1. #1
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    Default New PIO in Need of Assistance

    Hello All,

    I am a 3rd year volunteer firefighter in rural southern Ohio, and also a newly minted Public Information Officer, and boy do I have a ton of questions! I'm hoping that some of the more experienced PIOs out there can be of assistance. For the sake of clarity I'll just use numbered questions.

    1. Does anyone know of any templates for reporting to the media? The job description states that I am supposed to make a report to the local newspaper, but I haven't settled on a template. I'd rather not reinvent the wheel if there is a good template out there.

    2. Do I have to have a release signed by the home owner to release information to the media, and if so what information can I release?

    3. I'm currently working on our website (www.nilefd.org) but I am not seeing much traffic, or even an active interest from members of the department in using the email server or online report filing system. Any ideas how I can spark more involvement?

    4. I'm also using more social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Ushahidi) to help build a delivery method for Fire Prevention Programs, but yet again not seeing nearly the traffic necessary to make the effort equitable. Any remarks on how your department uses Social Media?

    5. What efforts has your department made in PIO operations? We are utilizing the PIO in the form of reporting to the public, as well as fire prevention an recruitment & retention? Is too much or not enough?

    Any comments, ideas, remarks, would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by eli_allen View Post
    Hello All,

    I am a 3rd year volunteer firefighter in rural southern Ohio, and also a newly minted Public Information Officer, and boy do I have a ton of questions! I'm hoping that some of the more experienced PIOs out there can be of assistance. For the sake of clarity I'll just use numbered questions.
    First, welcome to the position!

    1. Does anyone know of any templates for reporting to the media? The job description states that I am supposed to make a report to the local newspaper, but I haven't settled on a template. I'd rather not reinvent the wheel if there is a good template out there.
    You can do something informal that still sounds good:

    "On Wednesday, December 21, the Nile Township Fire Department was dispatched to the report of a house on fire in the 100 block of Elm Street. Members were enroute within 3 minutes and arrived within 8 minutes to find smoke coming out of the front door of a single-story home. The first-arriving fire engine quickly pulled a hoseline and extinguished the fire, which was a mattress and clothing on fire in a bedroom. After the fire was out, a fan was placed to help remove the smoke and odor from the home. A family of four was displaced, and was offered the services of the Red Cross, but they did not need this service. In total, four pieces of fire apparatus, staffed with 11 volunteers responded, and spent just over an hour on scene.

    The Nile Fire Department reminds everyone to have working smoke detectors in their home, and if any citizens needs a detector, please call the NFD at 811-555-1212 to schedule an appointment.

    MEDIA: For additional information, please call Bob Hungfunny, PIO, at 811-555-1213."


    Remember that press releases should follow some of these basic guidelines:
    • Print/fax/e-mail these on official department letterhead.
    • Don't put an exact address or occupant name in the release. Photos should not show an exact address, or license plates in the event of a vehicle accident.
    • Remember that they're being written for the general public, not for other firefighters. Try to avoid using technical language and terms that the public probably wouldn't understand. It can be simple, yet still professional.
    • As a volunteer fire department, use every chance you have to remind the public that your members are volunteers and donating their time.
    • If it's a kitchen fire, include a reminder on cooking safety. If it's kids playing with matches or lighters, include a reminder to parents about keeping these items out of reach. These are the opportunities you have to make your impression on the folks you're trying to reach.
    • Always include a contact name and number.

    2. Do I have to have a release signed by the home owner to release information to the media, and if so what information can I release?
    You should confer with your department's or jurisdictions's attorney, but generally speaking, you do not.

    3. I'm currently working on our website (www.nilefd.org) but I am not seeing much traffic, or even an active interest from members of the department in using the email server or online report filing system. Any ideas how I can spark more involvement?
    Your website looks really good, it's obvious you've put a lot of work into it. Like a lot of things, older members of your department might take a lot of time to believe in the worth of the site, but give them time. I'd suggest using the site as a proxy server for e-mail forwarding. You can set-up an e-mail distribution address such as "membership@nilefd.org" and use that to distribute information to all members at once. You could also do one for officers, board of directors, etc. Our department finds this invaluable.

    4. I'm also using more social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Ushahidi) to help build a delivery method for Fire Prevention Programs, but yet again not seeing nearly the traffic necessary to make the effort equitable. Any remarks on how your department uses Social Media?
    We currently maintain our website (hvfd2.com) and our page on Facebook as well (Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department). We honestly update the Facebook page more often than the website, as it's just easier to do. We update it about once or twice a week - while we do sometimes use it for fire prevention tips, we're more often highlighting major calls we run, information about our members, activities the department has coming up, and other items that helps the community feel as though they're "connected" with the department. With community support comes funding for special projects.

