G-290 Basic Public Information Officer Training

Last week I had the great opportunity, thanks to our local regional Task Force, to take part in the two-day FEMA Basic Public Information Officer training course. I’ve described my experience thusly: it was a typical FEMA training; the course materials left a lot to be desired (for anyone with any experience), but the experience was amazing. Not educational but definitely useful, if that makes any sense.

For those of you that haven’t taken the class, each section is punctuated by a group activity. Because of the regional set up of our training, my group had representatives from public health (me), fire, utilities, airport, school district and emergency services. It was like our own little JIC. We developed press releases, talking points, organized and delivered a press briefing, and—most importantly—shared business cards. Some of us at the table had little real experience, and others had years and years of near constant experience. I was able to offer information on social media use in emergencies, and others were able to talk us throughout writing a press release, while others guided us through the pitfalls of a press briefing when presented with a hostile press.

I had two big takeaways from my time with these great folks. First, how important is it to meet them, establish a relationship and have them understand that I’m not some young punk (and conversely, that they’re not dinosaurs unwilling to embrace public information best practices). If we do all get called to a JIC, I know what to expect and how to approach them and can start our shift with a warm handshake instead of an initial desire to “protect my turf.” I’m lucky to have a Task Force that understands that, and is willing to support a public information committee that wants to work towards that goal.

The second takeaway is a bit more selfish and affects the blog. On of the coolest parts of the training is the opportunity to present in front of a camera. What a great way to learn what you look like while presenting sober information. Do you have tics, do you grip the podium, do you sway. Only one way to learn, right? My instructor said I did pretty good.

This opportunity peaked an interest I’ve had for a bit: to incorporate video into this blog.

When I first started blogging 4+ years ago, my goal was two-fold: to learn about public health preparedness and to learn to write better. When I felt that I had gained some understanding of public health preparedness, I quit the other blog. I continue to feel good about my writing, and well, I’d like to get better in front of a camera, so maybe this is a good time to expand my repertoire.

That said, I’m going to commit to making and publishing a dozen video blog posts. They’ll be short—no more than a couple of minutes and will probably be kind of meandering, a chance to discuss topics that I haven’t totally settled on. To you, the reader, there won’t be much of a difference. The posts will show up inline here and all you’ve got to do is press the play button. The only thing I ask is your help. Comment on my video posts, let me know if this is something you’d like to see. Let me know if I could do something better, both in the delivery and content.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by and I can’t wait for you all to actually see me.


5 thoughts on “G-290 Basic Public Information Officer Training

  1. Jim,I’m looking forward to your foray into video blogging. The power of SM is in “being a real person” – and video does that in way text often cannot.Marcus

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