Group 2: Describe the role of the Public Information Officer in media relations and reporting during an incident. Why is this role so crucial? How can the PIO beneficially utilize the media for Risk Communication activities during the event? What pre-event activities lead to success in these relationships?
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Bonus Question – Need 2 extra points?
Provide a synopsis of the Volunteer Protection Act. What protection does this act provide? Any major omissions in coverage from the volunteer’s perspective? Does participation in a NVOAD agency provide any benefit to the volunteer? Any benefit to the Incident Command organization?
1) The Public Information Officer is an important individual especially in media relations and reporting during an incident. The (PIO) has the role of ensuring that whenever an emergency occurs, they provide accurate, efficient, and timely information to the media so that in turn the media informs the public about the scope and the nature of the situation. This role is very crucial as it keeps the public informed about any disaster that has occurred in the country for them to be safe together with taking evacuation measures and to take the necessary precautions to prevent any catastrophic (Motschall, 2012). The PIO can beneficially utilize the media for Risk Communication activities during a disaster through providing the public how they can respond towards the disaster to stay safe and not engage in actions which its results can be catastrophic. The pre-event activities that lead to success in these relationships are through engaging the public in disaster preparedness to understand the way they can handle themselves when a disaster strikes. Offering and training the public on ways they can provide help especially to victims affected by a disaster. The other pre-event activity is offering the public education on how to raise the alarm or the ways to communicate and ask for help when disaster strikes.
Motschall, M., & Cao, L. (2002). An analysis of the public relations role of the police public information officer. Police Quarterly, 5(2), 152-180.
2)Given the limited resources available at the federal, state, and local levels, the successful integration of citizen involvement in an emergency management setting is imperative to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of disasters in our communities. Success, however, will require new levels of cooperation and commitment to partnership among the voluntary sector, professional first-responders, and all levels of government. While this may be a challenging goal, the priority and long-term value of this work cannot be denied.
Where volunteer work becomes detrimental to a community is when the programs themselves are not properly designed to be effective. After the 2010 earthquake, Haiti was bombarded with individuals and groups who came to help but only served to cause more damage. Given the sheer number of inexperienced people desiring to lend their assistance, there is also the real concern of programs being abandoned, never fully accomplishing their goals and leaving the vulnerable victims facing a whole new set of problems with no solution in sight.
Almost without exception, spontaneous volunteers appear on the scene of a major disaster event. Media coverage and its graphic images of destruction often inspires people in neighboring counties and states to act. Even those directly impacted by the event who are less-severely affected by the disaster than others will want to volunteer for the response effort in some capacity. Hundreds, even thousands, find themselves drawn to the disaster site out of compassion for the impacted community, wanting to help. It is the responsibility of volunteer management organizations at the site to effectively catalog, coordinate, utilize, manage, and document the resources of spontaneous volunteers to fully address disaster service’s needs.
In Hurricane Katrina, given the extensive amount of physical damage and economic strife, Hurricane Katrina triggered the need for an unprecedented number of volunteers’ and workers’ response to the Gulf Coast region of the United States by the American Red Cross, totaling approximately 73,000 new volunteers (Swygard & Stafford, 2009; Villagran, Wittenberg-Lyles & Garza, 2006). The men and women who volunteer to support the state and national efforts are often untrained but willing to help. For profit, not for profit, faith-based organizations, and even college students contributed to the response and recovery efforts of the Gulf Coast (Clukey, 2010; Lemieux, Plummer, Richardson, Simon, & AI, 2010; Smith, 2012). According to the White House (2005), the North American Mission Board sent 9,000 members of the Southern Baptist Convention 34 from 41 states to serve in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Approximately 14,000 Citizen Corps volunteers supported the response and the recovery efforts around the country. Local churches established hundreds of “pop up” shelters to house storm victims (White House, 2005).