Joint Information Center - A "Purple" Place

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Arthur DesLauriers
  • 143 AW/PA
During Hurricane Sandy, members of the Rhode Island Air National Guard's 143d Airlift Wing Public Affairs and the Rhode Island Army National Guard's 110th Public Affairs Detachment formed the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency's (RIEMA) Joint Information Center (JIC).

The team worked in collaboration to keep the public informed on the ongoing efforts of the various public safety organizations involved in providing support to the State of Rhode Island during Hurricane Sandy.

A JIC is a central point for coordination of incident information, media affairs activities, and media access to information regarding the latest developments. In the event of an incident requiring a coordinated response by the State of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island National Guard a JIC is established with the State of Rhode Island's Emergency Management Agency to coordinate Federal, State, local and private-sector incident communications with the public.

The JIC must be ready to rapidly respond to developing situations and communicate to the public through the media. As incident conditions and safety permit, the members forward deploy public affairs personnel to central locations with high levels of response activity and potential media incidents. Major announcements, daily briefings, and incident updates are an ongoing process as media queries from local, state, regional and national news agencies are called into the JIC to seek out information on the ongoing disaster or incident affecting the state. The JIC serves as the primary point of contact for the media concerning all Federal State and Municipal disaster response, recovery, and mitigation programs. JIC staff is responsible for providing basic disaster information to the media and for organizing subject matter experts for interviews with the media depending upon the topic. They also maintain all media lists and document all media contacts.

Master Sgt. Janeen Miller, the 143d Airlift Wing Public Affairs Manager said, "Getting the correct information to the news outlets is a demanding task, but an important task. This information is needed to inform the public on the status of the emergency. The information provided can be items such as; locations and status of shelters, evacuation orders, food distribution sites or situation updates."

Accuracy is key when informing the public and legitimizing the JIC as a source for the media to gain information and to serve the public.

The JIC staff reviews media reporting for accuracy, content, and adjustment to ensure that accurate public information is being disseminated to the media and citizens. By monitoring social media outlets such as websites, blogs, Facebook sites and twitter accounts the JIC staff can ensure accuracy and detect information trends.

"Social media sites are key in getting word out. Today's public is so connected via smart phones, tablets etc. its imperative that we keep these sites up and running. The information provided on these social media sites is instant and the public's demand for instant information is insatiable," said Sergeant Peter Ramaglia, Public Affairs Specialist, 110th Public Affairs Detachment.

The JIC staff prepares daily media analysis reports to be included in the Daily Communications Summary. They detect trends in media reporting and are responsible for working with Strategic Communications within Planning and Products to inform them of those trends and possible messaging of issues and trends (talking points and guidance to the public).

The men and women of the Rhode Island Air National Guard's 143d Public Affairs Staff and the Rhode Island Army National Guard's 110th Public Affairs Detachment combined forces to man their third JIC in two years. These Public Affairs professionals took care of Rhode Island's informational needs during the Historic Floods of 2010, Tropical Storm Irene 2011, and now during Hurricane Sandy.