Know who to call in an emergency
February 2, 2009
In an emergency, the public needs reliable information. Rumors, inaccurate information, or no information at all can lead to increased public anxiety and even panic. Lack of credible information can hinder emergency responders from attending to the situation and getting it under control. The public also needs this information to make better decisions. Fortunately there are communications professionals trained for this.HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIO: Imagine if you will for a moment, that you are at work and you just heard a rumor that a plane engine fell from the sky and landed on the highway just outside of Parshall.Your heart begins to pound in your chest and everything feels like its moving in slow motion.Surely this cannot be real, you think to yourself. Before you can wrap your mind around the news, someone tells you that the plane just crashed into someones home in Granby.You are now feeling a rush of adrenalin and your head starts to spin with concern and downright worry.The situation worsens. You hear sirens outside. Your stomach turns into a knot when you also hear that police are in pursuit of a gunman, on foot, near a public school. An officer is down.Am I safe? Where are my children? Is my wife okay? How can I get in touch with my family? Are the roads open? Where can I tell my children to go for safety? You and your coworkers jam the phone lines to get needed information and you cant get through. Some of your co-workers rush to their cars and speed down the roads only to get caught up in a traffic jam. This degree of panic is putting others in danger and inhibiting the efforts of emergency teams to get the situations under control. This is the pretend scenario that Grand County Public Information Officers recently undertook at a mock disaster training.The goal is to provide timely, accurate and dependable information to the public so emergency professionals can focus on the situation. There is nothing more important than allowing the responders on the scene to do their jobs, helping people and containing the situation.We [Public Information Officers] are here to communicate to the public because pulling the police, fire or emergency medical technicians from their immediate duties wouldnt be productive, said Nowell Curran, EMS Captain & Office of Emergency Management Spokesperson.The people responsible for managing these communications are Public information Officers (PIOs) who are trained and certified in emergency communications management. In Grand County, these PIOs represent a variety of organizations including The National Forest Service, Grand County Office of Emergency Management, Grand County EMS, Kremmling Memorial Hospital, Granby Medical Center, Grand County Public Health, the fire departments, law enforcement, the schools and others.Their objective is to organize communications processes that provide current and accurate information to the public in case of a community emergency from the scene of the accident to your eyes or your ears. The Grand County Office of Emergency Management has been assisting with the development of this training on a regular basis. They frequently sponsor training well as coordinate Public Information Officer training through the Colorado Department of Emergency Management.Where to get the informationThere is no single effective way to get emergency information out to everybody. “This has proven to be a challenging effort for the Office of Emergency Management” says Trevor Denney, Grand County Emergency Manager. “We have come a long way in the past two years working on several different systems of getting information out, said Denney.Denney credits the county commissioners as well as grant funding which has enabled the implementation of different public notification programs. (Information sources below).Most recently we have been able to implement the Civil Emergency Messages through the National Weather Service as well as attempting to obtain grant funding for a NOAA weather radio which would cover the east and north end of the county, Denney said.For current emergency information:log on to http://www.gcemergency.com dial in to KCMV 106.3 FM tune in any of the front range television stations for broadcasts tune in to 162.525mHz with the code 008049 if you have a Weather Radio (west of Byers Canyon) register for CodeRED Emergency Notification via http://www.gcemergency.com We want the public to be eased and trust that the information they would be receiving in a community emergency is true and accurate, said Nowell Curran.