Scottish regional resilience partnerships' framework for exotic notifiable animal diseases contingency plans

Information on how and when operational partners should respond to a suspect or confirmed exotic notifiable animal disease outbreak.

5. Communications

5.1. National level communications

5.1.1. General

Scottish Government's Exotic Diseases of Animals Communications Strategy [11] details the responsibilities of those involved in disease response, the strategic communications objectives and describes the communications activities undertaken at a GB, Scottish and local levels. Each RRP area has a Public Communications Plan which would be activated in event of multi-agency response to an outbreak. It is important that all relevant agencies coordinate media activities and share messaging at the earliest opportunity. This can be achieved through consultation and agreement at all necessary levels. For wider consequence issues police would routinely perform the role of lead responder and will liaise with the LDCC on disease control messaging to ensure consistent and coherent media output.

5.1.2. Communications with operational partners

Rapid, effective and consistent communication is essential to warn and inform those involved in the disease response to the disease outbreak or affected by its effects.

In order to manage the outbreak, meetings and reports that take place across the command and control structures adhere to a pre-determined schedule (known as a " battle rhythm"). The exact battle rhythm followed will depend on a number of factors including the circumstance of the disease, stage of the outbreak and affected area. Appendix G details the main meetings held and reports compiled.

Regular ' NDCC birdtable' meetings will take place to ensure all parties involved in the disease control operation have a clear picture of the current situation. These meetings will provide a forum for policy, operations, and communications functions to provide brief situation reports and facilitate a co-ordinated and co-operative response (similar LDCC bird table meetings will also be held serving a similar purpose). Key emerging issues will be identified and responsibilities for resolving them and reporting back allocated.

A Key Brief document will be produced by the Scottish Government to inform and update individuals on the current disease incident and provide key information about the disease and disease spread. It will be published on the Scottish Government's website and will be circulated to operational partners and relevant stakeholders. Situation reports containing key information about progress in controlling and eradicating the disease will be issued by APHA from the NDCC. These reports are known as the "Outbreak Coordination Centre ( OCC) Daily Report" (sometimes referred to as the "Overnight Report"). The report carries the marking "official sensitive" [12] .

Requests to be added to the distribution list should be made to the NDCC MI team at: Those operational partners speaking at NDCC bird table meetings will be directly asked for contributions for the OCC Daily Report. Those speaking at the LDCC birdtable will be invited to contribute to the LDCC situation report and that in turn gets submitted to the NDCC for the daily report

The report will be saved daily on to APHA's Resilience Direct site (see para 2.2.3 above). Resilience partners requiring access to the AHWD site should first request access to Resilience Direct through their own organisational structure before requesting access to APHA's site.

5.1.3. Public Communications Group ( PCG)

Each Regional Resilience Partnership area has its own Public Communications Plan which would be activated as part of a multi-agency response to any outbreak. These plans set out the purpose, membership, roles, responsibilities, actions and messaging strategies for dealing with any incident such as an animal disease outbreak.

The Public Communications Plan would be activated by the relevant RRP Public Communications Group. The PCG lead would normally be the senior communications officer from the RRP lead responder, who will develop and co-ordinate a communications strategy and appropriate advice.

The PCG will work closely with Scottish Government Communications Directorate who would be part of the DSG, SGoR (if convened) and APHA Corporate Communications to ensure all messaging and communications strategies are shared and co-ordinated. The PCG will consider deploying a communications officer into the LDCC if required. Teleconference facilities will be made available for those partners where travelling is difficult or resources are limited.

The PCG would make social media messaging and monitoring a key priority to ensure a timely response to the developing situation and identify any emerging issues.

5.1.4. Engagement with industry

The Scottish Government will meet regularly with national stakeholders to keep them informed of developments and to ensure that any concerns can be raised and addressed. A local authority representative of the Scottish National Animal Health and Welfare Strategy group, along with APHA and the SSPCA will be invited to these meetings. Other operational partners will be co-opted as necessary.

5.2. Local communications

5.2.1. General

The LDCC will assume responsibility for disease response communications at the local level. Communications with the local media on disease response will be led by Scottish Government Communications Directorate who will liaise closely with the other UK administrations and APHA.

5.2.2. Communications with operational partners

Regular LDCC- MCT meetings will take place to ensure all parties involved in the disease control operation at the local level have a clear picture of the current situation. Teleconference facilities will be made available for those partners where travelling is difficult or resources are limited.

A LDCC Planning Meeting may be called to bring together APHA and any agencies working on the outbreak to deal with problems which are the primary responsibility of operational partners ( e.g. pollution control, traffic or public order management, etc.). Those meetings would likely be chaired by the operational partner calling the meeting with secretariat provided by APHA Internal Communications.

Participants will include:

  • APHA Field Operations, Finance and Contracts Field Team Leader
  • APHA Field Ops Manager
  • SEPA
  • Police Scotland
  • Local authority EPO
  • Local authority Resilience Adviser / Resilience Manager

5.2.3. Communicating with the public

Discussions about communicating information about the disease response with the public in the vicinity of the infected premises will be directed through the LDCC- MCT. The primary target audiences for external communications are likely to be:

  • livestock premises subject to restrictions
  • other directly affected premises/businesses
  • private veterinarians
  • local general public/keepers of non-susceptible animals

5.2.4. Engagement with the local media

The Scottish Government's Directorate of Communications will assign either a Scottish Government or APHA Communication Officer to the LDCC's Forward Operating base close to the infected premises to co-ordinate local media responses from there. They will work with the PCG and any relevant sub-group to manage media relations at the scene of incidents and to ensure a consistent message is being projected from all agencies. All media enquiries received by operational partners about disease response should be referred to SG Press Office.

The Outbreak Director for Scotland, assisted by SG/ APHA Press Officer and the PCG's appointed officer will give a briefing to local media to raise awareness and inform the public of any movement restrictions. This may involve individual spokespersons from other operational partners, in particular the relevant affected local authorities and Police Scotland.

APHA will establish a local helpline to deal with queries directly related to disease control and will liaise with the PCG regarding its activation. In a larger scale outbreak SG will give consideration to establishing a national helpline.

5.2.5. Engagement with local stakeholders

The LDCC will make arrangements to meet with local stakeholders - LDCC- MCT representatives and the PCG Communications officer will be invited to attend. These meetings will be chaired by the Outbreak Director for Scotland or Veterinary Lead with Secretariat provided by APHA Communications. Participants will include any stakeholders that are deemed necessary by the Outbreak Director for Scotland. Members should attend as representatives of the interested organisations.

Likely issues to be discussed include:

  • current disease picture
  • industry themes (message management)
  • horizon scanning

5.3. Communication during a zoonotic disease outbreak

5.3.1. General

Where disease has zoonotic potential (eg rabies and certain strains of avian influenza) public health communications will also be a consideration and will be discussed and agreed by the NHS led National IMT.

HPS will chair the National IMT and lead the management and coordination of the public health incident response following the principles set out in the Guidance on the Management of Public Health Incidents. The IMT will have representation from the HPS communications team who will liaise with SG communications and other agencies as required. As is standard practice, the IMT will agree public health communications and messages as part of the standing agenda and will identify and agree media spokespeople, e.g. local CPHM, chair of the IMT or CMO, depending on the scale and the public health implications of the incident.

Links between animal disease related control structures and existing structures for communicating public health messages will be made through IMT representation at the DSG, the LDCC- MCT and the NDCC to ensure messages are correct and consistent. In addition, HPS communications will be represented at any national communications meetings convened in relation to the incident.



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