Distributing an Advisory

Brief the appropriate officials, partners, and stakeholders (e.g., large water users, large employers, hospitals, etc.) in existing and neighboring jurisdictions on the essential information before you notify the media. Media often will contact public officials rather than a water system for information and comments.

Automated Messages

Broadcast notification systems use a variety of commercially available systems that include:

  • Prerecorded or synthesized voices for brief messages,
  • Text (SMS) for messages to cell phones, and
  • E-mail for detailed messages to large groups.

For more information, see Automated Messages. Cdc-word[DOCX – 3 pages]small wrench icon representing tools

Determining the most appropriate strategies and tools for a particular situation is a reflection of the severity of the public health concern and the ability to define clearly the affected area. Effective communication will require distribution through multiple methods:

Communication Network

Local public health departments, government agencies, and community organizations are networks that can help communicate advisories. Access their expertise and communication resources when planning for and implementing advisories See Communicating with Susceptible Populations Worksheet. Cdc-word[DOCX – 5 pages]small wrench icon representing tools

As noted in the Collaborating with Partners portion of Section 1: Before an Incident, network partners can assist with translating, formatting, and distributing messages to specific audiences.

Media log

Use a log to track media contacts and reports. Logging media contacts gives a structure for follow up with updates or end-of-advisory notices. If the advisory includes multiple agencies or water systems, each organization should keep a log.


To meet the intent of the Public Notification Rule, health effects and other details must be included in the press release. Include phone numbers and websites in the full advisory. See Required Elements of a Public Notice. small key representing resources

Did You Know?

Ethnic media reaches 25 percent of the U.S. adult population. These adults are far more responsive to messages delivered by media from a similar culture or ethnic group. Forty-five percent of all African-American, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian- American, and Arab-American adults prefer ethnic television, radio, or newspapers to mainstream media channels See Appendix C: Online Resources, Susceptible Populations. small key representing resources

Media Evaluation

Look at media coverage during and after an advisory:

  • Does media coverage reflect the scope and scale of the incident?
  • What is the tone of the coverage?
  • What are the reactions in the community?
  • Were updates covered by the media?
  • How do the timing and placement of media stories link with the volume of customer service calls? (Look for the media’s effect on customer questions.)

Digital Media

Blogs and comments on websites DO NOT represent general public opinion. They DO give an idea of reactions and concerns.

The Public Notification Rule requires wide distribution and encourages the use of mass media. General circulation newspapers, radio, television, websites, social media channels, and ethnic media are good channels for issuing advisories.

See the following for more information:

After issuing a press release, call media outlets to verify they received the release. Ask for the duty editor or news director. Take time to explain the importance of this information to the public. This is especially important for lifting an advisory.

Monitoring the media, customer calls, and the status of the advisory will guide decisions about the need for media activities. Press conferences, additional calls to reporters, or expanding media work with partners are necessary in large-scale advisories.

Working with the Media
  • Get the facts straight. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
  • Write the message to fit the circumstances.
  • Keep all messages consistent.
  • Edit, review, and get clearance for all media releases.
  • Use standard press release format. small key representing resources
  • Link to other information from relevant entities.
  • Use e-mail, fax, and other methods to deliver the press release.
  • Make follow-up calls to the media.
  • Track contact with the media.
  • Post the release and the advisory on the water system’s website.
  • Be honest with the media. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so, then offer to find the information.
  • Discuss use of maps and visual aids with media outlets.
  • Consider issuing a joint press release with the state and/or local health department.
  • Send a release announcing the end of the advisory to media outlets and partners and post the announcement on your website.
  • Make follow-up contact with media to encourage publicizing the end of the advisory.
  • If the advisory is large or long-term, consider scheduling regular press conferences to keep the media up to date. These should be at a time that allows the media to meet press deadlines.

