As outlined in Section 2, the City of Sarnia is home to various media outlets. Media outlets are defined as companies or organizations that use the television, radio, newspapers or print media. As vehicle for the public information, Sarnia recognizes the importance of timely, factual information to the community in the time of emergency. It is the City's position that a media plan also be prepared to assist the media while covering the news portion of the incident.
It is the policy of the City of Sarnia to provide accurate and timely information on matters of public safety to the news media and the public we serve. The City will provide Civic Emergency Notification through its media partnerships using consistent sound emergency practices. The City of Sarnia will base Emergency cable legislation and regulations, including among others: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Police Services Act, The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and The Young Offenders Act. This section will be divided into two areas. Area one will outline the accepted method of communicating information to the citizenry that could impact upon health and welfare, i.e. evacuations; area two will address the mutually agreed upon procedures the Emergency Responders will use to assist the media in their efforts to cover the newsworthiness of the story.
A detailed plan has to be drafted to address the needs of the community during an emergency. Public information will be required at three different stages of the emergency. For the sake of this plan we will call the three stages: infancy, control and restoration.
During the infancy stages of the emergency situation, the Municipal Authority will give information with respect to the required action the citizens are to take. This action can be as minor as avoiding certain road intersections due to closed roads, or as significant as issuing a Shelter-in-place or Evacuation order.
8.5 Control Stage
The second stage of public information is that of control. This is when the situation is under control, but is not yet finalized. This type of information is designed to circumvent panic and unrest in the community. This Civic information needs to come from the Sarnia Emergency Operations Centre from the Public Information Officer.
The third stage of public information is that of restoration to normality stage. This is the time frame when the incident is for all intents and purposes over and the clean up procedures commence. An example of this type of information is when a reception centre is being closed or an area is being reopened to the evacuees.
Usually, in most life saving operations (see Section 3, paragraph 3) the Sarnia Police Services assumes the responsibility of notifying the community of any immediate danger by utilizing the warning systems on local cable, radio station and Municipal Warning Sirens. Additionally, in most life saving operations the Sarnia Police Service dictated the required response expected of the community. Such was the case in the early morning hours of July 22nd, 1991 when a faulty valve resulted in a minor fire. As a precautionary move and evacuation of some four hundred families was immediately initiated.
It is possible that stage one of public notification can take place if the operation is pre-emergency. An example of this could be communicating threats of severe weather, public health epidemics or precautionary evacuations such as major brush or forest fires.
8.9 Infancy Stage
All official public information releases in the infancy stage of an emergency will come from the Police Service if the operations is life saving. It will come from the Head of Council if the operation is pre-emergency. What is being said is this: if the Primary Control has been assembled (see Section 9), all public information releases will come from the Head of Council. If Primary Control is not yet assembled the public information will come from the Sarnia Police Service.
Following the assembly of the Primary Control Group, all public information releases will be generated by the Head of Council and distributed by the Public Information Officer . The Public Information Officer is a member of the Primary Control Group and responsible for disseminating the official releases relating to public safety to all local media outlets. It is essential that the focus of the above-mentioned releases is always that of public safety.
Responsibility to communicate the progress of the Emergency Response to the citizens rests solely with the Head of Council. The Head of Council will in fact reflect the general feeling of the Primary Control Group regarding the progress of the situation.
The second area, which will be addressed in this section, is the policies that are designed to assist the media in their efforts to cover the newsworthiness of the story.
The majority of news media people will wish to congregate at the actual emergency site for actual photographs or video shots of the incident. The Municipal Emergency Site Manager is responsible for implementing the site media centre.
8.14 Site Media Centre
Upon identifying one’s self as an official media person to a perimeter police officer, the person may proceed, if no apparent danger exists, proceed to the pre-determined site media centre. The perimeter police officer has a responsibility to request from his supervisor the location of this site media centre. The Municipal Emergency Site Manager (see Section 7) has a responsibility to advise all police agencies involved.
In the event that the emergency site is not safely accessible to members of the or at the discretion of the Municipal Emergency Site Manager additional personnel on site is inappropriate; a media briefing room will be established.
This Primary Media briefing room will be located at the Sarnia Police Headquarters located at 555 North Christina Street, First Floor Classroom. Local Industry in the City of Sarnia should send their Media Representative to the Sarnia Police Headquarters when an on site media centre can not be set up for safety concerns.
Members of the media are encouraged to congregate at this location for official, timely, factual updates on the progress of the emergency situation.
The Head of Council and / or the Public Information Officer will host the media briefings and will have the latitude to call upon the appropriate personnel to assist him or her in disseminating relevant information. All media releases either public information or incident coverage will be prepared in such a manner that copies can be distributed.
The Head of Council may, if he or she deems it necessary, designate location. The secondary media briefing location will be located at Sarnia City Hall, Council Chambers located at 255 North Christina Street.
This location would normally be selected if the media coverage were such that the Primary Media Briefing room was inadequate in size.
8.17 Media Briefings
Media briefings will be held on a regular basis dividing all types of emergency operations (see Section 3, paragraph 3).
It is likely that an Emergency Site Media Centre and the Primary Media Briefing Room are both operational. This approach assures members of the media community with official factual information in a timely manner. All Emergency Site Media Centre releases must be provided to the Primary Control Group at the Sarnia Emergency Operations Centre prior to release.
The Head of Council and / or Primary Control Group will determine the frequency of official media briefings and the location.
8.18 Out-of-Town Media
Another requirement that must be addressed is the need to provide out-of-town media outlets with official progress reports on the emergency response. For this reason, a member of the Primary Control Group has been charged with the sole responsibility of disseminating information.
The Public Information Officer will be located in the general vicinity of the Media Briefing Room (Classroom of the Sarnia E.O.C.) or another designated area. All calls from media outlets, local and/or out-of-town will be directed to the Assistant Public Information Officer. The Assistant Public Information Officer will be provided with all public information releases and the anticipated times and locations of all media briefings. The information can then be given to all who request it.
Additionally, the Assistant Public Information Officer is required to participate in the media briefings as an observer. This participation will complement the amount of information that he or she is given.
8.19 (1) Public Information Officers Emergency Communications Plan (See Sarnia Emergency Management Operational Guides )
8.20 (2) for City of Sarnia Public Awareness Program Plan.(See Sarnia Emergency Management Operational Guides )