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Chapter Marks Nine Years Support to Crisis Communication Group

Nov. 18, 2011

During the past nine years, the Pikes Peak Chapter has developed and continued a partnership with a community group dedicated to improving communication during a community-wide crisis.  

In January 2002, the chapter board of directors was approached by Steve Berry, APR, the administrator of the Colorado Springs Crisis Communications Network (CCN), to see if PRSA might be interested in taking on the continued development of the group as a long-term project. 

The CCN was formed in April 2001 in response to communication problems associated with several large-scale community emergencies, and to take advantage of the lessons learned during the Columbine High School shooting disaster April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colo. 

During that crisis, the effective release of timely, accurate information to the public was hindered by a serious lack of coordination among the many agencies responding.  Public relations specialists in these agencies did not know one another and had therefore not trained together to effectively handle such an emergency.

Membership in the CCN is drawn from city and country first responders; other city, county, state and federal agencies; the military; and other service and support organizations (utilities, hospitals, schools, the chamber of commerce, tourism office, Red Cross, etc.).  The group currently has 81 members.  Membership is described as “inclusive” rather than “exclusive.”

Fred Morgan, APR, Fellow PRSA, and 2002 Pikes Peak Chapter President, met with Berry to gather information about the group and to see if it fit with the chapter’s desire to get involved with pro bono community support.  The CCN was having organizational problems and thought that moving its management under the umbrella of an outside professional organization might be a step in the right direction.

At the end of March 2002, Berry invited Morgan and fellow board members Lynne Bliss and Danette Lopez to sit in on a CCN meeting. Members discussed their problems getting organized, their vision of what the group should achieve and their hopes for the future.  The three PRSA members were then asked to make individual written recommendations on how to best address the CCN’s problems and to get the organization moving toward its stated goals.

In early July 2002, Morgan was invited to facilitate a two-hour CCN meeting, during which the group members agreed to the basic framework for a multi-agency crisis communication plan and the supporting plan annexes.  Morgan then used the information developed on flip charts during the meeting to write the Purpose, Background, Objectives and Approach sections of the new plan.  During the next eight months, he led the group meetings, which generated the Public Affairs Actions and Procedures, and Specific Tasks and Responsibilities sections of the plan.  The final plan was approved by CCN members in March 2003.

In February 2003, Berry recommended to the group that PRSA take over management of CCN and asked Morgan to step in as administrator.  He has continued in that role with the help of two other senior chapter members, Chuck Wood, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Don Miles, APR, Fellow PRSA.  Chuck Wood served as CCN administrator during 2004.

The CCN continues to grow with the help of the Pikes Peak Chapter.  Its members meet monthly and are committed to its stated mission: “…to build relationships, provide support and enhance coordination among Pikes Peak-area public information officers, thereby ensuring the delivery of timely, accurate and consistent information to all impacted audiences.” 

If you or your organization would like to participate in CCN, please contact Fred at fredmorgan2@mac.com.