Public Information Officer, PIOF

Position Category: 
Incident Positions
Position Code: 
Functional Area: 
AD Class: 


The Public Information Officer (PIOF) is responsible for internal and external communication, and may be assigned to community outreach, media relations, social media or information center operations. PIOFs are the first-line contact for all levels of media and the public on an incident and may be involved in multiple levels within the Command organization.  On a Type 1 or 2 incident, the PIOF works for the lead Public Information Officer. On a Type 3 incident, a PIOF may work directly for the Incident Commander. PIOFs may also work in a Joint Information Center (JIC) with multiple agencies represented.

Major Duties>

  • Obtain initial briefing from local unit personnel, unit Public Affairs Officer, Incident Commander, or lead Public Information Officer.
  • Determine Incident Commander/Agency Administrator’s expectations regarding local protocols and the dissemination of information.
  • Assess the situation, determine short and long term staffing and resource needs, and provide for the safety and welfare of assigned personnel.
  • Gather, produce and distribute accurate and timely information as required by established guidelines and ensure understanding by recipient. This includes fact sheets, news releases, web, and social media posts.
  • Ensure safety of public by providing timely and accurate information to media and public.
  • Meet the needs of the incident through the creation and use of a strategic information strategy that establishes a daily schedule for gathering and disseminating incident information in a timely and accurate manner to identified internal and external audiences.
  • Model leadership values and principles.
  • Establish and maintain positive interpersonal and interagency working relationships.
  • Establish work assignments and performance expectations, monitor performance, and provide feedback.
  • Facilitate media relations by providing information and interviews.
  • Coordinate with other team functional areas as well as with other information functions, such as Joint Information Centers, other incidents, local unit, and cooperating agencies.
  • Communicate effectively by ensuring relevant information is exchanged during briefings and debriefings.
  • Assist with effective community relations in coordination with local unit.
  • Prepare for events such as community meetings and very important person (VIP) visits.
  • Assist in preparing for community meetings. Provide facilitation if IC requests.
  • Respond to special situations (incidents within an incident, such as injuries or fatalities).
  • Coordinate an efficient transfer of position duties when mobilizing/demobilizing.

Knowledge Required by the Position

  • Effective written and verbal communication skills for a variety of audiences.
  • Effective verbal communication skills, to include speaking in public at internal briefings and community meetings, and speaking one-on-one to public or media.
  • Ability to take complex, often jargon-laden messages and make them consumable by the general public.
  • Media interview techniques and experience, to include anticipating questions and providing concise, accurate information that is consistent with key messages.
  • Fire experience is not required, but does greatly enhance capability.
  • Social media skills both in maintaining incident social media presence and monitoring other social media traffic on the incident.
  • Use of computer software to write and edit documents, edit visual media, post online, and create informational products.
  • Leadership and mentoring skills are important, as the information function becomes more complex with 24/7 information demands and social media.
  • Ability to work in dynamic situations, often with large information staffs in an austere environment.
  • Flexibility to respond and adapt to changing circumstances throughout the day.

Supervisory Controls

PIOFs need the ability to follow guidance and protocols, while conducting their work in a largely independent manner. PIOFs need to be able to work effectively as part of a team, with an understanding of how their role plays into the greater incident management team goals and objectives.  They may be working for another PIO, for Incident Commander, or for the local unit.


PIOFs should be familiar with media and social media policies of the host unit. These vary greatly based on the agency, and many general policies are available on the PIO Bulletin Board at  Incident-specific guidelines should be conveyed during in-brief. Team plans are also a necessary source of guidance.

Recurring communication with the local unit staff, particularly the public affairs officer to ensure information is meeting the need and that relationships are maintained with the local community and media.

Complexity/Scope and Effect

  • Very challenging from day to day and assignment to assignment due to social, political, and economical factors in communities and larger regions affected by the incident.
  • Position relies on independent thoughts and actions.
  • Requires evaluation and analysis of success in messaging to ensure accurate, appropriate and timely messages reach the intended audiences.
  • Requires the ability to be flexible in a dynamic situation.

Personal Contacts/Purpose of Contacts

  • PIOFs are in contact with other staff in the unit, members of the IMT, employees of the local land management agencies, partners and cooperators at local and state levels, media, political representatives, and the general public.
  • This contact is critical to obtaining and disseminating emerging information on the incident on a continual basis.

Physical Demands/Work Environment

  • A mix of sedentary desk work or drive time combined with field visits and walking over mild terrain.
  • No fitness rating required.

Position Needs

  • Basic Firefighter Training: Introduction to ICS (ICS-100)
  • Human Factors in the Wildland Fire Service (L-180)
  • Firefighter Training (S-130)
  • Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior (S-190)
  • ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents (ICS-200)
  • Intermediate ICS for Expanding Incidents (ICS-300)
  • Advanced ICS (ICS-400)
  • NIMS: An Introduction (IS-700)
  • Annual Fireline Safety Refresher (RT-130)
  • Introduction to Incident Information (S-203)


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