Information Officers from throughout the Public Service met at the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) for the past two days to undergo training in Crisis Communication.
The training was facilitated by Clive A. Murray, Communication and Education Specialist with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and Dr. Livingston A. White, Director of the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at The University of the West Indies Mona Campus in Jamaica.
Mr. Murray explained that the training was part of an initiative planned by the Department of Information and Public Relations and the DDM to improve the knowledge and skills of officers who play a key role in crises.
He said, “The DDM reached out to the CDEMA Regional Training Centre to provide assistance in creating a practical workshop that would help improve the knowledge and skills among information officers so that they can perform their roles as defined in the National Disaster Management Plan. In addition, the BVI Government is required to show evidence of continued training in crisis communication as part of the emergency management accreditation standards. CDEMA was happy to partner with CARIMAC in this regard.”
Crisis communication is a specialty area that requires communicators to share critical, often lifesaving information because of an emergency such as those that occurred during the major disasters of 2017.
Senior Lecturer in Communication Dr. White explained, “It is important that Information Officers, who mostly have a public relations background, are trained in the key principles of ethical and effective communication during a crisis. During a crisis, the way in which we communicate must be carefully handled. It is therefore essential for information officers to be prepared to face these situations as they are occurring more frequently in the region.”
The two-day training included information on a number of key areas such as ethical considerations in crisis communication, the roles of public information officers and the media during a crisis, and best practices in sharing effective messages, as well as a detailed presentation on the National Disaster Management Organization and the role of the Joint Information Center; a key hub in the NEOC operations.
It is expected that going forward, the training will become a requirement for information officers entering the Public Service to ensure that they understand their roles and responsibilities in a crisis situation. The Department of Information and Public Relations will continue to work with the DDM to identify opportunities to improve the level of knowledge and skills among information officers in a variety of areas.