By Rob Keller

It was a great pleasure to spend two days with some of the best emergency management practitioners in Ontario at the FEMA G290 Basic PIO course on May 1-2, 2019.  I’m very fortunate to train alongside some exceptional professionals.  When it comes to disasters, we’re all in this together and I look forward to continuing to work with my Canadian counterparts to make our respective communities safer and more resilient.

As you heard in my presentations, public information is a vital function in disaster operations that contributes greatly to saving lives and protecting property. The PIO entails the processes and systems that enable effective communications with various target audiences. The G290 training  provided you with the opportunity to learn and practice the tasks of gathering, verifying, coordinating, and disseminating public information at all levels.

Themes weaved throughout the series include the 95/5 concept and an emphasis on whole community strategic communication planning.

The 95/5 concept relates to non-emergency and emergency PIO activities – 95% of most PIOs’ work is in non-emergency times, with only 5% directly related to incident response or recovery. The activities a PIO chooses in non-emergency times (95%) has a significant impact on how successful he or she will be in the 5% spent in emergency response and recovery. This training focuses on both parts of the equation.

“If people don’t know what’s happening and what to do, then they are not going to respond accordingly.

Remember the three items that if you follow, you will be “spot on” when it comes to being transparent.

1.  Here’s what happened.
2.  Here’s what we are doing.
3.  Here’s what we want you to do.

The Public Information Officer (PIO) training program is designed to provide PIOs with the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to support proper decision-making by delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

An emergency situation brings together individuals belonging to many different organizations, representing different organizational cultures including different usage of language.  For me, the Basic PIO training in Toronto brought me to Canada to meet some new professional counterparts and friends.  I am also looking forward to the Basic PIO training in June.  According to Mr. Jason Reid at OAEM, the class is almost full, so be sure and register soon.

Have a safe journey my friends.

Rob Keller

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