The latest Bulletins:
Governor’s Executive Orders
Governor’s Executive Order No. 118
Resources from Trusted Health Organizations
Resources from Partner Organizations
Crisis Communications Resources
Information from UNC School of Government Professor Kim Nelson
Some advice on crisis communications from one our training partners:
A Crisis Communications Primer in These Uncertain Times
As leaders in your municipality, it’s your job to deliver messaging to your staff and citizens with the right amount of urgency for the situation without causing panic. You must develop thoughtful, consistent, fact-based narratives and share them in the right tone to build trust and credibility. In these fluid times when each headline in the news spikes a sense of fear among many people, this is your chance to show your leadership chops.
As a journalist with 30 years under my belt chasing breaking news and disseminating it in a fair and accurate way, I’ve witnessed the best and worst in crisis communications. My strategic communications team at Walk West would like to share with you some guidelines that you can put into practice right away as we manage our teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you’ll find what we teach in our media training sessions.
Crisis Communications Guide
A crisis is a situation that strains a local government’s reputation, leadership, integrity and loyalty. You can’t control what people are thinking or how they’re reacting in crisis. But you can help mitigate what you and your staff do to acknowledge and execute a plan that often times calms the unnerved. The fear of the unknown is what typically robs us of our feeling of safety. So, if you haven’t already done so, take the time today to execute a crisis communications strategy using the steps below in order to keep your staff, citizens, and other key stakeholders in the know.
The team involved in managing crisis communications should be fully briefed on who might contact them in the event of a crisis.
- Roles and Tasks
Have a checklist of what role each team member will fulfill during the crisis and what tasks they are assigned when a crisis breaks. Suggested roles include briefing members of the city and county elected officials, city managers, county managers, etc.; internal communications and keeping staff informed; media relations and media monitoring; on-line monitoring
Work out in advance what key messages you will communicate in a crisis. Don’t bother with messages about vision statements. People aren’t interested in these when they’re on the edge of frenzy. Think about which messages you want to get across that will resonate with people.
- Draft Statements and Responses
Having templates prepared ahead of time can help you turn around information quickly when a crisis occurs. Have background facts and Q&A sheets ready to hand out. Develop your “Buy Time Statement.” (see below)
You need a speedy response, but also speed of thinking and action to be in control of the situation rather than panicking to catch up with the media. You want to run the pace of the story your way having your staff and potential media respond to you rather than the other way around.
Work out how you will take control of the story for each likely scenario. The plan should identify media-trained spokespeople who can represent your municipality in a crisis. Have some ready prepared images available. If you don’t, the media will look elsewhere to fill the gap.
Your staff needs to be familiar with the crisis communications plan. Once we’re out of the woods in our current situation, practice a mock situation twice a year.
Crisis Communications Basic Check List
- Never say “No Comment”
- Give as much information without compromising the investigation. Always follow up if you say you will
- Take control even in negative situations
Develop a “Buy Time” Statement
- Acknowledge the situation
- Show concern
- Give status
To see this in action, take a look at Robert Glazer’s article as he breaks down how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has communicated to his constituents throughout the ever-changing coronavirus pandemic.
For more information, visit Walk Walk’s website.
Sharon Delaney McCloud
Partner & VP of Professional Development
“Twenty Things for Organizational Leaders to Know about COVID-19 as of March 12, 2020” (Thanks Bo Ferguson, Durham Deputy City Manager)
Eastern Carolina Council’s Local Government Operational Status and Resources
Carteret County Governments
Craven County Governments
Town of Dover
Duplin County Governments
Greene County Governments
Town of Walstonburg
Jones County Governments
Lenoir County Governments
Onslow County Governments
Pamlico County Governments
Town of Alliance
Wayne County Governments
Here is some interesting information regarding emergency declarations and firearms, referencing General Statute changes in 2012 (source is Norma Houston with UNC SOG and NC Emergency Mgt and NC Sheriff’s Association Director Eddie Caldwell)
From: Eddie Caldwell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Saturday, March 14, 2020 2:17 PM
To: NCSA-Weekly Legislative Report <email@example.com>
Subject: Restrictions on Firearms During a Declared State of Emergency
To: All Sheriffs
Prior to 2012, during a declared state of emergency, several General Statutes allowed restrictions and prohibitions to be imposed on the “possession, transportation, sale, purchase, storage and use of dangerous weapons and substances, and gasoline.” “Dangerous weapons” included firearms such as handguns, rifles, and shotguns.” Those General Statutes, as they applied to firearms, were held unconstitutional in the federal court case of Bateman v. Perdue, 881 F.Supp.2d 709 (2012).
