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Incident Communications

The Incident Communications Team leads Federal communications coordination for national-level incidents and crises. This authority derives from Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD 5), which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to keep the public informed during a national incident. Efforts may include state, local and Federal communicators. These efforts are DHS’ Office of Public Affairs’ paramount responsibility during national-level incidents and crises.

The DHS Office of Public Affairs staff must have the ability to immediately respond to multiple threats and homeland security emergencies, including natural disasters and man-made incidents such as terrorism. This National Response Framework describes this response effort in overarching terms.

Emergency Support Function 15 is the Federal process for coordination of communications during an incident requiring a sustained and high level of activities and integration with state, local, tribal and private sector counterparts. The DHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs is the director of ESF 15, orders the activation of ESF 15 as appropriate, and assigns an operations director for either man-caused incidents, such as terrorism, or natural disasters.  Generally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will lead the coordination of external affairs for natural incidents.

For incidents that may involve terrorism or threats, White House Communications, supported by DHS Public Affairs, will immediately assess the requirement for a public announcement with appropriate senior Federal counterterrorism communicators. Recommendations are coordinated with the National Security Council and the DHS Counter Terrorism Advisory Board (CTAB), which makes a formal recommendation to the Secretary of Homeland Security about releasing a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Advisory.  Announcement of an NTAS Advisory is conducted within the scope of the overall Federal communications strategy as directed by White House Communications.

Last Updated: 01/11/2022
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