War threat prompts GICS crisis PR review

The 'current threats' of war and global terrorism have prompted a full-scale Government review of crisis PR handling.

As reported on www. prweek.com (31/01/03) Fiona Dick, press secretary of standards watchdog the Wicks Committee, will next month take up the newly created post of head of national warning comms, to carry out the review.

The post has been created within the Government Information and Communications Service, which is headed by Mike Granatt.

Dick said she would be looking at all levels of emergency planning comms locally and globally, 'to see where we can learn lessons'.

This will include the New Zealand Government's weather warning system and emergency planning by councils living in the shadow of nuclear power stations.

GICS operations director Lyn Salisbury, who Dick will report to, said: 'Within GICS operations we look at cross Government co-ordination on all issues including national emergencies, but we need to do more in that area because of the current threats.'

She added that a priority for Dick would be 'to see what we've got in place, what works well and what doesn't. We need to see where we are.'

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

Inquiry chair Professor Ian Mercer said public communications was 'poor to non-existent and this led to an atmosphere of suspicion, confusion, changing advice and inconsistencies'.

Meanwhile Dick's role at the Wicks Committee is under review. Her departure coincides with that of current secretary Sarah Tyerman, who is replaced in March by Robert Behrens.

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