As a result, the North Carolina General Assembly repealed those General Statutes and enacted the current statute [G.S. 166A-19.31] to address this issue, which became effective October 1, 2012.
G.S. 166A-19.31(b)(4) provides that ordinances enacted by counties or cities during a state of emergency may include prohibitions and restrictions: “Upon the possession, transportation, sale, purchase, storage, and use of gasoline, and dangerous weapons and substances, except that this subdivision does not authorize prohibitions or restrictions on lawfully possessed firearms or ammunition” (emphasis added.) As used in this subdivision, the term “dangerous weapons and substances” has the same meaning as it does under G.S. 14-288.1. As used in this subdivision, the term “firearm” has the same meaning as it does under G.S. 14-409.39(2).
In explaining this law in a Blog post on June 1, 2012, and in her current teaching materials, Norma Houston, Lecturer in Public Law and Government, at the UNC-CH School of Government, explains in pertinent part:
What does this mean for local governments and citizens?
Local governments can still impose restrictions on dangerous weapons such as explosives, incendiary devices, and radioactive materials and devices, but cannot impose restrictions on lawfully possessed handguns, rifles, and shotguns. For example, if an individual is carrying a concealed handgun with a valid concealed carry permit during a declared state of emergency under which a dangerous weapons prohibition has been imposed, the local prohibition would not apply to this individual’s lawful possession of a concealed handgun.
Keep in mind that a wide variety of events may constitute a disaster – from a hurricane to a winter ice storm to a terrorist attack to a nuclear plant melt-down. Some disasters may warrant restrictions on dangerous weapons to protect public health and safety (imagine the need to ban the sale of explosives when under threat of a terrorist attack). However, under the exception, citizens can still lawfully possess handguns, rifles, and shotguns, even in these situations.
What cities and counties CAN do under a local state of emergency…
- Restrict other “dangerous weapons and substances”
- Enforce other emergency restrictions (such as a curfew) even if an individual is lawfully possessing a firearm
- Enforce other state gun laws (such as concealed-carry permit requirements)
- Include gun stores in business restrictions (but only to the same extent as other businesses)
What does this NOT mean for local governments and citizens?
This exception to the dangerous weapons restriction authorization does not override other restrictions that local governments are authorized to impose during a state of emergency. For example, if a curfew is imposed, an individual cannot violate the curfew even if he lawfully possessed a firearm. Or, if an evacuation is ordered, an individual may lawfully transport a firearm while evacuating, but must still heed the evacuation order. This exception also does not override other local ordinances relating to weapons (such as those prohibiting weapons in local government buildings); it only applies if and when restrictions on dangerous weapons are imposed during a declared state of emergency.
What cities and counties CANNOT do under a local state of emergency…
- Limit or restrict the “possession, transportation, sale, purchase, storage, and use” of lawfully possessed firearms (defined as handguns, shotguns, and rifles) and ammunition for those firearms
- Prohibit the lawful sale of firearms
- Prohibit the lawful sale of ammunition for lawfully possessed firearms
- Prohibit lawful concealed carrying of handguns
- Prohibit lawful open carrying of handguns (or shotguns or rifles)
If you have any questions or need any additional information, please contact Matthew Boyatt, NCSA Deputy General Counsel, at 919-459-6467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other ideas for what should be in this resource guide or have updates to information we are seeking? Feel free to email info directly to Katie Bordeaux at email@example.com