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Crisis Communication Plan

Crisis Communication: Joint Information System

1. During times of crisis or mass law enforcement/public safety events that are handled by or involve the VSO, it shall be the policy of the VSO to inform the community and work cooperatively with the news media to facilitate the flow of factually consistent information on a timely basis through the implementation of Crisis Communication procedures. The VSO shall not interfere with the legitimate right of the media to collect and report information, provided such news-gathering efforts do not disrupt, interfere with or jeopardize ongoing operations or endanger the safety of citizens, public safety officers or news reporters.

2. Taking into account the extent and severity of the incident, the impact on the public safety of the community and the information demands of the news media, the Sheriff, in consultation with the Public Information Officer, will determine the necessity to activate Crisis Communication procedures on a case-by-case basis.

3. Based on the size and magnitude of the incident, a Joint Information System may be implemented as a coordinated information management response and a Joint Information Center (JIC) designated to include representatives of each jurisdiction, agency, private sector and other organizations involved in incident management activities. Multiple JICs may be required for complex incident(s) spanning a wide geographic area or multiple jurisdictions. The VSO Public Information Officer shall ensure the proper coordination and dissemination of official information.

4. During activation of the Crisis Communication, or Joint Information System, the VSO Public Information Officer shall report to the scene of extreme emergencies and be responsible for coordinating news media activities.

5. In order to fulfill the responsibilities under this plan, the Public Information Officer shall:

a. Work at the direction of the Sheriff and the Incident Commander or their designee.

b. At all times adhere to general order GO-054-01 Media Relations.

c. Respond to the scene, obtain a briefing from the Incident Commander or their designee and prepare an initial information summary upon arrival.

d. Act as liaison and coordinate all activities with Public Information Officers from other responding agencies and jurisdictions.

e. Establish a staging area for the news media to obtain information safely without interfering in tactical operations. When selecting a staging area, consideration shall be given to providing the news media with the ability to observe public safety operations when practical, while ensuring that the news media does not disrupt ongoing operations. Consideration also shall be given to ensuring that the staging area is separate from the Command Post, yet close enough to facilitate the flow of information. The Public Information Officer shall be responsible for the control of the news media within the staging area and shall have the authority to eject individuals disrupting or hampering law enforcement activities.

f. Coordinate all media briefings. Every effort shall be made to conduct media briefings at regular and continuing intervals to facilitate the flow of timely, accurate, consistent, updated information and control rumors and misinformation to the maximum extent possible. Every effort will be made to include representatives from the various responding agencies at all media briefings.

g. Seek approval of the Sheriff, Command Staff or Incident Commander or their designee prior to the release of all information. All media briefings shall be conducted by the Sheriff or their designee, Incident Commander or their designee or the Public Information Officer or their designee and shall be in accordance with established General Orders.

h. Via the news media, relay special bulletins, instructions and other public safety messages requested by bonafide agencies responsible for various activities related to the emergency situation.

6. The Public Information Officer, at their discretion, shall request on-scene response of mutual aid PIOs from other public safety agencies, as the need arises. Upon request of the Public Information Officer, the County’s Community Information Director shall provide mutual aid to the extent possible. In addition to general PIO duties as directed by the Public Information Officer, County Community Information shall act as liaison to the County Manager/County Council. All mutual aid PIOs shall act at the direction of the VSO Public Information Officer and may be directed to collocate at the JIC, if so designated.

7. The Public Information Officer or their designee shall be included in all briefings at the Command Post to facilitate the flow of timely, updated information to the news media.

8. Whenever practical, the Public Information Officer shall coordinate and arrange media interviews with incident personnel to provide the news media with first-hand information on the operations.

9. In addition to on-scene media briefings, the Public Information Officer shall cause to have the VSO web site and the automated media telephone line updated during regular intervals throughout the duration of the incident.

10. The Incident Commander or their designee, on a case-by-case basis, shall consider requests by the news media for access to restricted areas. If approved, the Incident Commander or their designee will specifically identify the access area, and said access will be accommodated by PIO escort.

11. To the extent that a public safety crisis event impacts the County as a whole and/or other County Government services/resources in addition to law enforcement, the Sheriff shall serve as liaison to the County Manager in coordinating the release of information to the news media to the maximum extent possible.

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