Public Information Officer (PIO)/Public Affairs Officer & Emergency Managers/Public Safety Officials

a. How would you define or describe the primary role of a public information officer (PIO) or public affairs officer (PAO)? What are the most important skills, competencies, characteristics, and responsibilities for a PIO/PAO to be effective? In which of the four phases of emergency management, or in which of the five national preparedness mission areas, is the role of the PIO/PAO most important, and most challenging, and why? How has the role or job of the PIO/PAO changed in the past 50 years? What have been the primary contributing factors or influences on that evolutionary process, and what are the long-term impacts or consequences of those changes?

b. Are there ever situations where emergency managers or public safety officials should withhold information from the media or public, or even from other audiences at least temporarily? If so, describe those circumstances, and provide examples of what information can or should be withheld, and for how long. Who should make that decision—the political leadership (i.e., the chief elected official), or the emergency management/public safety leadership or incident commander? What are the potential short-term and long-term risks or consequences of withholding information? Are there vital facts that must always be disseminated immediately and never withheld? Would the answer be different if, for example, the FBI warned that national security, or the potential for criminal prosecution of a terrorist or major criminal, might be irreparably compromised by the immediate release of that type of information?

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