Tier 1 PNR Compliant Press Releases

News editors will edit and reformat releases to fit their style and available space. Some of the required elements or language may be omitted. It is the water system’s responsibility to post the official advisory in public places, apartments, schools, businesses, on websites, and other places as required by your state.

See the following tools and templates for guidance:

Press Conferences and Briefings

News conferences or briefings become necessary during some advisories. Press conferences and briefings create additional work and demand extra resources, but they can eliminate the need to answer large numbers of media inquiries individually. Preparation helps ensure a successful press event. Speak with media outlets to ensure that briefings are held at a time that allows the media to meet press deadlines.

Planning a Press Conference

The first step is to refer to the messages and essential information developed for the advisory. These messages and information are the basis for media kits, advisories, and statements. Messages should be consistent in all communication.

Media kits are simply a collection of information to provide to the media.

Media kits should have:


If the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is activated for the response, the release of information is through the Unified Command.


There could be instances of contamination (e.g., chemical contamination where flushing protocols are used) where the water system is brought back in stages. In this type of scenario, questions for clarification are likely to arise.

When planning a press conference, coordination with partners is absolutely required.

  • Work with partners to plan the press conference, develop materials for media kits, and ensure appropriate clearance is obtained from each agency.
  • Designate one person or group to organize the press conference and one person to act as the emcee. Emcee responsibilities include introducing speakers, managing the question and answer period, and closing the press conference.
  • Identify a spokesperson for each organization participating in the press conference. See Spokesperson Assessment Tool. Cdc-word[DOCX – 1 page] small wrench icon representing tools
  • Use the essential information and messages to develop statements for each speaker. Brief the spokespersons prior to the incident and review messages and materials. Speakers need to know the order of their appearance and roles. See Basic Elements of a Spokesperson Statement Cdc-word[DOCX – 1 page] small wrench icon representing tools and Spokesperson Assessment Tool. Cdc-word[DOCX – 1 page] small wrench icon representing tools
  • Rehearse before the session and practice statements and possible questions and answers. It is important to prepare for difficult questions. Plan a strategy in case the situation becomes contentious. Include all spokespersons if other agencies are involved. Phone calls can work if spokespersons cannot meet in person ahead of time.
  • Plan logistics. This is central to a successful press conference. Study the location. The space should be accessible and have enough room, no echo, a central focus point, and a designated sign-in area. Media kits should be provided at the sign-in area. If possible, set aside a separate space for one-on-one interviews. On-site press conferences are more of a challenge. Use tape or cones to designate a specific safe area. Limit work noise and activity, if possible. Make it clear how long the press conference will last.
  • Announce the press conference through media contacts. Develop a media alert and distribute it by e-mail, fax, or other methods. Follow up with calls to the media to make sure the right persons received the advisory. Select a time that will allow sound and video crews to set up equipment and all media to meet press deadlines. Use the Media Alert Template. Cdc-word[DOCX – 1 page] small wrench icon representing tools

Conducting a Press Conference

With the right planning in place, the press conference should go smoothly. Make sure each media outlet signs in and has a media kit. Press conferences have a standard format:

  • Entrance: Spokespeople enter the room or area in the order they are speaking.
  • Introductions: The emcee gives a short summary of the reason for the press conference and introduces each spokesperson. One spokesperson may play this role if necessary.
  • Statement: Spokespeople stand up, give their names and titles, and proceed with their statements.
  • Questions: It is standard practice to have a question and answer session. The person doing the introductions should handle media questions and refer them to the best spokesperson for the topic.
  • Close: Stick to the time allotted. The emcee thanks the media for their interest, states that the session is closed, and announces where to get more information and/or the time of the next update. Spokespersons leave the room.

After the Press Conference

If appropriate, the media can conduct one-on-one interviews directly after the press conference. Make sure to get back to any member of the media that asked for more information.

A debriefing, either in person or by phone, will identify concerns that are not addressed, determine changes needed in messages, and prepare participants for the next update. Information from a press debriefing should be incorporated into the advisory protocol during the evaluation process.