What Does BZ Mean?

Bravo Zulu when conveyed by flaghoist, morse code, or voice comms at the end of a mission means Well Done. It was introduced between allied forces in World War II.

This blog is a BZ to you.





How to Keep the Public Informed During an Emergency

COVID-19 highlighted the importance of keeping the public up-to-date with the latest information during an emergency. Here, we look at how emergency managers can apply these learnings about public engagement to future incidents, emergencies, and disasters.

How important is information sharing during an incident response?

Information is critical to a response. It is imperative that emergency managers have the latest updates at hand when making important decisions.

During a disaster, the Incident Command System (ICS) assigns the task of disseminating information to the Public Information Officer (PIO). The ICS system shows the importance of the PIO by including them among the Command Staff on the same level as the Safety Officer and the Liaison Officer, they are second only to the position of the incident leader, the Incident Commander (IC).

Beige Organization Chart Graph (2)

What has COVID-19 taught us about the importance of keeping the public informed?

COVID-19 has demonstrated how social media can quickly spread misinformation when official information is not provided promptly. Do you want to spend more time on damage control, or can you make official information publicly available and become the source of information to influence citizens’ decisions?

During COVID-19, emergency managers have had to inform the public every step of the way about how and why decisions were being made. They’ve also had to provide resources, tools, and action steps to help mitigate the situation.

The same can be said for other crisis situations. For example, during a severe storm the public needs to know the locations of road closures and alternative routes. When emergency managers make this information readily available, the situation is safer for all involved as congestion to closed off areas is reduced and emergency and utility services can effectively carry out their duties.

Where should incident information be stored?

Following ICS, we are already collecting information as soon as an incident starts. All incidents require the gathering and analysis of information for decision making, and the COVID-19 situation has shown how critical this factor is in the success of extended operations.

Incident management software can help members of the incident response achieve real-time situational awareness by acting as a central, remotely accessible location for all incident information to be stored. Standard forms like the ICS 209 can de digitized and shared so that the emergency management team can make informed decisions based on field-collected information.

Leveraging cloud-based software

Historically the Scribes, Unit Leaders, and Section Chiefs would be inundated with paperwork. This is great for documentation and historical reference but what emergency managers need is a method to get the right information promptly to the right people.

D4H Incident Management is a cloud-based system for all information to be centrally collected; then, each position only needs to update their information to update the entire team automatically. There is no transcribing, no duplication of effort, and no wasted energy trying to find the current status.

Field personnel lose signal?

Don’t worry, in offline mode, their local information will be updated as soon as they reconnect.

Information aging?

Time-stamped details ensure you know precisely when information was last updated. Old information may indicate overdue teams or act as a reminder to send more field personnel to refresh a front-line perspective.

Getting the right information to the public

The Challenge

During COVID-19, many municipalities painfully found the need to answer questions with more accurate information and looked to leverage their previous solutions such as email newsletters, summary reports, or creating a dedicated webpage. These all created extra costs, quickly became outdated, and created a duplication of effort.

The Solution

When an incident is being managed with a real-time platform like D4H Incident Management, the work is already being done for the Incident Management Team (IMT). Information regarding resources, shelters, road closures, vaccination centers, etc. is already being recorded in pre-configured, highly customizable Status Boards, so the only problem left to solve is how to get that information to the public.

The public doesn’t need to see all of the details available to our incident team, so we simply create a form that pulls just the pertinent information necessary, create a public link and then share that with the public.

D4H Status Boards
  • The public receives immediate updates. With D4H’s ‘Share by Public Link’ functionality, any new information added to a status board within the software will also update for the public on the external link once they refresh the page.
  • The public receives only information approved by the Incident Commander.
  • The public receive official updates from your team; creating a single source of truth and mitigating misinformation spreading.
Public link view


As incidents become more complex and roll into multiple operational periods, documentation is critical. With cloud-based software, emergency managers can collect that information and share it as they see fit, without additional work.

Every Incident Commander wants to see a complete operating picture, including their team members, third-party vendors, and assisting agencies. Now, they can collaborate to make the best decisions and be the central location for the public’s source of knowledge.

FAQs - Keeping the Public Informed During a Disaster

How can emergency managers ensure the accuracy of the information they provide to the public, especially during rapidly evolving situations like the COVID-19 pandemic?

Emergency managers can ensure the accuracy of information provided to the public through a combination of careful vetting, reliance on official sources, and real-time updates. During rapidly evolving situations, they may establish protocols for verifying information before dissemination, prioritize official announcements over social media speculation, and collaborate closely with relevant authorities and subject matter experts to maintain credibility.

How do emergency managers balance the need for transparency and the protection of sensitive information during incident response?

Emergency managers must strike a delicate balance between transparency and the protection of sensitive information during emergency management. While it's essential to keep the public informed to maintain trust and facilitate cooperation, certain details, such as ongoing investigations, sensitive infrastructure vulnerabilities, or confidential personal data, may need to be safeguarded to prevent exploitation or panic. Emergency managers can achieve this balance by following established protocols for information classification and release, consulting legal and privacy experts, and providing regular updates on the overall situation while withholding specific details that could compromise security or impede response efforts. Additionally, they may implement measures such as controlled access to sensitive information, restricted media briefings, or redaction of sensitive details in public communications to minimize risk while maintaining transparency to the extent possible.

What strategies or best practices can emergency managers employ to effectively communicate with populations that may have limited access to technology or rely on traditional communication channels, such as elderly or rural communities?

To effectively communicate with populations that may have limited access to technology or rely on traditional communication channels, emergency managers can employ strategies such as community outreach programs, partnership with local media outlets, establishment of dedicated hotlines or information centers, and distribution of printed materials. By understanding the unique needs and preferences of different demographics within their jurisdiction, emergency managers can tailor their communication approach to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for all.


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