Alert and Information Guide

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INTRODUCTION

The following guide provides an overview of disaster information management in San Miguel County. This includes community alert and warning procedures and public information.

Community Alert and Warning (i.e. SMC Alert and Warning [GEM], Emergency Alert System [EAS], Integrated Public Alert and Warning System [IPAWS], etc.) is managed by the communication center, local public information managers, and/or the office of emergency management to provide rapid dissemination of alert and warning information regarding general public safety (traffic hazards, scam calls, etc.) or imminent public safety threats (flooding, evacuation, etc.).

AUTHORITY

  • San Miguel County Resolution adopting the current Emergency Operations Plan, 2022-17
  • Colorado Revised Statutes Title 24, Article 33.5 Section 7, Colorado Disaster Emergency Act
  • Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, P.L. 93-288, as Amended

ASSUMPTIONS

  1. Information will be out to the public (by the public) immediately through social media.
  2. Information is one of the first casualties of a disaster. Rumors abound and information is sketchy at best. It may be hours before officials know the facts. The lack of information or contradictory information will cause confusion.
  3. Public education and information programs may help save lives and property during emergencies and disasters if the public knows how to prepare for them.
  4. In an emergency situation, the public will demand information about the emergency. The SMC Alert and Warning system will perform an essential role in providing emergency instructions and status information to the public.
  5. Depending on the severity of the emergency, or the media's conception of the severity of the emergency, regional and national media may also demand information and may play a role in reassuring or alarming distant relatives of the disaster area population.
  6. Telephone, cellular or internet communications may be disrupted or overloaded. Local and regional radio/television stations without emergency power may be off the air for lengthy periods of time.

SITUATION

  1. The public needs timely and accurate information for protection of life and property during response to, and recovery from a disaster or emergency situation.
  2. Local jurisdictions will provide immediate and vital information to the public regarding response and recovery activities.
  3. An emergency situation may occur with little or no warning. Therefore, the public must have advance understanding of the potential hazards affecting them and the protective actions to be taken. Pre-prepared messages may be utilized to pass initial information and instructions to the public.
  4. During an emergency situation, it is essential that the public be provided with timely, accurate and easily understood information on the protective measures to be taken to save lives and protect property.
  5. Centralized town, county and state coordination and dissemination of factual, official information is necessary to assure a well-informed public, to avoid or minimize the release of misinformation, and to deflate rumors.
  6. Should the Joint Information System (JIS) concept be activated, it may operate out of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) or Joint Information Center (JIC). All public information needs should be coordinated out of the JIC once established.

ALERT AND WARNING SYSTEMS

The county and jurisdictions within use multiple methods in order to communicate with the public on a daily basis and during an emergency event.

SMC ALERT AND WARNING

San Miguel County Alert and Warning is the primary system used by all jurisdictions to provide alert and warning information to the public. This system is the fastest to initiate and will reach the most people in the event of an emergency. The system automatically captures all landlines in the county. Community members and visitors are encourage to register in the system to tie their mobile numbers and emails to their home or business address in order to receive targeted messages impacting their location.

IPAWS

The Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) is FEMA's national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency and life-saving information to the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), to radio and television via the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Weather Radio.

SOCIAL MEDIA

The county and towns all have various social media platforms. These include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, etc.

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE VARIABLE MESSAGE SIGNS (VMS)

The Mountain Village has two VMS signs for the public. One is located at the entrance to the town, the other at the visitor’s center. These signs can be used for emergencies and incident management, as well as day to day information for traveler alerts and maintenance activities. In addition, they can be effective for large special events that significantly affect traffic flow. To post a message call the Chief of Police at 970-729-3447 or PIO at 970-708-7285.

CDOT VARIABLE MESSAGE SIGNS (VMS)

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) manages several Variable Message Signs (VMS) in the region which are a valuable and effective traffic control tool available for emergencies and incident management, as well as day to day information for traveler alerts and maintenance activities for day to day communications. In addition, they can be effective for large special events that significantly affect traffic flow. Currently, signs are located on the northbound lane on the east side of Dallas Divide, Placerville and the base of Lawson Hill. To post a message officials should contact San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch.

AGENCY WEBSITES

Each jurisdiction maintains their own website.

LOCAL RADIO AND TELEVISION

KOTO Radio is often used to share information with the public on emerging events. The Town of Mountain Village offers television and/or internet service; emergency alerts would be sent via EAS.

PRINT MEDIA

Local newspapers are used mainly for public education and information dissemination.

ALTERNATIVE METHODS

In the event of a power or internet outage, alternative methods of alert and warning are needed.

