Monday, June 13, 2016

Who's safe?

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?

Yes, nearly six months has passed since the last PIO Chronicles post, but I want to ensure you that I am still alive and well. There have been some major changes in my life that I really don't want to go into right now, but thank you all for your concern!

It's interesting that some of you have been wondering about my well being. For me, I just needed some time away from the computer to get my act together.

For many other Floridians, though, this week has brought unimaginable pain, as a radicalized militant assaulted the Pulse nightclub in Orlando -  just a short drive down from I-4 from where I live.

A shooting victim is carried from the scene by bystanders
At the time of this writing, there are 50 confirmed fatalities and 53 others were wounded by the intentional fire from the assailant. In the confused first minutes, many patrons couldn't tell what the loud shooting sounds were - perhaps part of the music - until it was too late. Chaos erupted as people ran from the scene to save their lives or hid, hoping the perpetrator would not see them.

In times like the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, immediate access to information was both critical and tragic. The shooter became radicalized after reading ISIL literature online. The owner of the nightclub posted a message on Facebook shortly after the shooting began for patrons to flee as quickly as possible from the premises.

Orlando police officers had to numb themselves to the eerie sounds of the victims ringing phones as loved ones frantically tried to reach them to see if they had escaped the carnage safely.

A heavily armed Orange County Sheriff's Deputy helps to ensure there is no more threat
And, for the first time ever in the United States, Facebook activated its safety check feature. This service, which was used extensively in natural disasters and other attacks as seen in Paris and Brussels, allows users to let their friends and families know they are OK in the aftermath of a dangerous incident. Because I have many friends and colleagues in the Orlando area, it was a relief to see their names come in as safe through the service.

And, finally, as is the case with any and all incidents such as this, I carefully watched the numerous news conferences that occurred. While the high-level dignitaries - Governor Rick Scott, Senators Ben Nelson and Marco Rubio - come with their entourages,  it was good to see just how easily the many local agencies from the City of Orlando and Orange County pulled together to deliver coherent, timely information to an anxious public.

Local officials worked closely with the FBI to help get the word out.
The most important lesson to learn as a public information officer is that any emergency is a local emergency, and the people who live in the communities which are affected often have the best insight when it comes to communications.

My biggest concern, unfortunately, is that we are getting way too much experience at events like these...

Tom Iovino

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