Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Exercise. Classes.

I've hit middle age, which means I have to work harder to ward off those extra inches at my waist, and just about totally overdo it to drop any pounds. To help with this health maintenance effort, I have joined a few exercise classes which help keep me motivated, honest to myself and working under the careful eye of a trained instructor, ensuring that I'm not slacking off.

Why does it feel so bad if it's supposed to be good for you?
I have always wondered,though, why are there so few venues for public information officers to get better at what they do?

Think about it for a minute. Talk to a firefighter. They go through the fire academy, get classroom instruction, do simulated drills and exercises and get plenty of feedback on how they perform.

Talk to a law enforcement officer. They go through the police academy, get classroom instruction, do simulated drills and exercises and get plenty of feedback on how they perform.

Talk to an emergency medical technician... well, you are starting to get the idea.

Firefighters getting training
Now, talk to a PIO. Yeah, how does one get that kind of intensive training? How can you make your agency look its best without committing too many mistakes? It's a tough one ...

That's why there are some important things a PIO - or the supervisor of a PIO - should consider doing to improve his or her skills.

First, a great place to start is by taking FEMA's G290: Basic Public Information Officer training class.  This is a two-day classroom-based training that is administered at the local level by real-world PIOs. Each state has their own requirements for instructors, but I believe that you will discover that the people who choose to instruct are well spoken and care tremendously about spreading the knowledge. Check with your local emergency management department or other state training agency to find out where the training is being offered.

Tabletop exercises allow participants to simulate real-world events
Another important part of creating a well-trained cadre of PIOs is to gather them together to run an exercise - be it a tabletop or one that's more active. Well-prepared exercises provide a near real-world simulation of what a PIO can expect out in front of the cameras and reporters. Stuck for ideas on how to make this happen? Gosh, FEMA has a great link to some emergency planning exercises that could be adapted for PIO work. Just be sure to have the least comfortable PIOs in your group serve in the most responsible and challenging positions. Otherwise, how else will they learn?

A law enforcement PIO conducting a media update
Remember, there's no substitute for real world experience. When your agency does respond to an incident, be sure to pair your more seasoned team members up with the newer members, so they can see first-hand how field interactions work with reporters, incident commanders and the public.

There are also many other training programs out there, and more advanced PIO training classes offered at places such as the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland. By simply taking the time to run a few dedicated exercises for your PIO's, they will soon be flexing their media and public relations muscles.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida


  1. I read your post. It is really nice. I like that you create awareness about health and fitness and the importance of exercise in our day to day life.

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  2. Thank you for speared awareness about exercise among us.

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