may end up saving real lives. If we can look past the show’s errors and instead focus on it’s unique ability to get people thinking about an incident that has “never happened before”.

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US Postal Inspectors Launch Web Site to Combat Fraud

US Postal Inspectors Launch Web Site to Combat Fraud

High Noon Film/Lewis Communications is proud to have been selected as the primary vendor for a new consumer protection campaign called “Delivering Trust-Delivering Justice”. Developed by the US Postal Inspection Service in support of National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), the new campaign mirrors efforts by other federal agencies including the Federal Trade Commission, and the US Postal Service to protect consumers from fraud.

The cornerstone of the new campaign is a comprehensive web site, www.deliveringtrust.com, that highlights eight major types of fraud, and offers information to help consumers avoid becoming victims.  This marks the 12th anniversary of National Consumer Protection Week, which runs from March 7-13.  The event is  a coordinated consumer education campaign highlighting the importance of protecting privacy and steering clear of fraud and scams.

This year’s theme – Dollars & Sense:  Rated “A” for All Ages – encourages individuals to exercise good consumer sense at every stage of life – from grade school to retirement.

But the campaign, and the website are anticipated to have a much longer “shelf life” and greater impact on consumers than merely highlighting NCPW. The Inspection Service plans to promote the site as a continuing resource for the public, as part of their ongoing mission to prevent these types of crime.

In addition, to the web site, High Noon/Lewis Communications was tasked with creating print materials, video, and direct mail elements in support of the effort. “We’re honored to have been selected to work again with the Postal Inspection Service” said company president Les Rayburn, “Inspectors are among the best at solving these types of crimes, and have a deep commitment to preventing them”.

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PETN Could Have Downed Plane

by Admin on December 29, 2009

Medium Yield Explosvie-PETN

Medium Yield Explosvie-PETN

According to unnamed sources in a Washington Post article, the total amount of the explosive PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate) carried by suspected terrorist Abdulfarouk Umar Muttalab, was more than sufficient to have disabled the plane.

To those in the counter-terrorism community, this incident exposes a number of gaps in screening procedures used internationally, and the problems associated with trying to instill global standards on such an enterprise. It appears that terrorists continue to exploit less stringent screening by carefully selecting their points of departure, as was the case with the 9/11 hijackers.

But the incident also calls into account our own information sharing procedures and “no fly” lists. By all accounts, this suspect should have raised a number of red flags that when taken together would have singled him out for additional screening, or a denial of his Visa. Unfortunately, the current system does a poor job of tying these markers together.

What measures were taken to protect commercial aviation against PETN being carried inside underwear or even anal cavities? This method of attack was used by a Saudi suicide-bomber, Abdullah Hassan al Asiri in August of 2009. He attempted to murder the Saudi Arabian Deputy Minister using very similar methods, and was also backed by a cell based in Yemen.

Were travelers departing Yemen subject to any increased screening after that incident? Were additional “puffer” machines, explosive sniffing dogs, or other measures increased for passengers leaving Yemen?

It may well be that the American intelligence community suffers from it’s own vast global dominance, being too slow to react to a nimble foe. The incident involving a PETN attack sewn into underwear occurred late in August, barely four months ago. In an entrenched bureaucracy four months is barely enough time to study such an incident, much less to deploy effective countermeasures. But to small, agile organizations like the cells utilized by our enemies, four months is more than enough time to organize another attack.

Equally puzzling is why terrorists remain fixated on commercial aviation as a target, especially when soft targets abound both domestically and internationally. The lack of Central leadership may be the reason. Individual actors and small cells are left to plan and execute their own attacks, resulting in a series of “copycat” attacks based on previous attempts.

Regardless of the outcome of the reviews underway now, Americans may have to come to grip with another reality that the rest of the world takes for granted. No amount of screenings, watch lists, or restrictions on activity within an aircraft can guarantee 100% safety. We must balance our desire for security with essential liberty, and accept that any conflict will generate casualties. Learning to accept those casualties is necessary unless we wish to see our society transformed into a unrecognizable police state.

For many, the screening procedures already in place have resulted in the choice to travel less often by air. Increasing those restrictions will surely result in more travelers reaching the same conclusion. These attacks are slowly changing the view of air travel and it’s usage by Americans–and achieving at least a moral victory for the terrorists.

