Simulating and supporting an exercise in emergency response.
Due to the unique nature and scope of an emergency, most responders and public officials do not have a realistic understanding of the communication requirements and pressures they will face until a real-world crisis actually occurs. The need to communicate effectively, accurately, and promptly in a difficult and pressure-filled environment is critical - yet few may ever receive the training to prepare them for this challenge. The Department of Homeland Security’s TOPOFF Exercise Series is designed to engage top officials in simulated disaster scenarios and improve their ability to respond in the event of a true emergency. Striving to be as realistic as possible, these exercises take place in real time and occur in multiple exercise venues across the country.
Ogilvy PR’s participation in TOPOFF has been three fold. In addition to contributing to the development of each exercise, the team has worked to solicit and manage the “real-life” media coverage of the TOPOFF exercises themselves. By creating and managing a series of VIP/Observer Programs, we have also helped Federal and State officials, members of Congress, international observers and other VIPs witness firsthand how our nation responds to disasters and gain a better understanding of how exercises like TOPOFF support efforts in homeland security.
To ensure that effective communications took place inside the exercise and appropriately shape the VIP/Observer program, Ogilvy regularly met with an External Affairs Working Group comprised of lead Public Affairs Officers from a wide range of participating Federal departments and agencies to plan programs that would meet a defined set of objectives. The team then went to work, developing a host of materials and planned events to occur during the week of the exercises.
In support of each exercise, Ogilvy engaged in an elaborate planning strategy, designed to simulate a distinct set of set challenges and circumstances. In all four TOPOFF cycles, Ogilvy developed public affairs seminars, provided media communications and public information counsel, as well as supported all aspects of the “real world” media, PIO Play and VIP/Observer programs. The Ogilvy team provided web site development services, prepared media materials, arranged press conferences, and coordinated the invitation and support of foreign dignitaries and top officials choosing to observe the exercise.
Since the start of the series in 2000, TOPOFF has amassed significant results. Highlights from the most recent exercise, TOPOFF 4, include more than 400 VIP Observer program attendees, 171 media attendees and 142,430,444 media impression during the exercise, including coverage on MSNBC, in The Washington Post, the Associated Press, United Press International, The Arizona Republic, The Oregonian and Pacific Daily News. The program has engaged thousands of top officials in discussions on the expertise needed to respond to large-scale disaster events and highlighted the importance of consistent and accurate messages when serving the public and interacting with real world press. Most importantly, the series has allowed tens of thousands of first responders and officials at all levels of government to improve their detailed strategic planning and public affairs coordination because of their involvment in a challenging national-level simulated preparedness exercise.