Monday, September 29, 2014

When your day turns upside down

The duties a public information officer conducts run the gamut. For some PIOs, it's just a 9 to 5 gig, handling everything inside the office during normal business hours. For others, standing next to a raging fire a 3 a.m. is par for the course.

For many of us, however, that emergency call out is something that can turn your day upside down. That on-call phone is there, your ready companion, and you obviously hope that nothing does happen, but it's always best to be prepared.

Handling on scene interviews
This past weekend, an event took place locally that involved a large wastewater main, Since a considerable amount of untreated wastewater was coming from the line, it became a large event that caught the media's attention. 

While we were able to handle the media's requests while the utility crews worked the situation, I was taking notes of how we could improve our response to such an event. For instance, when I went on call, I didn't bring the office's portable wireless hotspot with me. While I could have used my phone for data access, having that would have been a big help to allow me to use my tablet computer, the office's laptop or other items on scene.

I was sure to wear my boots and heavy cargo pants around the area, which even in the Florida early autumn heat were uncomfortable, they did keep me protected being near the heavy equipment, Even having my reflective, high-visibility PIO vest kept me in good standing with our risk management folks while making it easy for the reporters and camera operators to find me easily on scene.

Hi Vis vests are important on scene
Did we execute our plans perfectly?  Does anyone?  

Real life activations of emergency plans are the best way to ensure that your plans actually work. Always take the time to review what went well and what can be improved. Even though your day may be turned upside down, what you learn will help your plans be right side up when you need them again. 

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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