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Death Toll from H1N1 reaches 10,000

by Admin on December 11, 2009

US Deaths Exceed 10K

US Deaths Exceed 10K

It’s early in the traditional flu season of November-March, and swine flu (H1N1)  has already infected 50 million Americans, killing 10,000, most of them children and younger adults, according to the CDC.

Based on the latest estimates, the H1N1 strain has spread through 15% of the U.S. population since it was first identified in April. As of mid November, 200,000 people have been hospitalized, says Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about the same number of people hospitalized during the entire flu season, which usually lasts until May.

At least 7,500 adults 18 to 64 and 1,000 children younger than 18 have died of the disease, Frieden said. In a typical flu season, roughly 80 children die.

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Opinion: Terror Alert Is A Failed Experiment

by Admin on November 11, 2009

Color Code A Failed Experiment in Messaging

Color Code A Failed Experiment in Messaging

History has an uncanny knack for repeating itself. In the late 1950’s, the US Government’s Office of Civil Defense adopted a system called “CONELRAD” (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation). In a nutshell, it stopped all radio and television transmissions in order to deny the Russians the ability to “lock in” on these signals and use them to guide bombers and ICBMs to their targets.
It made sense, in a Cold War kind of way, but unfortunately, the government continued the program long after both sides had developed guidance technology that no longer required any assistance in finding their victims. As such CONELRAD has become a mocking reminder of that paranoia and ineffective government response. If you don’t believe me, then I suggest a visit to: www.conelrad.com

We’ve long cautioned Public Information Officers that many well intended efforts at informing and preparing the public for the current “Homeland Security” threats could easily become tomorrow’s “Bert the Turtle”.  I can’t think of any better example of a flawed public outreach effort than the Homeland Security Terror Alert Color Code Chart.

In a new report, the incoming DHS Secretary tries to address the programs shortcomings, and the lack of public confidence in it. Recommendations are made about simplifying the code to only three levels or perhaps even dropping the “color scheme” all together.

With respect to the authors, we have a better idea. Drop the Terror Alert Chart completely. It’s a fatally flawed system that was doomed from it’s inception.

Take a step back from the ledge, and try to look at this with a cool head. If the US Government had intelligence that an attack was imminent, then that information must have been obtained through one of only a handful of methods:

Electronic Intelligence: Monitoring of cell phone calls, social networks, radio communications, etc.

Human Intelligence: Literally “spies” or members within the cells who had been flipped by our agents. Perhaps a tip from someone within the terrorists own circle of friends who had a change of heart.

Random Discovery: Someone stumbles onto a site where bombs or biological agents were prepared and the evidence left behind.

No matter how the intelligence was obtained, by raising the terror threat, our government “tips it’s hand” and reveals that they’re aware of the plot–at least in a general sense. This may disrupt an ongoing investigation and allow members of the cell to escape. It may “burn” a source, literally putting their life in danger. It may cause the terrorists to switch to an alternative form of communication, making future intercepts impossible.

In short, it can really only be used as a “last ditch” effort to stop an attack by letting the bad guys know that we’re on to them. As such, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where it will ever be used at all.

Worse, it results in a cascade effects of law enforcement efforts including the deployment of additional officers, high visibility check points, additional screening at airports, etc. Millions of dollars of expense are incurred each time that the threat level moves up. In short, it is not a decision to be taken lightly, which explains why it has been raised so rarely.

In truth, there is little that the general public can do to help prevent a terrorist attack without a lot more information to go on. It’s unlikely that information would ever be released.

For example, the FBI might suspect a home-grown Aryan Brotherhood planned to attack gay bars using small arms and improvised explosives. This is a  coordinated attack that they suspect may occur in several cities on the same day. Even if they were free to release those details, what should we be on the look out for? Rednecks buying extra propane at the Quickie Mart? Hank Hill might roll over in his cartoon grave.

To be effective at preventing terror attacks, a person needs what is called “actionable intelligence”. Details of the suspects, perhaps photos of members, markings, tattoos, known associates, etc. By it’s very nature, this information is tightly controlled and not usually suitable for release to the public. Lacking actionable intelligence there is little that the public can do to aid the effort to prevent the attack.

Attempts to revamp the system, and make it simpler do nothing to address this fatal flaw. Our recommendation would be to scrap it,  and return to a time when actionable intelligence was shared within the law enforcement community, and the rest of us were left in the dark, often for our own good.