    5. What efforts has your department made in PIO operations? We are utilizing the PIO in the form of reporting to the public, as well as fire prevention an recruitment & retention? Is too much or not enough?
    You'll have to judge the response you're getting to see if you're doing too much or not enough. Rural areas might not require as much activity as urban areas, but don't let that stop you from getting your name out there.

    Remember that there are a lot of folks in public safety that hate the media, often for the wrong reasons. Make the media your advocate, and they'll in turn be an advocate for you as well. This can be from your local weekly newspaper to your local television affiliates. Should something go wrong within your department (and it will), a previously-established relationship with the media will pay a lot of dividends at that time.

    Best of luck!
    Career Fire Captain
    Volunteer Chief Officer


    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

  3. #3
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    You can also check with some of the bigger police/ sheriff depts and get with thier pio for help suggestion , since they do it a lot more

    There are classes, check with same

    Practice, get video camera and tape yourself

    As you know every incident is different

    Promote prevention as smoke detectors were installed and worked

    Or smoke detectors were there but no batteries, so check your detectors

    Or the fire sprinkler system activated and there was less damage

    Do not say the sprinkler system activated and there is extensive water damage

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    First, welcome to the position!



    You can do something informal that still sounds good:

    "On Wednesday, December 21, the Nile Township Fire Department was dispatched to the report of a house on fire in the 100 block of Elm Street. Members were enroute within 3 minutes and arrived within 8 minutes to find smoke coming out of the front door of a single-story home. The first-arriving fire engine quickly pulled a hoseline and extinguished the fire, which was a mattress and clothing on fire in a bedroom. After the fire was out, a fan was placed to help remove the smoke and odor from the home. A family of four was displaced, and was offered the services of the Red Cross, but they did not need this service. In total, four pieces of fire apparatus, staffed with 11 volunteers responded, and spent just over an hour on scene.

    The Nile Fire Department reminds everyone to have working smoke detectors in their home, and if any citizens needs a detector, please call the NFD at 811-555-1212 to schedule an appointment.

    MEDIA: For additional information, please call Bob Hungfunny, PIO, at 811-555-1213."


    Remember that press releases should follow some of these basic guidelines:
    • Print/fax/e-mail these on official department letterhead.
    • Don't put an exact address or occupant name in the release. Photos should not show an exact address, or license plates in the event of a vehicle accident.
    • Remember that they're being written for the general public, not for other firefighters. Try to avoid using technical language and terms that the public probably wouldn't understand. It can be simple, yet still professional.
    • As a volunteer fire department, use every chance you have to remind the public that your members are volunteers and donating their time.
    • If it's a kitchen fire, include a reminder on cooking safety. If it's kids playing with matches or lighters, include a reminder to parents about keeping these items out of reach. These are the opportunities you have to make your impression on the folks you're trying to reach.
    • Always include a contact name and number.


    You should confer with your department's or jurisdictions's attorney, but generally speaking, you do not.


    Your website looks really good, it's obvious you've put a lot of work into it. Like a lot of things, older members of your department might take a lot of time to believe in the worth of the site, but give them time. I'd suggest using the site as a proxy server for e-mail forwarding. You can set-up an e-mail distribution address such as "membership@nilefd.org" and use that to distribute information to all members at once. You could also do one for officers, board of directors, etc. Our department finds this invaluable.


    We currently maintain our website (hvfd2.com) and our page on Facebook as well (Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department). We honestly update the Facebook page more often than the website, as it's just easier to do. We update it about once or twice a week - while we do sometimes use it for fire prevention tips, we're more often highlighting major calls we run, information about our members, activities the department has coming up, and other items that helps the community feel as though they're "connected" with the department. With community support comes funding for special projects.


    You'll have to judge the response you're getting to see if you're doing too much or not enough. Rural areas might not require as much activity as urban areas, but don't let that stop you from getting your name out there.

    Remember that there are a lot of folks in public safety that hate the media, often for the wrong reasons. Make the media your advocate, and they'll in turn be an advocate for you as well. This can be from your local weekly newspaper to your local television affiliates. Should something go wrong within your department (and it will), a previously-established relationship with the media will pay a lot of dividends at that time.

    Best of luck!


    I confer with what my friend has said, well put TG.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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    Agree with what was said above. I also would suggest taking the Basic PIO course (G290) through your Dept. of EM.

