The PIO community has made great strides over the last 10-15 years by expanding how we think of our audience to include Spanish speakers. It is now routine to have updates and social media posts translated into Spanish and you can usually find a Spanish-speaking PIO on most large incidents. There is support for this from both the greater organizations and the response community. (And kudos to those who have pioneered sign language at public meetings and other Info events.)
In chapter 5 of Theorizing Crisis Communication, authors Timothy Sellnow and Matthew Seeger refer to the Incident Command System (ICS) as "rigid, hierarchical" and suggest ICS "does not account for emergent groups or flexibility as disaster situation changes." They further quote another scholar who describes ICS as "ineffective for large-scale disaster response because its centralized structure cannot mesh with the political and social realities inherent in American Society." Finally, the last and most significant criticism of ICS documented in the chapter is that "the bureaucratic model lacks flexibility and does not accommodate collective improvisation..."
Needless to say, these criticisms do not match my experiences.
The Fire Triangle is made up of oxygen, heat, and fuel. Without all three of these, there is no fire. That seems like an easy concept to get across to the public, right?
The problem is that most people only have experience with fires where oxygen (throw dirt on it) or heat (throw water on it) breaks the triangle. From campfires to major structure fires seen on the TV news or in movies, oxygen and heat get starring roles while fuel is rarely considered unless it is literally an accelerant like gasoline or a tossed kerosene lamp.
There is a disconnect between practice and academia in how we describe and define what PIOs do. Practitioners tend towards the positional descriptor, incident information, which is not frequently found in the academic literature. Crisis communications seems to be the preferred term for scholars. However, that can refer to a whole host of public affairs, corporate communications, and incident information issues. Most often, you will see it applied to reputation management studies where topics like damaging rumors or corporate malfeasance are covered. Some writers use crisis communications to mean just about everything to include incidents, but still focus a bit more on the business world. A few scholars started using disaster communications to separate out the communications issues associated with incidents like fire, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and hurricanes. That sounds a little sensational and doesn't quite apply to some all-risk assignments, so right now, I'm stuck between crisis and incident.
It comes from our very first comment ever and was offered by Dean Siebold in response to this post. Says Dean:
My favorite quote to use when teaching incident management classes is by the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden:
Be quick, but don't hurry.
I like it because it encapsulates everything about incident management and responding to crises.
Occasional thoughts on incident response, crisis communications, wildland fire, and other topics.
Docendo disco, scribendo cogito.
Copyright © Jim Whittington, 2019.