In this age where mistrusting the government has become as chic as the latest clothing line from Paris it might seem strange to say so, but sometimes you just have to depend on the government to protect us. And to do that, they can’t always share their secrets or their sources with us.

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Edu-tainment Tackles Vaccine Production

by Admin on November 5, 2009

Duck and Cover, the Orignal "Viral Video"

Duck and Cover, the Orignal "Viral Video"

Despite criticism, more organizations continue to embrace “edu-tainment” in an effort to get their message out to the public. The latest group to try this approach is called “Fastervaccines.org“, whose aim is to encourage the development of new technologies to speed up vaccine production.

Headed by former US Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent, this group has seized the recent shortage of both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines to point out the problems associated with vaccine production. The result is a video that showcases how technology has changed since the 1950’s, except has it applies to vaccine production, which is still grown in chicken eggs.

Graham and Talent, who lead the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, use this video to address a far more serious question.  If medicine can’t react quickly enough to stop the spread of flu, Graham asks, what will happen when, not if, someone releases a biological weapon? “We think the threat is real. We want to take steps to reduce our vulnerability,” says Graham, whose group predicted that someone would release a bioweapon somewhere by 2013.

The “viral video” was  directed by Hollywood veteran Jay Lavender, who wrote the 2006 hit The Break-Up. “We wanted people to pass it around and talk about it,” Larsen says. “We didn’t want to make an Army training film.

It remains to be seen how successful the effort with be, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Clients, especially those in government have to adapt to the changing media landscape. Press releases or stale public service announcements simply can’t compete for an audience in the age of YouTube, mobile communication devices, and 500 channels of cable TV.

“Edu-tainment” of the hybrid of education and entertainment offers the best hope at bridging that attention span gap. Creating messaging that includes entertainment elements such as a compelling narrative, action, and drama can certainly help gain the attention of your audience, but it can also leave an agency vulnerable to criticism and second guessing.

“When an agency produces a flashy video, with a Hollywood style approach” said Les Rayburn, director of High Noon Film, “it’s easy for someone to make political hay by accusing them of being wasteful or lavish”. High Noon Film is a leader in edu-tainment production and social marketing with many government clients.

“You have to be prepared to meet those objections head on. We try to point out that nothing is more wasteful that spending money on a video, poster, or PSA that no one pays attention to.”, Rayburn remarked, “And there has been serious scientific research to support that these types of productions are successful where others are not”.

“In the 1960’s, the US Government produced a whole series of radio, television, and film projects designed to help out with Civil Defense. Most of these are either forgotten, or the subject of ridicule now, but the one that is remembered is Duck and Cover“, commented Rayburn, “It was a simple message, told in an entertaining fashion. In some ways, it was ahead of it’s time. The trick is to create something that entertaining, that memorable, with an accurate, timely message”.

Non-profits and even traditional private sector companies have also begun to embrace edu-tainment to help their messages break through the cluttered media landscape. Coke, BMW, GoDaddy.com, and other companies have produced high profile narrative based projects where a storyline is introduced to consumers via television ads, and then continued on the company’s web site.

“It’s similar to product placement advertising” Rayburn commented, “companies want to extend the reach of their brand and engage consumers in other ways besides traditional advertising”.

So, while it may seem unusual for a policy group to use a short, humorous film about chicken eggs to push their message to elected officials, it certainly won’t be the last time that someone attempts to make someone laugh and think at the same time. Duck and Cover for the information age.

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Lack of Surge Capacity May Haunt US

by Admin on October 13, 2009

An Old Specter Returns for Halloween

An Old Specter Returns for Halloween

Spooks and goblins may not be the scariest thing this Halloween season for Americans infected by the H1N1 Swine Flu virus. The lack of surge capacity in the nation’s Intensive Care Units (ICU) may become their greatest fear.

A  report by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) warned “that 15 states could run out of available hospital beds during the peak of the outbreak [of the H1N1 Swine Flu] if 35 percent of Americans were to get sick” from this flu virus.

“12 additional states could reach or exceed 75 percent of their hospital bed capacity, based on estimates from the FluSurge model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” according to the TFAH report, “H1N1 Challenges Ahead.”

Though H1N1 has proven to be mild, even when compared to the annual “seasonal” flu virus, the lack of immunity to this strain have resulted in it’s rapid spread. Hardest hit so far have been the Southeastern states where earlier school start dates have accelerated the spread of the virus.