    I just took it as I'm in a very similar situation as you and I found it very beneficial.

    Good luck.

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    One other thing to remind yourself of every so often. While you may "live and breathe" firefighting, its generally low on both the general public and the news medias radar. So be both patient and persistant.
    ?

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    Be patient with the media - very often they know very little about firefighting, and the fire service in general. We live in a relatively small market, so we see a lot of journalism school grads just getting started.

    If possible, cultivate a relationship with your local media. I've been doing media stuff for years and know many of our news people, some on a first name basis. It also helps if you know what their deadlines are, whether it's for a major incident or your next dance.

    Also try to get together with PIOs from neighboring departments.

    Should you end up doing interviews at a scene, clear what you're going to say with the IC - in fact, get caught up on what's happened so far. If the trust is there, you can point out that you're relaying information from the Chief. The information you provide should be along the lines of the news release example BA187 provided. If the IC will be doing the on-camera work, prep the press so the IC can say his/her piece and get back to matters at hand.

    And make sure you look the part - FD apparel (not sleeveless 'we fight what you fear' t-shirts and gimme hats) should be in place and presentable when the cameras go on.

    Consider adding response numbers to your website. Show your residents how busy you are. I have run counts going back into the 1950's on our site. The recent stuff comes from keeping up with current numbers. The old stuff comes from old logs we've kept over the years. I still have work to do on them.

    Buffs (and your residents) always appreciate a look at your apparatus, even old rigs you may have long since retired. Take the time to pose them nicely, and provide some facts and history, if possible.

    Many FD sites include a photo gallery. Between today's digital cameras and inexpensive scanners, you can include quite a variety of images, and possibly some history as well. Caveat - you can usually get away with old photos of practices we consider unsafe today, but keep an eye on any recent/current for violations, etc. Witness the CA fire inspector who got gigged for not having safety gear on while inspecting solar panels.

    You won't engage all of your folks (email, etc). Some are simply computer phobic. But provide what you can, especially for the younger members for whom computers are second nature.

    In the end, have some fun.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    So many things to tell, so little space to do so. Most everything has been said already, but one of the biggest things that has been said and bears repeating is get to know your local media and cultivate a close relationship with them. Feed them all of the information you possibly can, and NEVER, EVER LIE TO THEM!!!

    Develop a monthly "theme" that related to public education and send out a press release with each month's theme and generate questions from the media which then gives you the opportunity to speak about the topic and get the message out.

    Another really good thing to do is help the media get the "good video or photos". Escort them into areas as close to the action as possible, then tell them what they are looking at. I have done this a lot on vehicle crashes and given them a narrative of what is going on and, while they won't likely use the narrative you are giving them, they will use the information for their story.
    everyonegoeshome.com

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    A lot of good advice. The last thing you want is for your department to be a well-kept secret. Promote your department as often as possible, and be as positive as possible.

    Don't limit yourself to building up your department. Build up your mutual aid partners as well, and when they respond to your calls, always thank them for their help. For instance, if you have responded to a large wildfire, and several other departments responded as well, take the opportunity to mention them and thank them. If you respond to their request for mutual aid, you did it because you were glad to help. If they have been good mutual aid partners in the past, mention it. Good mutual aid partners can be the most valuable asset any department has, but the public may not know that unless you point it out to them.

    Social media can be very valuable. What's more, its probably the cheapest and one of the most effective things you can do. A Facebook page can be created for free, and it can reach a lot of people. What's the first thing people check when they get to work in the morning? Probably Facebook. Before they go to lunch? Facebook. After lunch? Facebook? During that last 10-15 minutes of they day when they can't really quit but don't feel like working? Facebook. Promote it to your friends, and try to get them to promote it to their friends. Get your other members with accounts to do the same. Try to post something fairly regularly, even if you aren't responding to a lot of calls. Post a link to a safety video on youtube. And whether your department went to a fire or you had a meeting and worked on the equipment, take a few pictures and post about it. It is a really good way to get people to understand that there is more to the job than just hopping in a truck and putting out a fire.

    On your webpage, try to keep it as updated as possible. Whereas Facebook will be breif things at least every couple of days, try to do something with the webpage every week. Use it to supplement Facebook by posting more photos and more in-depth content. If you can build up an audience through Facebook, use that to help market your webpage. Give them a glimpse of stuff on social media, then the in-depth stuff on the webpage.

