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8. Communication with Key Audiences



The Office of Communications (OCO) within the Office of the Secretary is responsible for providing timely, accurate and consistent information to internal and external audiences during the pre-pandemic period of wild migratory bird monitoring for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), the pre-pandemic planning period, and during a human influenza pandemic that affects Interior’s workforce and Departmental responsibilities for managing natural, cultural, and historic resources. These goals will be accomplished by:

  • Rapidly coordinating and communicating information on avian/pandemic influenza preparedness policies and actions within DOI and its Bureaus through established and emergency channels and protocols
  • Communicate coordinated, consistent messages to external audiences, including other Federal agencies, State partners and cooperators, stakeholders, news media, and the public on DOI and Bureau operations, activities, management actions, and decisions related to avian influenza and pandemic preparedness and response through established and emergency channels and protocols
  • Work to effectively and rapidly dispel internal and external rumors, speculation, false allegations, and incorrect information about DOI avian/pandemic influenza policies, strategies, plans, actions, and issues.

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8.1 Organization and Structure

The communications process will be carried out under an organizational structure that includes representatives from the following major components:

  • DOI Avian Influenza Leadership Team
  • Office of Law Enforcement, Security, and Emergency Management (OLESEM)
  • OCO
  • DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communications Team
  • Bureau Communications Chiefs

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8.1.1 Office of Communications

OCO within the Office of the Secretary coordinates and carries out departmental communications during both normal operations and emergency and crisis situations. In coordination with the public affairs leaders of DOI Bureaus and Offices, OCO leads the DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communications Team and works through the established DOI Bureau Communications Chiefs Group, either through regular in-office meetings, direct office e-mail and telephone communications, or, in the event of an emergency or relocation during a pandemic, through Internet office and home e-mail address lists and office, cell, Blackberry or home telephone links.

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8.1.2 DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communications Team

The DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communications Team develops, shares and disseminates information and resources that communicate Departmental and Bureau decisions, operations and activities dealing with avian influenza and pandemic response issues. These communications include relevant science, wildlife, land management and public access information; public health and safety messages; and employee health, safety, work options and continuity of operations actions. Led by the Director of the DOI Office of Communications, the team is made up of public affairs avian/pandemic influenza specialists from the DOI Office of Communications, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Law Enforcement, Security, and Emergency Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Office of Surface Mining, National Business Center, Office of Insular Affairs, Minerals Management Service, Office of Health and Safety, Office of Human Resources, and others.

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8.2 Roles and Responsibilities

Each element of the OCO organization for communication has a number of roles and responsibilities as identified in the following sections.

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8.2.1 DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communications Team

The DOI Avian Influenza (AI)/Pandemic Communications Team will be the primary link for communication with the public, news media, and other internal and external audiences not the responsibility of the DOI Leadership Team and will provide support to the Leadership Team in communications with Congress, State, and Federal agencies.

The AI/Pandemic Communications Team maintains both standard and emergency operational procedures and resources to receive, evaluate, and disseminate interdepartmental and interagency information and decisions in a timely manner (i.e., offices, conference call, cell phone, Blackberry, Internet, COOP alternate sites, and on EM-SafeTalk, etc).

This AI/Pandemic Communications Team maintains plans, protocols, call-down/call-back lists, message points, and templates for internal and external communications and notifications. These include: 1) the DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Preparedness Communications Plan which the team coordinates with other DOI and Federal Agencies; 2) a First 36-Hour Action Notification Protocol for Detection of HPAI in Wild Migratory Birds (Appendix K); 3) contact lists for HPAI notifications and Pandemic Response Communications (maintained by OCO); 4) Migratory Bird Messaging Points (Appendix L); 5) Pandemic Employee and Public Messaging Points; and 6) Templates for Internal and External Notifications (Appendix M). These materials are maintained on the DOI OS “O” Drive, on EM-SafeTalk and on thumb drives, as well as in hard copy, and are available under standard and emergency operating procedures.

The AI/Pandemic Communications Team also assists with DOI communications under the National Response Plan. (Under the NRP’s ESF-15-External Affairs, the DOI Office of Communications is the NRP Principal Planner for DOI.)

The AI/Pandemic Communications Team provides current information on avian influenza and pandemic preparedness to Federal agencies, DOI stakeholders and cooperators, the public and employees (English/Spanish) via the Departmental website www.doi.gov/issues/avianflu.html with links to pandemicflu.gov, the USGS NWHC Avian Influenza site, and other USGS, FWS, DOI Bureau, and USDA websites.

The Departmental and Bureau avian/pandemic influenza websites include weekly updates on the geographic spread of HPAI H5N1 in Asia, Europe, and Africa; FAQ lists; wildlife health bulletins about HPAI H5N1; fact sheets; information on how wildlife may be involved in or impacted by the spread of HPAI; and the broad scope of Federal and DOI avian influenza and pandemic preparedness activities. A USGS maintained website provides regularly updated information on the detection and testing of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) in North America at http://wildlifedisease.nbii.gov/ai/LPAITable.pdf.