During the past few months, over a  million Americans have been stricken with the H1N1 Swine Flu virus and more than 10,000 have had to be hospitalized. A little over a 1,000 have died, including 76 children.

The TFAH study echoes earlier reports from  various public health organizations warning about the lack of surge capacity in our nation’s emergency rooms and ICU wards. One doctor noted, “ICU’s are full every day of  the week. How will we handle a 30% increase in admissions?”

An uptick in ICU admissions would task the public health system considerably, and the worst news may be that the traditional flu season has only just begun and will run through the Spring of 2010.

The report goes on to make recommendations for public health officials and emergency managers to meet the surge demands. These include designating a hospital or group of hospitals in a given region to handle flu cases, and postponing elective surgeries until Spring.

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The Dirty Bomb Question & Social Media

by Admin on October 8, 2009

Never Use A Hammer If You Need A Screwdriver

Never Use A Hammer If You Need A Screwdriver

An informative discussion on the e-mail reflector list for the International Association of Emergency Managers for the past few days has had the subject line of “The Dirty Bomb Question”.

It started off as a technical discussion about the types of radiation likely to be generated by a so-called “Dirty Bomb” attack, and the public reaction to the threat. Then, as discussions do, it morphed into a more broad based discussion about public information, and the need for accurate timely information.

One participant made the point that social media had changed the landscape. In order for agencies to be effective in a disaster, they have to get accurate, reliable information out very quickly. Otherwise, the media and now, the public will fill that void with a mixture of fact, rumors, and misinformation.

Our advice for clients over the past few years has stressed the need to prepackage public information response in advance of an incident. This starts with a review of potential threats, the probability of experience that incident, and the need for public information in the event of it occurring.

For example, nearly every police department should have prepackaged public information ready for a natural disaster such as a tornado. It’s happened before in all 50 states, it’s highly likely to happen again, and the public will need information quickly if it does.

On the opposite end of the scale might be a nuclear attack in your city. It’s never happened in the United States, isn’t highly likely to happen in most cities, but if it did, the need for public information would be off the scale. Thus it’s still a good idea to have public information prepackaged for such an event.

After you determine your needs, then you figure out what kind of information you need to have “in the can” should the event occur. For most agencies, this will take the form of Video News Releases (VNR), press releases or at least “fill in the blank” forms for a release, dark web sites, canned radio spots or announcements, etc.

In recent months, more progressive agencies have added social media templates to the mix. That’s generally a great idea, and gives your agency a head start at putting out information on social networks quickly.

But it’s important to use the right tool for any job. The advantage of social media is that it’s timely, mobile, works well on overloaded networks, and information is easily shared with others. Despite those definite advantages, it’s not good at everything.

During recent incidents such as the tsunami on American Samoa, some agencies have used Twitter and Facebook to try to “feed” links to web sites or press accounts to their followers.

On the surface it seems like a great idea, but it amounts to using the wrong tool. Users who are in the incident area may have very limited access to the mobile network. Voice calls on the network may be difficult or impossible due to infrastructure damage, or network overloading. The chances of someone in the impacted area being able to access a 3-G network to pull up a web page are pretty slim.

Plus, not all web pages display well on mobile devices. Instead of deploying this strategy of “oh, just send them a link to our web page on survival after a tsunami”, instead why not have those survival tips prepackaged into short messages that will fit well into the Twitter or Facebook formats?

Think of it this way, a “dirty bomb” goes off in downtown Chicago, and you’re the local EMA Director. Sure, you can send out a “Tweet” with a URL link to your agencies web page on dirty bombs, and your boss will likely pat you on the back later for your forward thinking use of technology.

Or you can help your citizens by sending out a series of three short messages that you’ve prepared in advance.

MESSAGE #1

SUSPECTED DIRTY BOMB EXPLOSION NEAR MIDTOWN. GET INSIDE A SHELTER. TURN OFF VENTILATION.

MESSAGE #2

SURVIVE DIRTY BOMB. GET INSIDE SHELTER. STAY INDOORS. IF NEAR MIDTOWN, REMOVE CLOTHING AND WASH HANDS & FACE WITH SOAP WATER.

MESSAGE #3

DIRTY BOMB UPDATE. STAY INDOORS. MONITOR LOCAL TV RADIO FOR INFO. CONSERVE CELL PHONE BATTERY POWER. STAY OFF PHONES.

