Personnel may be sought for release of a partial list.
Accidents occurring outside the United States may
require additional coordination with the U.S. embassy
or consulate to make sure the host government is
MULTISERVICE. In all joint operations, the joint
command PAO is responsible for all public affairs
actions regardless if he is of the service that had the
accident. Otherwise, if circumstances permit, the parent
service of the affected aircraft, vessel or vehicle should
make the initial public release. If a Navy representative
is not immediately available for comment and certain
facts about the accident are obvious, any other service
involved may assist reporters who request information.
An indication should be made that the information is
interim in nature, that the information is confined to the
basic known facts, and that an investigation is being
made or will be made.
NON-NAVY CIVILIANS. In a unified command
area, action will be directed by the unified commander.
In other areas, notification will be made by message or
telephone to the authority responsible for coordination
of public affairs. If national interest is anticipated,
CHINFO will be informed. Appropriate civil authorities
also will be informed. Public release of the names of
non-Navy civilian casualties is at the discretion of the
command concerned. If it is considered advisable to
release this information before the next of kin have been
notified, a statement on the status of this notification
should be included in the release.
The equipment involved in naval disasters is often
highly technical. The circumstances surrounding a
collision at sea or aircraft accident are usually unfamiliar
to the layman.
To report the facts in context, it is important that the
media fully understand what has happened. Such
understanding may also help them to be sympathetic in
their reporting of why it happened.
Technical manuals usually seem confusing and
unnecessarily detailed to the uninitiated. The public
affairs staff, in many cases, cannot explain technicalities
or specialized operations. An attempt to do so, without
thorough knowledge, can only lead to additional
Soon after the initial announcement concerning the
loss of a nuclear submarine, the Navy made certain
technical experts available to answer specialized
questions concerning submarine operations. One of
these was the former CO of a nuclear submarine. This
officer, who himself had taken a nuclear submarine
under the arctic ice fields, spent several hours providing
background information to the Pentagon press corps. He
also appeared in a number of televised interviews. While
being careful to avoid speculation as to the cause of the
disaster, he did provide enough technical data to enable
stories to be written accurately. He was also able to
dispel a number of unfounded stories and rumors which
circulated soon after the sinking. One Pentagon news
reporter remarked that these briefings contributed
greatly to the excellent public relations associated with
Background information which may seem to be
remote or too much trouble in the hectic hours
following a disaster may be the most important in the
On several occasions, it has been noted that disaster
survivors were interviewed by the news media without
having been debriefed by the PAO or an assistant from
his staff. Debriefing is a private meeting at which the
survivors are interviewed to determine their experiences
and counsel them about their upcoming meeting with
reporters. Other cognizant personnel must also be
present to offer specific guidance. Debriefing may not
be possible when reporters are taken to the disaster
scene, but a knowledgeable escort can help the reporter
to keep information obtained from interviews in context.
Individuals in the midst of a disaster often do not know
the full story of what has happened. They sometimes
tend to generalize statements based on their own
experiences in isolated areas of the disaster.
In an operational disaster the survivors may not
know exactly what can be said about the work in which
they were engaged. One result is that they refuse to
answer any questions and therefore become unco-
operative, calling unnecessary attention to the
classified circumstances surrounding the accident.
There is also the possibility of a survivor performing his
own security review based on an incomplete knowledge
of the disaster or operation.
Certain survivors may be disgruntled about the
operation or the ship and attempt to place blame on
faulty equipment, poor leadership, long hours, and so
forth. The reporters, who have no way of knowing the
reliability of the person, use exactly what they are told.