Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A great training ground

This week, I am working at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland. What goes on there, you might be asking? Well, it's one of the best centers for educating public information officers in the United States.

Occupying space formerly owned by a Catholic college, the campus sprawls just south of the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, less than 15 minutes from the historic Gettysburg battlefield. The campus is also home to the National Fire Training Academy, which is considered one of the premiere locations to learn about fire administration and more advanced concepts in the firefighting field.

I am here with a group of public information officers, course designers and education specialists assisting with a rewrite of FEMA's suite of public information courses taught by the states. These include Public Information Awareness, Basic Public Information Officer and the Joint Information System class. All three were last revised in 2009, and they are due for a revision to bring them in line with the advances in social media, news gathering and information dissemination that has taken place over the past five years.

While this may have been able to be accomplished by conference call or online, being at this facility, surrounded by people who share a common passion for creating the best public information systems is an exhilarating feeling. We are actually accomplishing some big things here, and it is our hope that the new version of the class is going to be something that future students can take to give them all the advantages possible to do the best job they can.

In the meantime, I just can't help but be amazed by the beauty of this place. There are numerous memorials around the grounds to the country's fallen firefighters, and those who gave their lives during the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. You can tell that each of the students and instructors here is working hard to ensure that everyone goes safely home after any incident regardless of its size or where it happens around the country.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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