Wednesday, October 1, 2014

For the duration

So, what's it like being somewhere for the duration of an event as a PIO?  Well, it means a lot of different things.

It means waking early to a call from someone in the field telling you that there's 'something' going on, and that they may need some media support.

A sight you never want to see near a sanitary sewer pipe
It's about getting to the scene and realizing that - wow - it's a huge event like a giant sanitary sewer overflow - a scene which I'm sure Dante Alighieri might have written into his master work, the Inferno - and that you are going to need a lot of support from your team to make a successful response happen.

It's about gaining the confidence of the incident commander and assuring him that the more information you have, the better you can do your job.

It's about becoming an instant expert on pipe diameters, pump pressures, air locks and valves, so you can effectively communicate these things to the public through the media.

The nearby school's PIO delivering important messages to the parents and students
It's about coordinating with the nearby private school that has to readjust its schedule and pickup/drop off pattern for nearly 700 families, and helping them get their word out through the media. And, about thanking them for being gracious hosts to a small army of trucks and heavy equipment.

It's about spelling your first and last name - correctly - and giving your title about a thousand times as each of the reporters does an interview trying to find those facts.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ...
It's about standing and delivering those media updates in the heat, the dark and any weather condition that mother nature can throw your way.

It's about early morning rising to find that the utility workers have done an outstanding job busting their tails through a long, difficult night.

Utility workers and contractors working side by side to fix the problem
It's about telling the reporters and your superiors about the outstanding job that these under-appreciated men and women do and making sure that their selfless, tireless contributions aren't forgotten.

It's about remembering that you have a smartphone with an HD camera on your hip to catch the moment the flow of the pressure main is turned off, and having it aimed in the right direction when the awesome moment happens.

If you can imagine that, yes, than you can imagine what it's like being part of a PIO team on the scene for the duration.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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