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Communicating Risks in High-Impact Events

Joint Incident Center - Deepwater Horizon


Understanding the crisis communications cycle is critical to everyone in the NWS involved in providing decision support to our stakeholders and partners. In fact, recommendations for improvements to communications have appeared in just about every NWS service assessment over the past 22 years. More recently, our emphasis on improving communications to our partners has dramatically increased through our increased emphasis on decision support. Part of providing that support hinges on our ability to understand crisis communications and to provide effective risk management. This kind of support will be absolutely critical as we enter into the Weather-Ready Nation era.

As part of our commitment to improve risk management communications, the NWS Warning Decision Training Division (WDTD) has developed a course on understanding the elements of the crisis communication model. The course will emphasize how this model is applied to crisis communications between the NWS and our main partners who have leverage over the safety of large numbers of people.

The first iteration of this course emphasizes communication with stakeholders in charge of large venues and incident response. Future improvements of this course will include risk communication with stakeholders and the general public.

Training Implementation Briefing

Description: This presentation is intended to provide guidance to local training officers and regional/national training partners on the purpose of this course and to effectively incorporate this training into your office plan.

Play Briefing

Learning Objectives:

Module 1 - Crisis Communication Cycle & Stories of Decision Support

  1. Identify and explain the components of the crisis communication lifecycle
  2. Understand the components of successful communication in a crisis
  3. Understand the importance of establishing relationships before events

Module 2 - Tools for Improving Risk Management Support to Stakeholders

  1. Learn how to identify stakeholder needs through a needs assessment
  2. Learn how to discover underlying causes of successes or failures through pre- or post-mortem.
  3. Learn how to map the responsibilities and communications flow of your key users through CRC cards.
  4. Incorporate analysis of chosen technique into future decision support activity.

Course Completion Instructions:

  1. Some material in this course is more understandable if the student has basic knowledge of the Incident Command System. If you are not familiar with this information, please take the FEMA Course IS-100: Introduction to Incident Command System.
  2. Complete Module 1 - Crisis Communication Cycle & Stories of Decision Support.
  3. Complete Module 2 - Tools for Improving Risk Management Support to Stakeholders (when available).
  4. Complete the exercise for Module 2 and return results to WDTD.

Course Outline:

Module 1 - Crisis Communication Cycle & Stories of Decision Support
Module Name Time
Crisis Communication Cycle & Stories of Decision Support 50 min.
Story: Beale St. Music Festival 11 min.
Story: Busch Stadium 8 min.
Story: Deepwater Horizon 12 min.
Story: Enbridge Oil Spill Story (Default Format is MP4)  
  Part 1 - Overview SWF Format 6 min.
  Part 2 - Communications Tools SWF Format 6 min.
  Part 3 - Shared Communications SWF Format 3 min.
  Part 4 - Resolution to Evaluation SWF Format 3 min.

List of Acronyms Used in this Module

Download Crisis Communications Lesson and Supporting Stories(106 MB ZIP File - Contains ALL Modules and Stories)

Module 2 - Tools for Improving Risk Management Support to Stakeholders
Module Name Time
Introduction 10 min.
Needs Assessment 15 min.


10 min.


10 min.

Focus Groups & CRC Cards

10 min.

Supporting Documents Size

Communicating Risks and High-Impact Events Assignment

34 KB
121 KB

Ideas for Analyzing and Using Your Results 553 KB
Tips for Conducting Focus Groups 226 KB

Download Module 2 Presentations and Supporting Documents(21 MB ZIP File - Contains ALL Modules and Documents)

Overall Course Duration: 3 hours


WDTD welcomes your feedback on how well this training supported your understanding of communicating risks during high impact events. Please send us your comments! Thanks!


* Image shown above is the Unified Area Command - Joint Information Center during the Deepwater Horizon incident. Courtesy of the United States Coast Guard.

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Page last modified: April 3, 2015 10:05

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