Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Westward Ho! Part One

So, the day after Independence Day, I checked my bag, got my boarding pass and settled down for a long flight westward. Where was I off to? One of the states I had never been to- Arizona.

The group meeting in November
Last November, a group of talented instructors, contractors and FEMA course administrators got together to talk about a redesign of the suite of courses that Public Information Officers are invited to take through their state training offices. After six months of hard work, a ton of input and some blood, sweat and tears, the pilot versions of the classes were ready to see the light of day.

The guinea pigs? Well, the State of Arizona was more than happy to bring our crew of intrepid instructors to Phoenix for a week of hard work, more than a few laughs and a tough look at the new material.

Hard-working students buckling down during an exercise
With students from agencies across the state - fire, law enforcement, emergency management, leadership, the works - we trotted out the material. I didn't know if they were ready for The Three Amigos - Kevin Tunell of Yuma County, Joe Farago of the Florida State Fire College and me - but we turned on the energy, the charm and the instructional know-how. And, they loved it

The course material put a stronger emphasis on simulation and exercises, and curtailed some of the more basic level lecture. We worked to keep on schedule with the timetable, but it seemed as if every single point the instructors brought up was met with great questions and discussion from the students. Heck, we could have been there for two weeks if we had gone into the detail the students were asking for.

Kevin Tunell instructs the leadership group to get lost during part of the exsercise
There were on-camera interviews, some news release writing and a little table discussion, But, the kicker of the entire class was the final exercise, where we broke the students into working groups, selected a few of the students to leave and serve as our executives who would be giving the interviews.

The pressure-packed exercise preparations
The pressure was on, and everyone was tense as precious minutes slipped away, but the class stood tall, delivering an outstanding performance that would have made the most savvy PIO proud.

The class clowns ... all of them
We broke at the end of the week with a list of the students from the class, some great experience, an outstanding set of comments for feedback to the course design contractors and memories which will keep our group together - even though we are a few thousand miles apart.

After Phoenix, Kevin and I bid Joe goodbye and we headed to his home in Yuma before starting the next phase of the trip... And, once I reminisce about the outstanding tacos al pastor, I'll prepare part two of the big trip out west.

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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