Management: Emergency Communication Systems

Session/Week 7: Media Dynamics and Dealing with Media Interests

There are numerous articles regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that happened in December 2012, where 20-year-old Adam Lanza was the gunman who killed many people, including his mother. It is known that he was diagnosed with many diseases, for instance, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and was suspected to have schizophrenia (Vogel, Horwitz, & Fahrenthold, 2012). Initially, Adam’s brother was suspected of being the shooter (“Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting,” 2012). These articles deliver their message by including all the content involved in the shooting, explain the whole story, criticize the event, and give a clear overview of all the people involved in it. Although one would expect that the articles would have a sad tone, their tone is serious whereby the authors and the media talk about the most important details and give the most relevant information. The skills of informants and people interviewed are not perfect as they are just average citizens who happened to be involved in the unfortunate event. They are, therefore, not composed, and their sadness affects them when presenting information. As seen in both articles published in the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, most informants are relatives of the victims, and thus their focus is on their loss and not the accuracy of the event. Their information is, therefore, not reliable. As there are numerous articles published and videos made about the shooting, it can be said that the frequency of the communication by the media was high. The delivery of the information was done correctly and included all the information. However, a problem that was found in many of the articles was the lack of clear recommendations and guidelines on how to avoid such future situations. There were no media or audiences that were overlooked. The information was delivered in a way that it could reach and be utilized by everybody.

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Session/Week 8: National Communications Systems and Interoperability Issues

There exist significant challenges relating to the development and implementation of reliable and interoperable emergency communication systems among various components of the government. Firstly, the remoteness of some areas acts as a barrier. When an emergency communication system is established, it is meant to work throughout the country to facilitate communication and passing of information from one corner to another (Green, 2011). When an emergency occurs, responsible trained professionals may be located far away. If an area is remote and communication systems are down, this process may fail. Secondly, there is low funding, and for a well-established system of emergency communication to work and perform well, there is a need for adequate funding to take care of all the requirements and connections. These elements include the equipment, exercise, training, and planning. When funds are low, this process is bound to fail in some places as the priority is given to high profile areas, not considering other places that are also prone to attacks and emergencies. The implementation of this system is, therefore, challenged. Finally, the use of inappropriate networks is a significant hindrance. The systems that are used for communication during natural hazards are the same ones that are utilized commercially, which means that they are also not able to survive physical disasters, resulting in communication breakdown.

A perfect policy that would ensure that this goal is achieved is through the imposition of rules that would require every state to take measures to ensure that they are connected to the national emergency communication system. There are significant steps that have been made since the events like the Oklahoma City bombing. An example is the Real Eyes Project that was pioneered by the Department of Homeland Security (Farley, 2010). This project ensures that live streaming videos are available for emergency responders.

Session/Week 9: Key Communications Issues: EOCs, ICS and Unified Command

The most important impacts of the communications taking place in the ICS and NIMS are the direct and immediate responses that are carried out after the information about the crisis is shared. Other people who are required to report on various activities involved in the response and solution process are then required to report to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). Afterward, the operations, planning, logistics, and finance sections and departments of organizations need to work in coordination to deliver a response that is perfect and effective.

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Emergency Manager or EOC should have authority over the crisis communication in any organization. In particular, they head the office or the location where all the important meetings take place and the decisions regarding the crisis are made (“Incident Management,” n.d.). The meetings are held there to decide on the appropriate measures that should be taken when there is an impending event or when there is an ongoing response to an event. An organization that has been affected by a crisis and has utilized the NIMS is the Red Cross when attending to disasters all over the world (FEMA, n.d.). The EOC heads all the activities involved in the response activities. Each Red Cross station or facility has the EOC that is responsible for handling and coordinating the response activities to the crisis and emergencies that are in their jurisdiction. The above is now a requirement that has been imposed by the Red Cross lead office, and all the stations should adhere to it.

Session/Week 10: Exercising/Testing/Validating the Communications Element of the EOP

During a response to any critical disasters and incidents, there are issues that arise when both the Incident Command Post (ICP) and the EOC are activated because their roles are much related. In fact, they are almost similar. The ICP ensures that the assets responsible for the use during the responses are arranged in a way that various procedures that are necessary for the smooth running and completion of the programs are in place (CSUN, n.d.). The EOP, on the other hand, is responsible for establishing the organizational structure, policies, and procedures necessary for a satisfactory response. These roles are similar and can, therefore, lead to a clash if the two programs are used at the same time. However, they can be used together in a method that is called a Unified Incident Command Approach if the event is larger scale and more complicated. This approach ensures that there is no clash and, therefore, the response is more favorable.

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The best way to test and validate the EOP and the communication methods used is through the use of simulations. They presuppose that a typical situation is acted out, and the test is conducted to find any errors and eliminate them (Kapucu & Hu, 2016). Simulations are important to be performed before the EOP is used in actual events. They also create an active response team that has all the skills and knowledge required to handle the crisis. These simulations can also be used in training seminars for the public whereby they learn how to deal with emergencies first hand. This knowledge is essential to them as they can reduce the direct impact of the events early enough before a skilled response team arrives at the site.

Session/Week 11: Social Media and New Communication Issues

Social media are an instrumental tool in the handling and dealing with emergencies. They can be beneficial if the information provided is in fact true. If it is false, the result is instead devastating. One of the challenges caused by the social media intervention in emergencies is the dissemination of outdated and false information with regard to the location of the hazard (White, 2011). Another example relates to the Japanese tsunami whereby tweets about the need for more rescuers were sent while the affected people had already been rescued, which caused grief of the relatives of the victims as they were not sure of the state of their family members. Another challenge is the publication or posting of false information with the intention of creating a confusion or threat situation, possibly barring any response attempts. It can also be a prank of a terrorist attack, which is performed by people who intend to create a situation of unrest and confusion, resulting in the derailment of positive measures. Actual terrorist attacks can be conducted at the time when the involved individuals are not on guard.

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However, there are many benefits that are derived from the involvement of social media. Social media are sometimes the first media through which the information is given. For example, recent trending posts on social media about the slave trade in Libya have led to this information being revealed to the outside world, evoking many responses. Another example is the outcry that was seen on social media after the Paris bombing, leading to the joint effort by countries worldwide aimed at providing relief to the affected people. Social media played an essential role in the conveyance of information about the earthquake in Haiti and the subsequent joint reactions by various stakeholders, including the Red Cross (O’Dell, 2011).


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