Lots of discussion lately about ways to integrate SM into situational awareness. Most of the focus seems to be on where to put people within the EOC/ICS structure to facilitate communication and information sharing between ICS units. That’s all well and good, but equally if not more important is who you put in these positions. On my regional IMT, we have two great PIO’s. One is hip on SM and use of web based mapping tools. The other is a seasoned ex TV news reporter now working as a Public Information Officer for a regional fire agency. She is an outstanding communicator, has limited SM skills and knowledge, but is trying to ramp up before fire season hits. Both folks bring tremendous skills to our team, most of which has nothing to do with their SM technical competency.
I mention this because it appears assigning liaisons between a JIC/PIO function, Intelligence function(s) and/or the Situation Unit is the emerging consensus on how best to integrate SM and situational awareness. I’m down with that, but caution that it takes a special type of person to fill these roles during a big time mess. Websters Online Dictionary defines Liaison as “: communication for establishing and maintaining mutual understanding and cooperation” . The key words are understanding and cooperation. This means those in these positions need to be the Henry Kissinger types in ICS. This is what I think it takes to be effective in the role of JIC/PIO liaison as it relates to maintaining situational awareness;
- Real world experience using expanded ICS over multiple operational periods.
- Strong communications skills—–no not that kind. I’m talking about the ability to effectively communicate within the team environment, and do so efficiently. During crisis, debate and hyperbole test my patience. Give me the information, assessment, and recommendation.
- Strong collaboration mindset. Team player…period
- “Plan B” mindset. Always thinking “what if?”
- Understand the operational strategy and tactics of the response. A law enforcement officer assigned to a JIC liaison role likely won’t have a clue about the tactics used in response to a catastrophic bovine disease outbreak (nor would I).
- “Sensitivity radar”-the ability to predict, detect and react to potential “land-minds” [sic] as it relates to what concerned citizens are saying and how they are saying it.
- Comfortable using the major SM tools of the day (currently, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Flickr, etc…), including being able to quickly “train” someone on the fly to use basic SM tools for information monitoring.
I can break it down even simpler, and maybe I’ll put together a little cheat card to give my Liaison at the next mess we respond to. The below comments are complements of Robert Fulguhm http://www.robertfulghum.com/ and these concepts has particular meaning to our those assigned to the liaison role.
- Share everything
- Play fair
- Don’t hit people
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
- Clean up your own mess
Here are a couple more that are mostly germaine to the Incident Commander;
- Warm cookies and milk are good for you
- Take a nap every afternoon!
I sure miss Kindergarten.