  1. Door-to-door alert and warning by public safety personnel. Published information in English and Spanish may be used to post in order to warn the hearing-impaired or non-English speaking persons.
    1. Public safety personnel may also use PA system in localized areas
  2. Sign boards at common gathering places (post offices, library, government buildings, etc.)
  3. Personnel stationed at local law enforcement building, fire departments or other government buildings

CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS

The primary and support agencies to this Annex will act as a team to address public information management considerations to ensure the flow of information to departments, agencies, media and the public.

PRIMARY AND SUPPORTING AGENCIES

Primary Agencies

  • San Miguel Sheriff’s Office/Office of Emergency Management Public Information
  • San Miguel Sheriff’s Office Communication Centers
  • WestCO Regional Communication Center
  • San Miguel County (SMC) Communications
  • Town of Mountain Village Public Information
  • Town of Norwood Officials
  • Town of Telluride Communications

Supporting Agencies

  • County emergency services agencies
  • San Miguel Emergency Telephone Service Authority
  • Assisting agencies with PIO capacity and responsibility (regional, state and federal partners)
  • Private sector agencies
  • Subject matter experts

INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM AND PIOS

In the beginning stages of an emergency or disaster situation, public information activities will be directed and coordinated by the agency having jurisdiction over the event. Within the ICS, the PIO is responsible for communicating with the public, media, and/or coordinating with other agencies, as necessary, with incident related information requirements. Emergency management or communication managers may act as PIOs during an incident or planned event.

EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER

An EOC may be activated either virtual or in-person. Once the EOC is activated, in the absence of a Joint Information Center, Incident Command (IC) or Unified Command (UC) will provide public information to the EOC. The EOC will continue to work with Incident Command to release information they have approved, as well as countywide impacts outside the IC/UC jurisdiction.

JOINT INFORMATION SYSTEM AND PIOS

A JIS is a structure that integrates incident information and public affairs into a cohesive organization designed to provide consistent, coordinated, accurate, accessible, timely, and complete information during crisis or incident operations. To reduce inaccuracies and misinformation, San Miguel County will use a joint information system (JIS) to coordinate information with participating local, regional, state, and federal agencies. JIS agencies include

  • San Miguel Sheriff’s Office/Office of Emergency Management Public Information
  • San Miguel County (SMC) Communications
  • Town of Mountain Village Public Information
  • Town of Norwood Officials
  • Town of Telluride Communications

JIS PIO

Participating agencies should assign one representative to the JIS to coordinate information from their agency with other team members. The designated PIO(s) uses the best possible method available for public information release to ensure timely and accurate dissemination of information. The PIO will ensure that information transmitted to the public clearly conveys the following information:

  • The nature of the emergency
  • The location of the emergency
  • How the emergency can affect them
  • What protective action to take
  • Where to get help (if applicable)
  • When the situation will be remedied (if known)

Requests for Information

All news releases concerning issues regarding emergencies or disasters will be coordinated by the lead PIO (agency having jurisdiction).

  1. Inquiries for information about the response to an emergency or disaster or planned event shall be referred to the lead PIO for response.
  2. Incidents where the Sheriff’s Office is the lead will be referred to the Sheriff’s Office and OEM
  3. Incidents where the Department of Health and Environment is the lead will be referred to the county Communication Manger
  4. Incidents where the county is supporting an incident within a municipality or special district will be referred to the lead jurisdiction’s PIO when applicable

JOINT INFORMATION CENTER

The Agency Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) of the emergency or disaster may elect to conduct public information functions in a single physical location called a Joint Information Center (JIC). A JIC is a facility established to coordinate critical emergency information, crisis communications and public affairs functions. PIOs may activate the JIC to better manage communication and the location will depend on the incident or planned event.

Once the JIC is established, all release of information to the public will be made via the JIC. In a disaster, the EOC becomes the focal point for the receipt of information and therefore, is a logical location for the JIC.

The JIC may include local, regional, state, federal and private sector agencies. Once operational, local, state, federal and other agencies should coordinate news releases concerning emergency response and recovery activities through the JIC. Although emergency public information activities may take place at the EOC, a disaster fie************************

INFORMATION MANAGEMENT PHASES

OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (OEM) & PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER (PIO)

Mitigation Phase

  1. Stay current and familiar with the latest techniques for emergency management information
  2. Maintain good working relationships with local and regional media.
  3. Present information and conduct public education campaigns as needed

Preparedness Phase

  1. Maintain relationships with local, regional, state, and federal Emergency Managers and PIO's to enhance public preparedness and awareness prior to an emergency, and to facilitate dissemination of actual incident information
  2. Participate in emergency drills and exercises to test plans for effective and consistent information release
  3. Attend PIO conferences and training sessions
  4. Compile and prepare emergency information for the public in case of an emergency
  5. Coordinate public education/awareness campaigns

