It's funny, because this is exactly one of the first steps a good PIO is supposed to do in any situation. Roll up, get a situational briefing and observe what's taking place with his or her own eyes, if possible. Of course, with something like a hurricane, it may be difficult to hitch a ride on a hurricane hunter aircraft, but that may be another discussion for another time.
|One of NOAA's Hurricane Hunter P-3 Orion aircraft|
So, how can you help? It's easy - you have to think like a reporter.
|Woah, pump the brakes there, pal...|
No way, Jose. Remember that reporters are looking to get as much information as possible to tell the story to the end user - the public. And, you can be sure they are going to ask multiple questions, but they all are going to start with who, what, when, where, why and how. In fact, Dr. Vincent Covello of the Center for Risk Communications put together a list of the 77 most commonly asked questions by reporters at a scene. You can print out a copy for yourself and keep it tacked over your desk. Look at it every day. Print out a few more copies. Put one in your go-kit. One in your car. One on your night stand. Get to understand what reporters are looking for, and you will be a step ahead of the questions.
Easy peasey, and you will look like a hero to both your incident commander and the media.
Now, I have to go stuff some more things into a few more boxes. That last day is creeping up on me fast!
Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida