In times of disruptive change, a solid crisis communication plan and advance preparation permits a local government to be proactive instead of reactive and to employ customized methods and strategies. This holds true in less threatening crises such as financial malfeasance or labor strike, as well as major disasters.

In this checklist from InFocus Report: Effective Crisis Communication, ICMA lists 16 questions every local government manager should ask in their crisis communication planning. Whether you are creating a new crisis communications plan or updating an existing one, this checklist will help guide your local government organization toward effective communication during a crisis.Checklist for Crisis Communication Planning

Checklist for crisis communication planning

A crisis communication plan answers these basic yet critical questions:

  • How is information gathered?
  • Where is collected information stored?
  • How is information disseminated, by which methods, and through which channels?
  • How will citizens and the media be informed of a crisis?
  • Which are appropriate communication methods for contacting stakeholders?
  • How are non-English-speaking stakeholders, the elderly, and people with disabilities contacted?
  • Who should be the primary crisis spokespeople and backup spokespeople?
  • What are employees’ communication responsibilities?
  • Who are contact persons and backups for each stakeholder group?
  • What is the process for determining what and when information will be released?
  • How do employees contact their supervisor or designated representative?
  • How do stakeholders contact the city during a crisis?
  • What are the templates for developing accurate, consistent, and credible messages?
  • What are the core background messages on basic organizational processes?
  • Who analyzes the overall impact of the crisis on the city from a systems perspective?
  • How will critical-incident-stress debriefings be offered for employees and stakeholders?

Click here to download a full version of the checklist.


To gain a practical understanding of crisis communications and community engagement, participate in ICMA's new online certificate program, Local Government 201.

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