Lesson 3: Joint Information System Concept


Lesson Overview

This lesson will describe how NIMS addresses coordination of public information. At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define the Joint Information System (JIS) relative to NIMS.
  • Describe how the JIS coordinates public information efforts among jurisdictions and agencies.
  • Describe how the JIS allows entities to convey their unique information to the public while working collectively to develop and disseminate accurate, coordinated, and unified messages.
  • Describe how the philosophy of “getting the right information to the right people at the right time so they can make the right decisions” defines the mission of public information during incident management.
  • Identify agencies and organizations that may be part of the JIS.


Principle of Coordination and Integration

NIMS public information is coordinated and integrated across jurisdictions and functional agencies; among Federal, State, local, and tribal partners; and with private-sector entities and nongovernmental organizations.

The Joint Information System is the structure for ensuring that PIO functions are coordinated and integrated.


Joint Information System

The Joint Information System (JIS):

  • Provides the mechanism to organize, integrate, and coordinate information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible, and consistent messaging across multiple jurisdictions and/or disciplines with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.
  • Includes the plans, protocols, procedures, and structures used to provide public information.

Federal, State, tribal, territorial, regional, or local Public Information Officers and established Joint Information Centers (JICs) are critical supporting elements of the JIS.


Joint Information Center

The Joint Information Center (JIC) is:

  • A central location that facilitates operation of the Joint Information System.
  • A location where personnel with public information responsibilities perform critical emergency information functions, crisis communications, and public affairs functions.

JICs may be established at various levels of government or at incident sites, or can be components of Multiagency Coordination (MAC) Systems (e.g., MAC Groups or EOCs). A single JIC location is preferable, but the system is flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate virtual or multiple JIC locations, as required.


Voices of Experience

Melinda Kletzok: Depending on the incident a whole bunch of people can get involved. If it’s a flood you are going to be working with social service agencies, with the police, with fire, with the hospitals, with the gamut, so that’s why it’s so important to have an actual system because you get so many agencies involved depending on what your incident is.

Christopher Kramer: The public doesn’t want to see agencies argue and fight, they want to see a solid response effort that’s going to allow them to get back to their lives as quickly as possible and get back to their daily routines.

Jim Bunstock: I think it boils down to communication. It’s just like any other relationship: without good communication there is no singleness of purpose. You are working at cross purposes.


How the Joint Information System Operates

In an emergency, the JIS provides the mechanism for integrating public information activities to ensure coordinated and consistent message development, verification, and dissemination. The JIS can be:

  • As simple as two PIOs talking on the phone about an incident that involves both of their agencies.
  • A PIO at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) talking to a PIO at the site of the incident.
  • PIOs from several departments working together at a single location.
  • Many PIOs from many agencies working from several locations—all working together to ensure clear and accurate information is being delivered to the public.


Joint Information System (JIS): Speaking With One Voice

Graphic showing advantages of Joint Information System (JIS) (represented by on-scene PIO, agency executives and spokespersons, and other levels of government) speaking with one voice. JIS coordinates messages, reduces conflicting information, instills public confidence/trust, and improves resource efficiency.


Coordinated and Consistent Messages

Through the JIS, PIOs are able to create coordinated and consistent messages by collaborating to:

  • Identify key information that needs to be communicated to the public.
  • Craft messages that convey key information, and are clear and easily understood.
  • Prioritize messages to ensure timely delivery of information without overwhelming the audience.
  • Verify accuracy of information through appropriate channels, including Incident Command and relevant agencies and program areas.
  • Disseminate messages using the most effective means available.


Principle of Autonomy

The JIS also supports the third principle under the NIMS public information element. Organizations participating in incident management retain their autonomy.

The departments, agencies, organizations, or jurisdictions that contribute to the JIS do not lose their individual identities or responsibility for their own programs or policies.


Getting It Right

Simply stated, the public information mission during an incident is to get the right information to the right people at the right time so they can make the right decisions.

The JIS helps PIOs accomplish this mission by facilitating coordination. PIOs also follow specific strategies to avoid conflicting messages, such as:

  • Focusing on one or two key messages.
  • Using pre-scripted messages, as appropriate.
  • Using talking points.
  • Designating spokesperson(s) for media interviews.
  • Speaking about one’s own program—not others’ programs.