    Keep in mind that not every story is suited for television or print media. Because you do control the content of your webpage and social media, use it as supplement to mainstream media. It may not get your message to as many people, but it will help get your message out there.

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    I just recently started our depts twitter account as well. Our numbers are still low but we gain about a follower a day. I try to have some in formative info on the page so it has more value. One thing I do is I post a fire tip every Monday morning. I also have our twitter page linked to our facebook and vice verse. So I don't have any double posts. Another way to help your hits and followers is reach out to local news media. You can post something on there pages like "Follow us to stay current with dept news, events and incidents." News medias usually have a lot of followers and they will then probably hit your website as well.

    Another idea to get more members to hit the website more is to create a members area. Where members can log in and check training records, minutes, sogs and even maybe an area to take tests online to help with training hours. Just stay at.

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    Public Information Officers (PIOs) play a major role in
    communicating fire safety and prevention information to the public
    after residential fires. To make the most of these teachable moments,
    it is important to know what to do and say before, during, and after
    an interview with the news media.
    Before an Interview
    1. Put fire safety and prevention messages in your own words
    so they seem natural to you.
    2. Make note of fire safety- and prevention-related services the
    fire department offers (for example, home safety surveys,
    escape planning assistance, free smoke alarm installation
    programs, etc.).
    3. Consider using local or national statistics to create powerful
    “sound bites”–short and easily remembered lines intended
    to be suitable for media repetition.
    4. Practice saying your sound bites so you are comfortable with them.
    During an Interview
    1. Keep safety and prevention messages closely linked to the current fire story; the more tailored the message, the
    more likely it will capture the media’s attention.
    2. Mention safety and prevention tips and facts. Remind people about how to prevent fires from occurring and
    what they can do to lessen or avoid injury during a fire.
    3. Mention smoke alarms and residential sprinklers. Similar to news stories about motor vehicle crashes, which
    mention whether riders were wearing their seatbelts, encourage reporters to mention whether the home had
    working smoke alarms or residential sprinklers.
    4. Provide statistics. Numbers that are meaningful to the viewer/reader can help them see just how serious the
    problem of residential fires is and compel them to take preventive action.
    5. Give a “call to action.” Empower people to protect themselves by providing clear, concrete action steps.
    After an Interview
    1. Follow up with the reporter the day after the interview by phone or email. Ask if the reporter needs any additional
    information. Offer to provide safety and prevention tips that may be used as a sidebar.
    2. If the story has already run, encourage a followup or feature story and offer to provide more safety and prevention
    tips or information about fire safety programs in the community.
    3. Provide information from the fire investigation that was not available during the interview.
    4. Offer to serve as a resource for future fire safety- and prevention-related stories.
    For more information and resources to help you work with the media, visit the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) website at
    www.usfa.fema.gov/media

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    Media interviews are opportunities to communicate life-saving
    fire safety and prevention information. Tell your community how
    to stay safe.
    Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a rookie at media relations, it’s
    always a good idea to keep these interview pointers in mind:
    1. Carry the Fire Spokesperson’s Pocket Media Guide with you. Quickly
    scan it before you begin an interview.
    2. Determine the one or two safety and prevention tips you
    want to mention in addition to the facts of the story.
    3. Prior to the interview, mention to the reporter that you
    would like to provide a fire safety and prevention tip or
    direct people to additional information.
    4. Look at the reporter, not into the camera, during television
    interviews.
    5. Avoid answering the reporter’s questions with only “yes” or
    “no.” Always speak in full sentences.
    6. Remove sunglasses and chewing gum and turn off your
    phone before conducting the interview.
    7. Ask for the reporter’s name and contact information, and the name of the media outlet so that you can
    follow up with more information or suggest a feature story about fire safety and prevention.
    8. Provide your name and contact information in case the reporter has questions or needs more information.
    9. Emphasize the importance of including a safety and prevention message to the reporter. This may prevent
    the message from ending up on the cutting room floor.
    It may feel strange or even pushy the first few times you take the lead and add safety and prevention messages
    during an interview. But remember that your community looks to you for safety information. Providing this is
    one of the most important things you can do as a community leader. With practice, it will become more natural,
    even second nature, to share life-saving safety and prevention tips during interviews.
    For more information and resources to help you work with the media, including the Fire Spokesperson’s Pocket Media
    Guide, visit the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) website at www.usfa.fema.gov/media

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    One of the biggest things to remember is to always look sexy.
    When asked a difficult question like where Africa is just smile, push your chest out, and reply with some quote from the Bible or talk about world peace-oh wait wrong forum.

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