If you put enough thought into it, you can distill the most important things that the public can do to protect themselves in nearly any scenario. To be effective, social media must be timely. You can’t use it to force feed your latest press releases on routine arrests, or to drive followers to your web site three times a week. They’ll quickly tire of that and simply turn off their mobile updates for your agency.

AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA OVERLOAD

Nor can you ignore them for months on end and expect them to still be there when disaster strikes. You must provide a balance in your usage of social media. During September, my cell phone was overloaded with “Preparedness Tips” from national agencies and organizations. Well meaning to be sure, but after just a few days, damn annoying too. Don’t “preach to the choir”. If someone is aware enough to follow a public service or disaster relief organization, then their level of preparedness is probably much better than average.

Law enforcement agencies are guilty of sending out their routine press releases via Twitter too. If a reporter is looking for a good story to fill that days column, then a normal press released routed via e-mail, fax, etc. is a much better tool. You want them to think of social media as their “breaking news” device.

If a reporter or media contact gets a Tweet from your agency, it should be an important case, major incident, or response information. Don’t be guilty of overloading your audience with routine information on their mobile devices. While most of us carry our e-mail in our hands these days, not everyone does.

TRADITIONAL MEDIA

Last week one of our clients in emergency management argued against all the “hype” surrounding social media. His point was “Less than 30% of all Americans have a Facebook or Twitter account. Most folks still want to get their information from TV or radio during a disaster”.

It’s a great point and valid if you’re looking at the numbers, but it ignores the influence that social media has had on traditional media coverage. Watch an afternoon of Fox News or CNN. Nearly every host and reporter have incorporated their Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, or blogs into their coverage. During breaking news events, photos pour in from “I-Reporters” and Twitter updates from citizens are reported in the same breath as official press releases.

All too often, the “official” press releases lag far behind the social media networks, and misinformation can spread quickly. It’s no longer a matter of “if” your agency should embrace social media, it’s clear that you can’t afford to ignore it.

To be effective, you must revisit your “canned” media materials and incorporate a solid plan of how social media will be a part of it. Plan to get their first with tips that will save lives, reduce confusion, and bring stability to the situation.

THE NEED FOR REVIEWS

Whenever we’re tasked with preparing “canned” emergency messages and public information for our clients, we always insist on incorporating a plan for those materials to be reviewed on an annual basis.

In most cases, reviewed materials require little if any changes from year to year, but if that formal review isn’t incorporated into the agency’s emergency action plans, then five years can go by quickly. Suddenly, an incident occurs, and the PIO finds that their prepackaged materials are out of date. They don’t have the latest guidance, or account for major new highway construction that started last year, etc.

Make a formal written review by both the PIO, and their immediate supervisors a mandatory requirement at your agency.

SUMMARY

Use the right tool for the right job. Social media is highly mobile, near-real time communications tool. It isn’t just an extension of your PR efforts.

Pushing URL Links to mobile users isn’t usually effective, and in a real incident, it may be useless.

Prepackage the most important response actions that your audience can take into your incident planning. Be prepared to send those messages immediately after an incident occurs. Follow them up with the best information you have.

Review your prepackaged media response kits at least annually.



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The H1N1 Swine Flu Hand-Washing Debate

by Admin on September 30, 2009

Docs Debate The Merits of Hand Washing

Docs Debate The Merits of Hand Washing

How many times have you been told that “washing your hands” is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of influenza, including H1N1? Maybe you’ve even seen those clever PSA’s where they show various people washing their hands while singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm”.

Actually, most health care practitioners that I know recommend singing “Happy Birthday” to achieve the necessary amount of time for disinfection, but copyright issues make it more difficult and expensive to use that tune on television. But we digress…

It turns out that hand washing may not be as effective as other mitigation steps at reducing the spread of the flu. Homeland Security Today offers us a peak at the debate, and some updated guidance based on it. It’s interesting reading to say the least. Don’t forget to turn off the water using the back of your arm, just like the doctors on “Grays Anatomy”.

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Guidelines for Secure Use of Social Media

September 25, 2009

The CIO Council recently released “Guidelines for The Secure Use of Social Media by Federal Agencies”.  The report is available as a Adobe Acrobat .PDF file here on our web site.
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One of the most telling parts of the report can be found in the first paragraph “This may require the re-education of senior management officials, [...]

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