Threat of war prompts govt. review of national emergency comms

A full-scale Government review of the way PR is handled during national emergencies is to take place, due to the 'current threats' of global terrorism and war.

Fiona Dick, currently press secretary of standards watchdog the Wicks Committee, will next month take up the newly created post of head of national warning communications to carry out the review.

Government information and Communication Service operations director Lyn Salisbury, who Dick reports to, said: 'Within GICS operations we look at cross Government coordination on all issues including national emergencies but we need to do more in that area because of the current threats.'

She added that the priority of Dick's role will be 'To see what we've got in place, what works well and what doesn't. We need to see where we are.'

Dick said that she will be looking at all levels of emergency planning on a local and global level. Two examples she gave are the emergency plans of councils with a nuclear power station in the area and the New Zealand government's weather warning system.

'This isn't just about telling people what to do in an emergency its about getting the right messages to those who aren't affected, to avoid panic and getting the right information across to the right people', added Dick.

The appointment of Dick comes a year after the Government's handling of emergency PR was heavily criticised, in an independent report into the foot and mouth crisis.

The inquiry's chair Professor Ian Mercer said in the report that public communications was 'poor to non existent and this led to an atmosphere of suspicion, confusion, changing advice and inconsistencies.'

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