1. #1
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    Default Las Vegas PIO Tim Szymanski lets 'em have it!

    RELEASE: 05-136

    NEWS ROOMS PLEASE TAKE NOTE - POST IN NEWSROOMS

    Recently a number of unsafe and illegal practices have been taking place with media on scenes of emergencies and I am making everyone aware of it so it can be corrected. In the future there may be citations issued by law enforcement if they continue. Some of these include:

    Within the last couple of days a news van ran through a Metro flare barricade (which meant the road was closed) and then it ran over a fire hose in the street. Both are violations of state law. The driver was not cited because firefighters convinced the Metro officer to let me remind everyone. The media is not permitted to cross barricades either with vehicles, flares, plastic tape or rope in the state of Nevada. And driving across fire hoses is also against the law, and if the hose is damaged, you will be responsible for repair costs.

    Following emergency vehicles closer than 300 feet is illegal, which includes the Fire-PIO Van. While I was negotiating through some backed up traffic on Sahara Avenue during a large building fire with my emergency lights on, a news person was following me. I received several complaints from the public about this. This is illegal.

    Driving across lawns is also prohibited. I actually saw this at a fire scene.

    Do not park in front of fire hydrants, especially during a fire incident. People need to slow down, look at their surroundings and make sure they are not parking their rigs on red curbs or in front of fire hydrants. Media vehicles are not exempt from parking on red curbs and in front of fire hydrants. I actually have photos of this.

    Do not park media vehicles within 300 feet of emergency vehicles. This is a state law. This happens a lot. A few years ago, one live truck parked within six inches of the rear tailboard of the pumper that was pumping water at a large fire. If we had to take more hose off the truck, we couldn't have.

    The media is not permitted to cross closed roads during emergencies including flooding. If we have the road closed, it is because we want people to stay out of the flood water or any other hazardous situation, that includes everyone, no exemptions. This happens a lot.

    The media is ENCOURAGED to park their vehicles next to or close to my van with the white beacon light flashing. This is the safest place to park. Many times the media gets to the scene before I do, you should park away from the area or in a parking lot that is out of the way in case additional units are needed for extra alarms.

    I don't want to see anyone get cited by law enforcement, but if unsafe practices continue this might be the only alternative. Please be safe. We want you to get the information and do your job, but safety and we completing our job is also important.

    If you have any questions, please call me 702-303-2993. And please don't call me and ask if it was any of you or your people. I am letting all of the past go by and starting over. Let's make this a goal from this day on.

    Thanks for your cooperation in this area.

    END ## LVFR/PIO-TRS

    TIMOTHY R. SZYMANSKI
    FIRE-PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER
    Las Vegas Fire & Rescue
    Public Information & Education Office
    500 N. Casino Center Blvd
    Las Vegas, NV 89101-2986
    Office: 702-229-0145 / Fax: 702-229-0152 / Cell/Pager: 702-303-2993
    tszymanski@LasVegasNevada.gov / www.lasvegasfire.org

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    We luckily don't see too much of this out in the rural area we cover ... generally because the media seems to forget we exist even when we do have a fire, but I have seen issues such as this arise in some of the other more built-up areas in which I have served. it is a real issue.. and from the sounds of the release, it makes me glad that I don't have to deal with it.

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    Why is a PIO officer running code 3 to a scene. I can see no purpose for this?

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    The PIO falls under a Command level position following NIMS, he may only respond lights on greater alarm/major events, and/or dept. policy may allow for it based on many factors.

    I think it's awsome that he put forth this memo to his media folks

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    Default Emergency Response

    The PIO as a rule, which is 99% of the time, does not respond with lights & siren as well as a number of other support vehicles, such as the SCBA unit, Mobile Command Center and others. Lights and sirens are used when we enter the immediate incident area, especially if it is congested, gridlocked, and the like at the request of the police so they know we are coming and they can move traffic to let us in. It was in this case where several roads were closed to a large incident and lights and sirens were used to let police know we were entering the area. At that time the media started to follow me in and when other rush hour traffic could not move and people were not in a good mood, you can imagine they were very upset at the media, not at us.

    In some cases I have responded Code 3 because I was in the very immediate area and one of the first units on scene to help set up or was used as a safety officer until one could get on scene.

    Also it could be a very large media event. Getting there ahead of the media such as for a mega-incident like a large aircraft crash or wildfire out of control, you need to control the action of the media so it does not hamper fire operations or because command needs you on scene to get an emergency notification out to the public such as in a mass evacuation or shelter in place over the emergency broadcast system. Although you could do alot over the radio or phone, I prefer to do it face to face with a map in front of us because if you are going to move several thousand people or give an emergency notification to an entire city, you had better be real sure of what is going to be released.

    Circumstances dictate procedure. Each one is different. As I said 99% of the time I don't use them but then again there will be times where it is necessary.

