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Friday, March 14, 2014

Welcome to the world of emergency management

I started work at Arizona Division of Emergency Management this week. Some of my family and friends responded by saying, “Great! Now we know who to contact in an emergency!”

While I may be able to give them valuable information on what to do in the event of an emergency, or how to prepare for potential emergencies and hazards, I do not recommend calling the people you know in emergency management during an actual emergency. (Of course, my family and friends wouldn’t actually do so.)

During an emergency, the Public Information Office will be busy crafting messaging and providing critical information to the public. We will be sitting in front of computers trying to sift through the enormous amount of incoming information and determining what can help the public make the best choices for their safety. We will be talking to reporters about what actually happened, dispelling rumors as we go along.

We certainly hope that no emergencies come our way. But we will be prepared if they do.

On any given day, we focus on community outreach and campaigns to educate the public about being prepared in the event of an emergency. We post emergency bulletins on AzEIN, the state’s online website for real-time emergency updates, preparedness and hazard information.

We prepare press releases, speeches, talking points, presentations, and publications. We may do an interview with a TV or radio station. We work on developing relationships with other agencies and the media so we can work together during emergencies.

We also do drills and exercises frequently with other agencies and groups. They can be high stress and fun at the same time. This week, we did a Reception and Care Center drill, focusing on taking care of people who have been part of an evacuation due to an incident at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

I have always done some preparedness in my personal life. I have an emergency survival kit for my family, and another smaller one in my car. But now, even in my first week, I have found myself telling my friends and families about the importance of putting together their own kits.

I wonder what next week will bring.

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