The DOI Emergency Management website www.doi.gov/emergency in conjunction with Bureau emergency management pages, internal memoranda, and news advisories and releases will provide the public, the media and DOI employees information on the status of DOI and Bureau Offices and land units. These media will also provide information on any changes in public access policy to these units or working conditions at these sites warranted by a finding of HPAI in wild migratory birds, a pandemic outbreak, or other emergency condition. The Leadership Team would provide the Communications Team this information to disseminate via these electronic means.

The AI/Pandemic Communications Team, working through the Office of the Secretary’s (OS) Office of Communications, will post and update avian influenza and pandemic preparedness and response information to the www.doi.gov homepage, avian/pandemic influenza website, and other Bureau websites, distribute Departmental news releases, hold news conferences and briefings as needed, and coordinate DOI public information initiatives.

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8.2.2 Additional Communications Responsibilities

DOI Offices and Bureaus will develop and adopt internal and external communication strategies, protocols and messages in cooperation with the DOI Office of Communications to ensure clear and consistent messaging regarding avian influenza and pandemic operations and activities.

The OS Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs has primary responsibility for congressional notifications and communications; the OS Office of External and Intergovernmental Affairs will coordinate notifications and communications with State governors, city mayors and councils and local leaders as well as regional, State, and local associations, NGOs, councils, boards, etc.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Public Affairs will coordinate communications and notifications with Tribal leaders and councils as well as national Indian associations and councils and the media and public in Indian Country.

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8.3 Operational Phases and Triggers

There are several critical phases in avian influenza monitoring and pandemic preparedness and response in which the DOI avian/pandemic influenza communications plans, protocols and messages would be activated, either by anticipated events or official declarations. Section 8.3 describes the triggers for activating various components of the DOI communications plan, and actions taken during implementation of each:

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8.3.1 Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) Detected in Wild Migratory Birds

DOI, through the USGS and FWS, coordinates with USDA, the National Flyway Councils and State agencies to sample and test migratory birds in North America, monitor scientific information and news media for reports of positive cases of HPAI, and tracks the geographic spread of HPAI H5N1. All low pathogenic H5N1 and other low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses detected by this program, which do not present a risk to human or wildlife health, are posted to a National Biological Information Infrastructure web site at: http://wildlifedisease.nbii.gov/ai/LPAITable.pdf and the States (where samples were taken) are notified. This protocol is maintained and carried out by the USGS, FWS, and USDA.

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8.3.2 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Detected in Wild Migratory Birds (Presumptive)

Should presumptive highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) be detected in a sample from a live North American wild migratory bird during the initial testing, Federal roles, responsibilities and actions, including DOI’s communications activities, will be guided by the Interagency Playbook for Domestic Response to a Detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) in Birds.

DOI’s communications activities in this triggering situation are described in the 36-Hour Plan for Responding to a Detection of HPAI in Wild Birds, and located in Appendix K of the DOI Pandemic Influenza Plan. The DOI Office of Communications and DOI Bureau PIOs, through the DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communications Team, and in cooperation with USGS/FWS, will work closely with USDA communications in providing advance notice to Federal, Congressional and State agencies and issuing public announcements of these presumptive HPAI H5N1 findings, and to support USDA’s release of information about HPAI cases detected by USDA and USDA laboratories and other related information.

Under established protocols, if the USGS National Wildlife Health Center detects presumptive H5N1 HPAI from a live bird sample, the Center will send the presumptive sample to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory for validation and further pathogenicity testing and confirmation. Birds or samples from a large bird die-off sent to USGS NWHC will be forwarded to the USDA NVSL the same day for simultaneous testing.

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8.3.3 HPAI Detected in Wild Migratory Birds (Confirmed)

If the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirms HPAI, the NWHC or the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory will brief the Assistant Secretary - PMB and the Assistant Secretary - Water and Science who will brief other members of the DOI Avian Influenza Leadership Team.

If HPAI in wild migratory birds or poultry is confirmed, it is the responsibility of the DOI Office of Communications, with assistance from USGS/FWS members of the DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communication Team, to coordinate with USDA and the DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Leadership Team to release this information to Congress, affected State and local and Tribal governments, the media, and employees, as well as other audiences. Each DOI Bureau will provide this information as appropriate to key stakeholders, partners, and State agencies, as well as to visitors to public lands.

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8.3.4 Human Pandemic Declared

Should H5N1 HPAI, or another highly pathogenic strain of influenza virus, mutate into a form easily transmissible among humans and causes an outbreak/pandemic among humans within North America, DHS will coordinate the overall Federal actions/incident response, and HHS will lead the Federal health and medical actions (starting at FGRS 3). DHS will also coordinate to provide the communications and notifications structure on behalf of the Executive Branch.

The DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Leadership Team and the DOI Avian Influenza/Pandemic Communications Team would assume responsibility for coordinating and communicating internal and external communications and messaging for the Department. Internal and external communication strategies, protocols, and messages for DOI Bureaus and Offices will be developed in cooperation with the DOI Avian Influenza Communications Team to ensure clear and consistent messaging on pandemic operations and activities.