    As for the rural areas, you never know. A large train derailment or aircraft crash could make you the media center of the world for a short time. You have to be ready. How about a mining town in West Virginia? What happened there in relation to information being released is going to be talked about for some time in the future. That town was loaded with newsvans, satellite trucks and the like. It is almost like a small army moving into your town. It could happen at anytime. Always be ready and have a plan on how you would deal with such a thing if it were to happen in your town. You never know.

    Good luck to all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TRSLVFDPIO
    .....You have to be ready. How about a mining town in West Virginia? What happened there in relation to information being released is going to be talked about for some time in the future. That town was loaded with newsvans, satellite trucks and the like. It is almost like a small army moving into your town. It could happen at anytime. Always be ready and have a plan on how you would deal with such a thing if it were to happen in your town. You never know.

    Good luck to all.
    Tim - I am interested in your insight into approaches to handling a situation like the Sago tragedy. How do you approach the situation when you've got the kind of political pressure and on-scene presence that they encountered?

    To me it seemed ripe for some miscommunication.

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    The WV incident will no doubt be discussed, reviewed, 2nd guessed, and armchair qb'd for a long time to come; or until another such event?

    I found it interesting that some of the very 1st Press Conf's were not Emergency Services folks, or Mine Rescue; it was the Company Legal Dept; and then the CEO/President of Company.

    At PIO Conference the idea of Mutual Aid / Automatic response by neighboring PIO's for major incidents, so something like this doesnt happen.

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    Default Crisis & Public Information

    I plan to do an article about the incident, but I want them to finish their investigation first. I find the incident very interesting. It is not unusual for a company to handle their own communications, like NASA did after the space shuttle accident. Sometimes they have crisis communications consultants or what they really should have is a plan ready to advise them what to do.

    There were a few key comments I found interesting in their first press conferences which I believe to be a problem He advised that no one was to talk to the media or outside the command center. They reported (at least what I heard him say during his press conference) is that people were seen immediately leaving the command center and using their cellphones. No doubt, someone just couldn't wait to let the word out. A minimum of people should be in the command center at any time and they should be made to stay in the command post at all times. Only one designated person should be relaying information outside the command center so only one message is getting out. And that person is the gate keeper of the information, making sure it is correct and accurate.

    It is extremely important, whether it is in the private sector or us in the government emergency services to make sure ANY information is accurate and confirmed before it is released. I do not believe the company intentionally released the info, but then I could be wrong. We all know during emergencies and disaster things happen very fast and information is questionable at best in some situations, especially under extremely adverse conditions such as being inside a mine or when the personnel were in the Twin Towers on 9/11. If you are not absolutely sure, don't release-get confirmation first.

    What was most interesting was the media did not take any of the blame. They did not take responsibility to confirm before releasing it. And then they blamed the public for the mistake saying we forced them into reporting news almost instantly and if that is the case, it may not be correct.

    I think this is going to be an excellent learning event and that is how we all get better, by recognizing mistakes or shortcomings and learning from them.

    Let's just wait and see and after the investigation we'll get the rest of the story.

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    Exclamation Training for PIOs

    Not to change the subject, but were could a person go for some sort of training in the public/ media relations field? I have been a PIO for 6 months now and have had alot of media coverage, but not formal training. Anything would help.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firemech4
    Not to change the subject, but were could a person go for some sort of training in the public/ media relations field? I have been a PIO for 6 months now and have had alot of media coverage, but not formal training. Anything would help.
    Depends on where you are. In PA I wrote the PR Class for the State Fire Academy, don't know if any other states have such a class. It can be offered as a local level class by any of the participating agencies.

    IFSTA does have a manual and Fire Engineering published a book by Timothy Birr. If you're going to FDIC I'm sure they will have copies. If not you should be able to order it through their web site. Tim spoke at FDIC the same year I did so I sat in on his class which covered a lot.

    Other than that you can see if a local college has any kind of PR or TV journalism classes.

    Good luck with the hunt and your job. I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have via private mail.
    Steve Dragon
    FFII, Fire Instructor II, Fire Officer I, Fire Appartus Driver Operator Certified
    Volunteers are never "off duty".
    http://www.bufd7.org

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    I am from the area of Houston, Tx and and will be attending FDIC. Thank you for your help in my quest. I'm trying to find something within Texas or any of the surrounding states to take a three to four day class mainly on how to handle Media when they are looking for negative things to publish about the fire department, ie: response times, manpower, etc.

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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by firemech4
    ...were could a person go for some sort of training in the public/ media relations field?
    I took an EXCELLENT 3 day course through the Maryland Emergency Management Agency called 'Basic PIO'. I believe it is actually offered by all EMAs.

    Look here for G290 - http://www.training.fema.gov/emiweb/...ses/nrcrs2.asp

    I highly recommend it and it gets you ready for the Advanced PIO class at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD.
    Member IACOJ - Building crust and full of lust...