Response Phase

  1. Responsible for gathering, verifying, and producing information for dissemination to the media and public such as news releases, background information, fact sheets, public service announcements, briefings, and news conference materials
  2. Respond to questions and requests from the media as needed
  3. Prepare public officials for interviews, briefings and conferences
  4. Release information to media and public via various system and media briefings, news conferences, interviews, public service announcements, etc.
  5. Arrange for media interviews, tours, and special requests (using pools when applicable)
  6. Staff the EOC/JIC as appropriate
  7. Inform the public and media about the emergency
  8. Verify the authenticity of incoming information, verify duplicate or contradictory releases are not being made and take action to maintain control of rumors
  9. Inform the public on available assistance – and the location of shelters and disaster assistance centers the progress of recovery efforts
  10. Maintain current files and accurate records of all information released to the public and media

Recovery Phase

  1. Continue to brief the media about continuing developments.
  2. Assess the public information response to the emergency with OEM, PIOs, stakeholders and agency heads. Incorporate appropriate recommendations to revise this Annex
  3. Release available statistics on disaster damage, injuries and fatalities
  4. Inform the public on available assistance through disaster assistance centers and the progress of recovery efforts
  5. Continue to monitor rumors and respond as needed
  6. Confidential Information is not to be released
  7. OEM and PIOs are responsible for the acquisition of appropriate equipment and supplies to support the public information and education program, and to ensure rapid activation of the JIC if necessary
  8. Media Access to the Scene
    1. Every effort should be made to allow the media access to the disaster area, consistent with safety.
    2. The IC/UC may allow media representatives restricted access to the scene, accompanied by OEM or PIO staff. This should be done with regard to the safety of media personnel, the impact on response, and the wishes and concerns of the victims.
    3. OEM should not allow media into the EOC, except under limited, controlled circumstances, and only with prior approval of the EOC Manager. Before being admitted to the EOC, media representatives shall display appropriate identification.
    4. If it is not safe or practical to admit all media representatives to the scene, a media “pool” may be created, where media representatives select one camera crew to take video footage for all. If even such controlled access is impractical, a “staged” photo opportunity to tape response vehicles or support activities may satisfy the media's need for video footage.
    5. Response personnel must be protected from unwanted media intrusion. Off-shift personnel should be provided uninterrupted rest. It may be necessary to provide security to facilities where response personal are housed.
    6. Victims and families should have access to public officials without having to face media. Efforts will by made to provide a secure entrance to county administrative offices, or arrange a briefing/interview room away from the media, whenever necessary.

ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES

San Miguel County OEM

  • Provide general oversight of the county’s emergency management programs and activities, including maintenance of the Emergency Operations Plan
  • Coordinate with Sheriff and PIOs to ensure situational awareness and coordinated messaging
  • Advise the Policy Group (BoCC, councils, etc.) concerning emergency management needs before, during and after an emergency
  • Maintain the EOC, which helps facilitate coordination among town and county partners and outside agencies
  • Coordinate with the communication centers and other PIOs to ensure situational awareness and coordinated messaging
  • Activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in support of incident operations, as needed
  • Ensure that warning of internal personnel has been accomplished using the ReadyOp system
  • Establish an effective County emergency alert and warning system
  • Conduct public awareness campaigns to educate the public of how alerts and warning will be disseminated throughout the jurisdiction. Focus on hazard awareness and personal preparedness.
  • Inform the public through the appropriate warning system. Ensure that the warning systems are not overly used to cause undue public concern.
  • Ensure Access and Functional Needs (AFN) populations in affected areas are warned appropriately
  • Implement contingency plans to provide warnings if established warning systems fail to work.
  • Exercise warning and notification systems at least annually
  • Involve the media and the local jurisdictions in exercises and critiques
  • Review and update this Annex

County Sheriff

  • Ensure availability to make critical decisions following a large-scale emergency or disaster.
  • Coordinate with OEM and PIOs to ensure situational awareness and coordinated messaging

County Manager

  • Ensure availability for interviews or press conferences, as needed
  • Execute the major emergency or disaster declaration as appropriate.

Department of Health and Environment

  • Coordinate with BoCC/Board of Health, OEM and PIOs to ensure situational awareness and coordinated messaging
  • Issues general public health and response advisories, including air quality, food, water, and sanitation warnings in coordination with the EOC.

Communications Manager

  • Coordinate with OEM and other PIOs to ensure situational awareness and coordinated messaging
  • Provide support to the JIC and EOC as appropriate and requested

IT Department

  • Support EOC and PIO staff as needed

GIS Department

  • Places emergency information dispatches and bulletins on county websites as needed
  • Generates maps for incident command as needed
  • Supports EOC operations

Communications Centers

  • Use internal notification systems to alert employees as needed (email, ReadyOp)
  • Serve as lead for initial warning
  • Provide technical assistance and/or act as backup for public information activities as needed
  • Coordinates with the EOC to communicate specific emergency information

Additional Resources

  • All state and federal assistance is coordinated through the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). OEM may order public information resources for deployment from the SEOC.