Crisis Planning

Using a process similar to writing an organizational Strategic Communications Plan, SAE prepares a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) compliant plan that takes into account the unique needs of any local or regional public agency.  

Our plans are based on real world experience: SAE has provided communications counsel, media relations, and Joint Information Center management for many of California’s most challenging crises, including the 2020 COVID-19 response, 2020 protests, 2019 Conception dive boat tragedy, 2018 Montecito Debris Flow, 2017 Thomas fire, 2016 Sherpa fire, 2015 Refugio Beach oil spill, 2014 Isla Vista shootings, 2011 Seal Beach massacre, and numerous crises of confidence cases. SAE was also part of a team examining the 2015 San Bernardino County terrorist attack response and recovery. 

From in-depth discussion with your agency’s leadership, we’ll learn about the hazards that keep you up at night, but we’ll also explore your staffing strengths and weaknesses, media relations challenges, political and leadership issues, internal and external agency relationships, and many other facets of emergency planning.

Our approach is to ensure your plan isn’t just FEMA-compliant, but that it will really work when it has to: during the incident. We accomplish this by conducting on-the-ground research with you and your colleagues, reviewing past media coverage of area crises, and conducting research regarding issues which will impact your response and communications capabilities.  

From there, we’ll craft a tailored stand-alone plan or annex to your emergency response plan. It will be a practical document which guides your efforts from notification to establishment of your emergency public information team to preparing and disseminating information. Chapters will cover how the Joint Information System works and how to set up your Joint Information Center. Check lists for all functions are included, along with sections on meeting 409.5 of the California Penal Code on how to ensure media access and much more.

Sample Crisis Communications Plan Table of Contents

Section 1: Purpose

  • Policies Regarding Full Disclosure, Media Relations

Section 2: Roles

  • Initial Phase
  • Mid-Phase
  • Final Phase
  • Multiple Agency Response Roles
  • Role During Non-Disaster Incident

Section 3: Definitions

Section 4: Procedures Flow Charts / Crisis Communications Team Organization Chart

Section 5: Procedures

  • Notification of Communications Office
  • Assessment & Fact Gathering
  • Activate Crisis Communications Team / Plan
  • Initiate Response / Action Plan
  • Initiate Employee Communications
  • Disseminate Information
  • Incident Communications Management
  • Conduct Incident Wrap-Up / Post Incident Review

Section 6: Message Development

  • Role of Messages
  • Message Development Questions

Section 7: Communications Tools / Activation Procedures

  • Press Releases
  • Statements
  • Fact Sheets and Backgrounders
  • Visuals, Video Press Releases, and B-Roll
  • Chamber of Commerce Email Distribution
  • Portable Freeway Signs
  • Low Power A.M. Radio Broadcasts – English/Spanish
  • Global Employee Email
  • Global Employee Voice Mail
  • Telephone “Bank” – Incoming Calls from Public
  • Internal and External Newsletters

Section 8: Department Operations Center – Communications Function

  • Setting up the PIO Workstation / Function in the DOC
  • Establishing a Media Briefing Center
  • Establishing Field PIO or Making Contact With Existing Teams
  • DOC Duties of the Director of Communications

Section 9: Media Briefing Center

  • Make Determination to Establish a Media Briefing Center
  • Staffing the Media Briefing Center
  • Media Briefing Center Location
  • Checklist for Establishing, Operating a Media Briefing Center

Section 10: Field PIO

  • Prepare to Report to the Field
  • Report to Incident Commander
  • Establish a Field Information Center for the Media
  • Determine Media Access Area
  • Pool Coverage
  • Information Flow to DOC
  • Other Field PIO Duties

Section 11: Joint Information Center

  • Overview of JIC
  • Staff of JIC
  • Roles
  • JIC Organization Chart

Section 12: Checklists

  • Director of Communications
  • Assistant Director/Public Information Officer
  • Communications Officer/Community Relations-Education
  • Communications Officer/Media Relations
  • Communications Officer/Visual Arts
  • Communications Administrative Coordinator
  • Communications Specialist V
  • Communications Specialist IV
  • Communications Specialist III
  • Division Secretary
  • Clerk Typist

Section 13: Sample Messages, Press Releases

  • Questions for Fact Gathering
  • How to use the Sample Messages, Press Releases
  • Incident Notification Form
  • Holding Statement Form
  • Media Contact Log
  • Media Briefing Center Log
  • Business Continuity
  • Facility Closure — Indefinite
  • Facility Closure – Temporary
  • Terrorist Activity
  • Bomb Threat / Explosion
  • Earthquake
  • Fire
  • Oil Spill / Hazardous Materials Leak – Spill
  • Tsunami
  • Workplace Violence
  • Criminal Behavior / Investigation
  • Freeway/Railway Closure / No Transportation Access
  • Work Stoppage
  • Operational Move to Other Facility

Section 14: Rosters – Communications Officers

  • Agency
  • Communications Office
  • Community
  • Schools
  • County
  • Nearby Communities/Agencies
  • Utilities
  • Support Agencies
  • State of California
  • Federal Government

Section 15: Media Lists

  • Local
  • Regional Print
  • Regional Broadcast
  • Regional Wire Services
  • Online
  • Trades
  • International

Section 16: Roster – Hot Links

  • State of California Agencies
  • U.S. Government and National Agencies
  • International Agencies
  • Local Agencies

Section 17: PIO Go-Kit

  • Office Kit
  • Personal Kit

Section 18: Media Access Guidelines / 409.5 PC

  • Summary
  • California Penal Code Section 409.5
  • Media Access at Incident Scenes
  • Media Photo Site
  • Barrier Tape Rules

Section 19: Media / Public Safety Airline Guidelines

  • General Guidelines

Section 20: Bomb Squad / Media Guidelines

  • Distance from Immediate Scene
  • Photographing Bomb Deactivation Techniques

Section 21: Crisis Web Site

  • Checklist: Materials Upload – Internal-Use Site
  • Checklist: Materials Upload – Media / Public Use
  • Web Site Map

See a few case studies here.

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