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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Rocky Mountains: A View From the Fourth-Floor

It’s settled. John Denver was neither lying, joking nor exaggerating. Colorado is everything he said it would be, and that’s based solely on what I saw from my hotel room and the shuttle trip to and from Denver International.

Unfortunately (maybe fortunately in retrospect), this recent trip to the Centennial State wasn’t at all about snow-capped peaks or backpacking; instead, it centered on an invitational external affairs conference in Broomfield, Colo. (Pause for reader “oohs and aahs” here).

Okay, okay … so maybe a work conference isn’t your (or really anybody’s) idea of rollicking good times, but it had its moments. The conference was two days of panel discussions, slide presentations, case studies and breakout sessions; but before you jump ship on me, understand these are just the sort of things that help communicators grow as professionals and better perform their jobs in service of the public.

A personal favorite among the presentations was a working lunch address by Kathleen J. Tierney, Director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The Natural Hazards Center exists to “advance and communicate knowledge on hazard mitigation and disaster preparedness, response and recovery” through “information sharing and integration of activities among researchers, practitioners, and policy makers.”

Tierney’s talk on risk communication research, specifically prevailing “truths” and misconceptions concerning how people acquire, interpret and apply messages in periods of crisis and emergency, raised eyebrows, questions and plenty of conversation.

It’s worth mentioning that besides being a spectator, I also participated in a four-person panel on social/new media in emergency management, during which I highlighted the new Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN) and our latest ventures into Web 2.0 sphere (e.g., Youtube, Twitter and Blogger). If you haven’t already, check us out at

It would have been nice to sightsee in Boulder and to hike some of the over 350 miles of trail that wind through Rocky Mountain National Park*, but I’m not complaining. Occasions like this conference afford the almost invaluable opportunity to meet counterparts, build interpersonal and interstate relationships, and learn new strategies and tactics in public information and communication.

*BTW, if you are the outdoorsy type, have the slightest interest in nature or, like me, dug “Wild America” hosted by Marty Stouffer as a kid, effort to get to Rocky Mountain National Park in autumn for the elk, aspen and arresting vistas.

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