Joint Emergency Communications Force

(Charleston, South Carolina Metropolitan Area)

Project Description:

As is true with many U.S cities, the greater Charleston area includes a number of smaller towns and municipalities in addition to the City of Charleston: Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, North Charleston, Awendaw, Hollywood, James Island, Kiawah Island, Lincolnville McClellanville, Meggett, Mount Pleasant, Ravenel, Rockville, Seabrook Island, and Sullivan´s Island. As such, Charleston has multiple public service districts, and an intricate and complex array of crucial emergency first responders.

Several leading industrial corporations operating in the Charleston metro area (Bayer, Astra Zeneca, and others) combined forces to sponsor a two–day training seminar devoted to improving the communication skills and resources of both the area´s first responders and local industrial leaders. The goal of the intensive workshop was to develop a cohesive crisis communications strategy that could be implemented in the event of either a natural or man–made disaster.


Over a dozen local police and fire department heads, along with corporate communications officers and site managers came together for this training These crucial players had not previously worked together as a group. The ECA team created an environment focused exclusively on mutual cooperation in order to improve the safety of all citizens of the area.

During the first day of training, the participants articulated and outlined the strengths and potential vulnerabilities that their organization brought to the situation. Many participants were surprised at the openness and honesty expressed during the seminar. They also openly discussed their own strengths and potential weaknesses in communicating in crisis situations. The group worked through several practice exercises derived through past emergency experiences. At the conclusion of the day, the group selected key spokespeople (based on the strengths they witnessed) to serve in the event of a municipal crisis.

The first portion of the second day of training was devoted to understanding the media cycle in a crisis, learning about the most effective strategies to reach target audiences, and key communications techniques. The majority of the day was spent practicing for the real thing – role playing and videoing their actions in crisis scenarios developed specifically for the Charleston metro area. These scenarios spanned the spectrum from: hurricane evacuations, floods, tornadoes, industrial accidents, and harbour accidents.

Crucial relationships were forged during this training session. Instead of numerous agencies duplicating efforts in a crisis, or worse – inhibiting the efforts of other responders – communications responsibilities were clearly delineated among the group. At the conclusion of the session, the group had a strategic communications plan that was understood and agreed to by all of the first responder and industrial representatives present. Additionally, participants left with proactive plans to train other members of their organizations, as well as continue to improve their own skill set.

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