Leveraging an Information Dashboard During a Crisis

Article 8 min
When facing a crisis, you will often be pulled in many directions at once. It can be challenging to handle incoming inquiries as well as post updates and deal with possible disinformation and misinformation across multiple social media platforms.

One tactic that has proven effective in situations like these, especially those with long-term implications and a high degree of complexity, is creating an information dashboard.

An information dashboard is a webpage used to display releasable facts regarding a specific situation. With the information coming directly from the source, not a third party, this can provide publics with a source they can better trust as a spot where new information is published and kept up to date.

You then consistently point users back to the information dashboard via news stories and social media posts as the place to get answers. This solidifies the dashboard as the one-stop shop for accurate and relevant information on the topic, making it an especially powerful tool when a unit strives to regain community trust that was lost due to a sustained incident.

A successful information dashboard must be:

  • Accessible. This must be a public website. Affected and concerned individuals must be able to easily reach the information dashboard.
  • Authoritative. It contains information directly from the responsible commander and subject-matter experts. It is also the official, primary public repository for information.
  • Useful. It contains the facts people need. An effective dashboard must present real data, not just convey concern and empathy.
  • Timely. It should be updated consistently. Frequent updates until the situation is resolved signal an ongoing commitment to fixing the problem.
  • Two-way. There should be some mechanism for feedback and further questions. This can be as simple as a webform, contact information for the appropriate office, etc.
  • Engaging. The best dashboards are well-designed with a mix of text and graphics and laid out professionally for easy navigation. It should NOT be a "wall of text" or context-free repository of documents.
  • Functional. The site has to be up and operating correctly. This includes the interactive elements of the site such as links, navigation and controls, as well as the information presented, such as accurate contacts with current and functional phone numbers and email addresses. This must be regularly verified by the team running the site.

An information dashboard must NEVER be a roadblock to information or an attempt to halt or obscure communication in any way.

Real-World Examples

Two stories of real-life, well-developed information dashboards are those of the Missile Community Cancer Study and the Joint Task Force - Red Hill.

The MCCS began in December 2022, when members of the Air Force missileer community presented data suggesting incidents of cancer among their career fields were measurably higher than one would expect. The commander of Air Force Global Strike Command directed a thorough environmental survey and records study to determine what possible hazards exist and if missileers are truly experiencing higher rates of cancer.

Previous studies have found no link between cancer and service in missile facilities, but toxic substances are known to exist in the facilities, despite several attempts to clean them. Some activists suggested the Air Force has an interest in concealing the risks of cancer, or true cancer rates, from their own Airmen, either to avoid blame or to avoid the expense of fixing the problem. Many missileers felt like their long-standing concerns had been ignored for too long. In short, there was a deficit of trust.

In response, a Missile Community Cancer Study webpage was created as an information dashboard to help educate and inform those concerned about the ongoing study into the issue, as well as potential symptoms and the appropriate time to engage with medical providers. It includes:

  • Background information.
  • An official response from the commander.
  • Terms and definitions related to the study.
  • Frequently asked questions.
  • A QR code for submitting additional questions.
  • Latest news.
  • Access to:
    • Podcasts regarding the study.
    • Interim reports.
    • Executive summaries.
    • Additional studies.
    • Resources to learn more (e.g., town hall slides, diagrams and fact sheets).
The Navy has operated the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF, or “Red Hill”) since World War II. It is an enormous facility buried in the bedrock of the mountains above Pearl Harbor, consisting of 20 massive tanks holding 12.5 million gallons of fuel each, with a total capacity of 250 million gallons. Dozens of miles of underground pipes connect the facility with Pearl Harbor, Hickam Air Force Base and facilities in Honolulu.

In November 2021, a major spill resulted in approximately 20,000 gallons of fuel escaping the facility and flowing into the environment. The spilled fuel entered the Oahu aquifer and contaminated the drinking water supply of around 93,000 people, including most of the military housing population at Pearl Harbor. The impact on the Navy’s reputation in Oahu was catastrophic.

In August 2022, the Navy announced the planned closure of the facility and the establishment of Joint Task Force - Red Hill to oversee its complete defueling.

The principal concern for all involved was the 104 million gallons of fuel remaining in Red Hill. The network of aging and untrustworthy pipes through which the fuel would have to flow to empty the facility were the same pipes responsible for the original spill.

A Joint Task Force - Red Hill website and a mobile app were created to keep the public informed on progress and stay connected with the latest news. Information includes:

  • Progress and key milestones.
  • A brochure on the operational viewpoints.
  • A photo and video gallery.
  • Latest news and stories.
  • Access to additional resources and partner websites (e.g., health department, Environmental Protection Agency).
  • Environmental assessments and other key documents.
  • An electronic form for the public to submit inquiries and concerns.

Is it Right for You?

If you are considering suggesting an information dashboard to your commander, explore these considerations regarding capacity, technical skills, transparency, access to graphics and answering feedback to honestly assess if it's the right call for your team and your situation.

Click a target to reveal more in-depth information.

Information Dashboard Initial Considerations

An illustration of a trail of five jigsaw puzzle pieces leading to completed six-piece puzzle.
a clock icon

Do you have the bandwidth to manage it?

In many circumstances, when you are being bombarded by traditional and social media, you will see efficiencies gained from an information dashboard. However, an information dashboard still requires a lot of work. It will need to be front-loaded with content for launch. You can’t go public with a dashboard that is “under construction” or still missing major components – that will discourage your audience from using it. After launch, it has to be updated frequently, sometimes on short notice. It is a great tool for ongoing issues, but it is not right for every situation.

a book icon

Do you have the know-how to run it?

Dashboards are often more elaborate than the typical military site, requiring proficiency with embedded video, graphics and other special modules. They are also updated more frequently. You need someone on your team that currently is, or that can be trained to be, proficient with the content management system and related technical tools used to build and maintain the page where the site is hosted.

a folder and padlock icon

Are you comfortable with a high degree of information sharing?

Be clear with your commander about what “open and transparent” really means. A dashboard is not just a place to republish internal articles. It has to be a place where real, hard facts are shared publicly. 

It should contain details and information of interest to the audience and possibly the media, depending on the issue. This usually means sharing original documents – study results, executive summaries, memorandums, reports and the like.

The commander must be comfortable with this if you want to pursue an information dashboard.  

an image icon

Do you have sufficient access to graphics and other visuals?

The dashboard represents your unit’s response to a crisis – it must be professional. Imagery can be a critical part of the dashboard’s presentation, usability and credibility. Photos and videos can help tell the story. Graphics and infographics can help convey vast amounts of possibly complex information in a simple way to your audience.

Your team needs a way to produce or acquire the necessary visual information assets.

a chat bubble icon

Will you have the answers?

An information dashboard is a living tool. You can't just put it up and forget it. It will invite a great deal of feedback and questions. You'll be required to address continual feedback from the users visiting the dashboard as well as related social media posts regarding the incident that will be addressed on the dashboard. You and your team will have to be the experts with the answers or know how and where to get the answers quickly.

a checkmark icon


If you answered YES to all of these considerations then there is a good chance that you have what it takes to build and maintain an information dashboard.

If you think it is right for your particular situation, then counsel your commander on the benefits covered here and how your team is ready and able.

Discover More You May Like

View All Articles