The Public Affairs staff should have a plan in place before an accident or incident occurs. As a military communicator, your first responsibility is to safeguard classified information, release unclassified information and respect jurisdictions when it comes to off base police. The initial release does not usually have all of the specific details because the information is not yet releasable. Don't be concerned if the release seems short.
Check with your unit to ensure there are no further local policies or guidelines for this task.
The lead sentence is a structured summary focusing on the most important facts. In selecting lead emphasis, the order is death, injury and property loss. Follow these guidelines:
- If anyone is killed, the lead should emphasize the deaths.
- Use a vague description to describe the people in the lead, such as soldier, sailor, service member, civilian, etc.
- If two or more people were killed, try to identify the people by what they have in common. (Example: "Three airmen were killed...")
- If there are no deaths, then injuries will be the lead emphasis. (Example: "Six Marines were injured...")
- Always write in the past tense for injured people. Their condition may get worse or it may get better.
- If there are no deaths or injuries, the lead emphasis will be the "what." After the "what," you can include any property damage figures. It is imperative that an accurate dollar value is released of property damages.
- If there are deaths, injuries and property damage, the lead emphasis is still the dead followed by the injured.
- Property damage should never be in the lead with people. You don't want to give the impression that dollar amounts are as important as a life. Include property damage in the body of the story.
DO NOT RELEASE:
- Names until 24 hrs after next of kin (NOK) have been notified
- Specific injuries
The bridge will be a policy statement or WAITS (Who/what/where/why/when, Attribution, Identification, Tieback and Secondary Facts). Follow these guidelines:
- The policy statement should satisfy the media's need to know the names and states why you can't release that information.
- WAITS is when a "who" or "how" is not considered important enough for the lead, but is still valuable enough to be included.
List any other releasable details in descending order of importance. Follow these guidelines:
- Do not violate anyone's privacy by releasing too many personal details.
- It is ultimately your responsibility to guard against any Security, Accuracy, Propriety and Policy (SAPP) violations when releasing information.
- There is no conclusion. The story ends when there are no more facts to report.
The last sentence of the body is the investigation statement. Follow these guidelines:
- If there is an accident or incident on base or involving service members, there will usually be an investigation to determine the cause.
- This statement should answer some of the media's questions right away.