or as obvious as this action may be, it is one of the first
things frequently forgotten in a disaster situation. For
this reason, it is important that you know in advance
what your commands public affairs objectives are in the
face of bad news.
The following is a list of specific public affairs
objectives when dealing with an adverse news situation:
l Retain public confidence in the Navy. When
something goes wrong in the Navy, the com-
petence of naval personnel or the value of naval
equipment may be called into question. It is your
job to minimize doubts by telling the truth, give
full and accurate information and report what
corrective actions, if any, are being taken. You
may be able to neutralize an adverse story with
this strategy, and increased public confidence
may result if you do your job well.
l Preserve good media and community rela-
tions. Treat media representatives as you would
like to be treated: honestly and fairly. Release all
information that can be released. If you cover up
certain facts related to an adverse news stay, you
can be sure the ill will that arises when the cover-
up is discovered will follow you. Frankness and
honesty are always respected. The results may be
seen in the unbiased reporting of adverse news
. Protect and promote the welfare of military
personnel and their families. While you have an
obligation to respond to the publics right to
know, you must also remember that naval
personnel and their families have a right to
privacy that must be respected. This becomes
most apparent when you deal with fatalities and
notification of next of kin.
In addition to these objectives, the public affairs
office has certain immediate and continuing
responsibilities in a disaster situation. They are listed as
. To safeguard classified information and material
. To provide the news media with maximum
possible access to the accident scene and a
continuous flow of information regarding the
. To release the names
current policy permits
of casualties as soon as
PUBLIC AFFAIRS PLANS
To best meet the daily commitments and fulfill the
public affairs responsibilities in a disaster situation, you
must prepare two disaster plans. The command plan is
issued by the command in the form of an official
directive or appended to any master disaster plan as a
public affairs annex. It promulgates broad information
policies and designates overall responsibilities to staff
departments or individual staff billets relative to the
handling of public affairs in a disaster.
In addition, write an office plan outlining the
detailed actions to be taken by the PAO and his staff to
fulfill their designated responsibilities.
The command plan shown in figure 2-3 provides a
solid base for the public affairs staff in a disaster. By
being promulgated as a directive, the plan is officially
sanctioned by the officer in command. It assures every-
body's cooperation in the command and specifically out-
lines the commands objectives and the responsibilities
of the public affairs staff and other departments in the
command. In the absence of the PAO, it also serves as a
general guide to the officer appointed to take his place.
The command plan shown might contain other details
according to the specific requirements of the individual
command. In the case of a ship, for instance, specific re-
sponsibilities might be delegated to the gunnery officer,
nuclear weapons officer, engineering officer, and so forth.
Naval bases and installations may be engaged in
specialized activities, such as the testing of new equip-
ment, training of fleet personnel or support of fleet units.
In each case, alter the command plan to encompass the
disaster contingencies anticipated as a result of the special-
ized activities of the individual commands. Another ex-
ample of a disaster public affairs plan (called an adverse
incident plan) appears in Appendix IV of this manual.
For a public affairs staff to meet and fulfill its
responsibilities in a disaster situation successfully, you
must prepare an office plan that outlines the specific
actions for the PAO and his staff to take. To this plan,
the specialized information, checkoff lists, telephone
lists and the like are to be appended, which will help the
public affairs staff respond quickly and efficiently
should a disaster strike.
The office plan can be less formal than the command
plan. It might be promulgated as an interoffice
memorandum, such as the one shown in figure 2-4.