WASHINGTON: The Consortium for Risk and Crisis Communication signed a $355,000 contact last month to provide crisis communications training to the National Capital Region (NCR), which includes Washington and nearby Maryland and Virginia counties.
Joe Clayton, president and COO of Widmeyer Communications, which along with the Center for Risk Communication is part of the consortium, said the first phase of the training began in late June and is essentially an assessment of the current level of training for public affairs officials at law enforcement, medical, health, and other agencies throughout the region.
Actual training of media spokespeople is planned for October or November this year, with the contract’s work to be completed by the end of the year. Training will focus on the communications required in 12 different types of disasters, including nuclear attack, outbreak of pandemic flu, a chlorine tank explosion, a major hurricane, and food contamination.
“A lot of this is equipping the NCR to effectively reach out to the media with information that is going to help the public understand what it needs to do,” Clayton said. “It involves delivering messages when the public is panicked or potentially frightened, and often these messages are fundamentally important from a public health or safety perspective.”
The Department of Homeland Security is providing the funding for the training as part of a total of $46 million in grants to the NCR. That amount was significantly less than the $77 million requested by the region, prompting concerned testimony on Capitol Hill by Washington, DC Mayor Tony Williams, among other regional officials.