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The PIO acts as the conduit through which most of the official information about the department is dispersed to the public through the media. This does not just mean being on the spot at a house, building or wildfire with the necessary facts for reporters. It is also the PIO's responsibility to work seamlessly with the fire prevention division on new legislative initiatives, such as for residential sprinklers, for a smoke alarm campaign, for a new piece of apparatus, a bond issue or recruitment for volunteers. As our national and local demographics continue to shift in age, income and diversity, the PIO is playing an increasingly critical role in getting specific messages out to at-risk populations. As public safety demands continue to grow, look for the PIO position to develop into a director of public affairs as part of the senior officer team, with multiple public service marketing responsibilities.
My next column will describe how the fire service informs the public through the media.
BEN MAY, a FirehouseÂ® contributing editor, has been developing the discipline of fire and emergency services marketing management for more than 15 years. He has been a firefighter for Montgomery County, MD, Fire and Rescue and fire commissioner for the Woodinville, WA, Fire and Life Safety District. May holds a bachelor's degree in public affairs from the University of Oklahoma and a master's degree in international communication from the American University in Washington, D.C. He has been a vice president of two international marketing firms over the last 25 years, and now is responsible for business development for Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort.