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Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Editor-in-Chief: Renda-Tanali, Irmak

Managing Editor: McGee, Sibel

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Volume 11, Issue 1

Common Issues in Emergency Public Information as Identified in CSEPP Exercises

Ken Lerner / Ken Bertram
Published Online: 2014-01-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2013-0059


The US Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) has been holding multiple large hazmat exercises every year for over 20 years. A sample of CSEPP after-action reports were surveyed to extract issues relating to emergency public information. Analysis showed four themes among the identified issues, relating to accuracy of public warnings and news releases; coordination of information among jurisdictions; internal communications; and accuracy/completeness of information provided to individual callers. These issues and the solutions suggested by exercise evaluators are consistent with the current body of knowledge in crisis communications. While these themes emerged from study of particular traditional emergency public information techniques and situations, the lessons they give may be applied to a variety of emergency public information channels including social media.

Keywords: crisis communications; emergency public information; media; media relations; public warning


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About the article

Corresponding author: Ken Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory, Division of Decision and Information Sciences, Building 221 9700 S. Cass Ave., Argonne, IL 60439, USA, e-mail:

Published Online: 2014-01-21

Of the eight original storage sites in the continental U.S., destruction has been completed at six sites. Two sites remain active.

CSEPP exercise standards and evaluation criteria are spelled out in joint Army-FEMA guidance. The latest version of the guidance was issued in December 2012: US Army Joint Program Executive Office, Chemical and Biological Defense and DHS/FEMA Technological Hazards Division, Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program Exercise Policy & Guidance, December 2012.

Some of the exercise reports are marked “For Official Use Only” and are not available publicly. The public side of the CSEPP portal is located at www.cseppportal.net.

Common issues identified included communications and power failures, hazardous material exposure, and unorganized evacuations, among others.

In CSEPP the Army designates public information specialists as Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) while most state and local jurisdictions use the term Public Information Officer (PIO).

The REPP is aimed at enhancing emergency preparedness for communities near nuclear power plants; see the DHS/FEMA website for further information (http://www.fema.gov/technological-hazards-division-0/radiological-emergency-preparedness-program).

Further information and quick references on emergency public information may be found at: http://www.dis.anl.gov/groups/riskcomm/index.html.

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 11, Issue 1, Pages 155–168, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2013-0059.

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