Examples of policy statements

Tuning in to and co-ordination with authorities become more important when a crisis exceeds the boundaries of ones own organisation. In case of a fire or an explosion several external authorities get in the picture: fire department, police, labour inspection and several municipal services. When there is trouble with a product you need to contact the commodity inspection department and given the nature of the product several other supervising authorities and departments. Therefore the crisis plan needs to contain an exact list of public bodies and emergency services which, in line with laws and regulations need to be informed.

In addition to this - and at least as important - there need to be made clear agreements on informing civilians and consumers. Partly these agreements will result from the earlier mentioned disaster plans. When responsibilities and co-ordination in communication between the public services and the organisation itself are not laid down in advance, there is a good chance that the communication, most certainly in the early stages of the crisis, won't run smoothly. After the disaster with Cindu in Uithoorn in June 1992 the ministry of Foreign Affairs had to conclude that among other things the information of the public had been inadequate.

Even the in many respects positive evaluation of the Bijlmer disaster points out several problems in the area of information, due to - among others things - the speedy dissemination of gossip. Without exception these feelings have a strong emotional basis. Therefore an extra dimension is added to the emotions to which persons in the stricken organisation and emergency personnel already have. Quick, honest and careful information is the most important basic assumption of crisis communication. However, the necessity for speedy disclosure of the state of affairs may never result in a lack of precision and carefulness.

Co-ordination between the persons involved in giving information from the organisation and the external authorities is therefore the fourth indispensable basic assumption. Realising the necessity of being precise and the required co-ordination rings through in the words of a representative of the Ministry of welfare, Health and Sports. He concluded - looking back on a few product calamities - that one of the problems is 'that a response has to be given right away in a situation that asks for some fact finding first'. He then pointed out 'that the first response set the tune and determines the course of things'.