Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sharing knowledge and its benefits

Hi there!  I'm back home after spending most of last week as a guest instructor and coach at the Canadian Emergency Management College in Ottawa. I was there to do the PIO component of the Emergency Ops Centre (EOC) and Incident Site Management courses.

It was a real blast with a fantastic bunch of candidates on the course and very experienced and knowledgeable instructors. I always feel privileged to be asked to go back and share my own modest expertise.

I believe that the instructor often learns as much as the students in this kind of course. Although it was very demanding ... the rewards are numerous.

First, it's something I like doing ... talking about something that motivates me: crisis communications and emergency information ... how PIOs work with command both in the EOC and the incident CP. There's nothing more rewarding then witnessing the sudden understanding dawn in the mind of an experienced senior firefighter who's been afraid of media for years.

I spent a few minutes talking with a fairly senior firefighter from a major city in Québec. He had a bad experience with media a few years back and has never done another interview since ... always referring reporters to some other officials within his department ...

I took a few minutes to outline the message mapping crisis communications technique with him ... how it makes for an easily usable and very visual representation of key messages. After a while ... he said that he now had a much clearer understanding that things don't have to be complicated ... you focus on a couple/few key messages ... well crafted and supported by some key facts visualize them in/on a message map and it's easy to relay the information. That was a highlight of my week. I literally saw the light go on in his mind!

Second, interacting with experienced senior officials from police services, fire departments, EMS, public works and others ... is a good way of validating what we've been trying to impart for years. Does what we believe in and teach or talk about in presentations and seminars, relate to the daily experiences on the ground? To my immense relief, the answer seems to be yes.

Finally, you do learn a great many things about the work of first responders, city engineers and others and how they prepare for emergencies in their communities. That's extremely valuable in itself and provides you with a greater and more accurate perspective on what communications support they might need, what crisis communications planning is most appropriate for them and how they see the role of the PIOs in their EM functions.

All in all it was a great week. Looking forward to the next time already. The only hiccup ... i missed my wife and kids while i was in Ottawa!

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