Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Draft SOP for Notifying the News Media About Tsunamis Is in Circulation -- but Now What?

To give Jordan St. John of NOAA his due, his email transmitting the draft SOP for "Tsunami Warning Center Communication Procedures" has been sitting here in my in-box since November 17. As Mr. St. John noted in a September email, "the tsunami public affairs team has been developing a set of media notification and response procedures for the two NOAA tsunami centers."

But that note still gives pause: "I'd be happy to share the draft with you for comment, provided you not release nor comment on it publicly until the final procedure is put in place," he wrote.

I agreed to that restriction in order to receive the draft SOP, and I'm continuing to abide by it for now. I'll also provide Mr. St. John with my reaction to his new media-notification procedures.

But what's with the secrecy? Does NOAA really believe that restricting dissemination and comment on the draft will produce a better product in the end? What's the downside for public comment on a media-notification SOP for the tsunami warning centers?

What I can say at this time without violating our agreement is that Mr. St. John and his NOAA colleagues are encouraged to re-read some of the posts to this web log (if they've read any of them at all) -- especially the ones in the first quarter of 2005 that decried the lack of proactive warning center outreach to the news media with worldwide communications networks when a potential tsunami is detected.

My premise is stated time and again in this blog, so it should be easy to find -- a point of view that still seems not to be understood or appreciated by NOAA.

In addition to commenting on the SOP, I'll urge Mr. St. John to relax this prohibition and will leave the issue there for now.

Except for this: Has NOAA invited the international news organizations with instant communications capabilities to tsunami-threatened populations to comment on the SOP? I've asked that question of Mr. St. John and others at NOAA without receiving a response.

If no such sharing has occurred, this SOP has more problems than are already evident to me.

Doug Carlson
Honolulu, HI