    "It's okay to to scared, just don't be chicken." - Clark

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    Thank you, that web site opened a whole new window and is informative.

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    FireMech4:

    The advice you have received is excellent. I'll second the recommendation of Tim Birr's book. I have had the pleasure of co-teaching classes with him. He's a good apple and shares meaningful insight.

    My US $0.02 will be a strong suggestion to find a mentor in your region, and to seek a small budgetary allowance to attend some training. You need to network if for no other reason to know that you are not alone.

    Brian
    Please no e-mail. Public replies only. Thank you!

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    Thumbs up I Second That Emotion!!

    FIREMECH4:

    Networking is very key in your ultimate success as a media relations representative. If you haven't already aligned yourself with some of your colleagues from the larger area departments in your own backyard, (Houston Fire, Dallas Fire...) you may want to do so. They should be able to impart some information, however experiential, anecdotal or otherwise. They will also have some familarity with the local news market. This will make introductions to local assignment desk editors, news directors, producers and reporters, a WHOLE LOT EASIER!! Running into a familiar and friendly face, in the face of crisis, can sometimes add a level of calm to an already stressful situation.

    Good Advice Brian!! Keep up the good work!!

    Roland

    "Purpose, Truth and Passion equals Power and Dominion in ACTION!!

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    Red face Don't forget those reporters who respect you

    While some news media folks may walk all over whomever they wish, please don't paint all media representatives with the same brush. These are guys who do it everywhere, not just at the fireground.

    I want to stand up for those like myself, a longtime reporter with a huge respect for the fire service. I am a friend of the fire officers and firefighters in my area and they know it. I would never follow close behind any apparatus or park in the way. There is much to be said for cooperating with cooperative reporters. Your department can benefit greatly from having friends in the media. I'm sure Tim in Vegas would agree with this.

    Chuck Anderson
    Reporter/Photographer
    Scotts Valley Banner/Valley Press (Calif.)
    Volunteer PIO, CERT Council of Santa Cruz County

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    Lightbulb education available!

    Quote Originally Posted by firemech4
    Not to change the subject, but were could a person go for some sort of training in the public/ media relations field? I have been a PIO for 6 months now and have had alot of media coverage, but not formal training. Anything would help.
    I am in the process of getting into a PIO slot in any fire department, and I have run into many brick walls. In the Baton Rouge Fire Department, they rely strictly off of the minimal requirements to do the job. I am almost certain that it is the same way at your department. I started with the Baton Rouge Fire Department in 2000, and have been on the floor as a fire fighter ever since.

    I went to one of the Local Colleges and received my BA in Mass Communication and focused in News Media and Public relations. This would be a start, but there is also classes offered at the Fire Academy which include basic and advanced levels.

    I hope that this helps, but if you have any other questions, email me at jeremygerald@cox.net

    KD5WWH

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    Quote Originally Posted by writeronfire
    While some news media folks may walk all over whomever they wish, please don't paint all media representatives with the same brush. These are guys who do it everywhere, not just at the fireground.

    I want to stand up for those like myself, a longtime reporter with a huge respect for the fire service. I am a friend of the fire officers and firefighters in my area and they know it. I would never follow close behind any apparatus or park in the way. There is much to be said for cooperating with cooperative reporters. Your department can benefit greatly from having friends in the media. I'm sure Tim in Vegas would agree with this.

    Chuck Anderson
    Reporter/Photographer
    Scotts Valley Banner/Valley Press (Calif.)
    Volunteer PIO, CERT Council of Santa Cruz County

    I'll second this. I think you'll find most of the problems rely with younger, inexperienced reporters that haven't yet learned how important it is to use caution, courtesy and common sense in the face of exciting events.

    Nicholas M. Chopp
    Director and Senior Editor
    KEYC-TV, Mankato, MN
    Volunteer Firefighter, Mankato Fire Department

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    FIREMECH4:

    Be sure to look at the discussions in this forum about PIO training.

    I am from Texas also and there is ample training available in the state.

    I took a 16-hour PIO intro class at Clute, the Bastrop Wildland Academy offers S-203 and S-403 every so often with 203 coming this October, the Texas DEM offers a Basic PIO class in Austin and there are openings in both the June and September courses, there are Crisis Communications courses offered through the health professions, and there is the PIO course offered at the National Fire Academy.

    Don't forget to review the PIO material available online — a lot of which I have compiled here:

    PIO — Making the most of the media
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/PMFD/messages/msg=599

    TEEX and TCFP are working on a PIO certification program but it likely won't be released until 2007. However, there will be a Public Information Officer (NFPA 1035) (NEW COURSE!) at the A&M Municipal Fire School in July.
    Last edited by EdGlaze; 05-03-2006 at 12:19 AM. Reason: Add addtional info

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