At the start of hurricane season, two members of the City’s Communications Department attended a crisis management training program at the National Hurricane Center. Communications Director Denise Barrett-Miller and Assistant Director Pamela Solomon spent the day learning exactly what to do in the event that a natural disaster, emergency situation or another crisis event occurred in Weston.
“As we have seen, far too often, crisis can happen anytime and anywhere,” states Barrett-Miller in explaining why it is important for the City of Weston to prepare for crisis communications. “No community is immune from a crisis or tragic event.”
She says the class primarily focused on on-camera and in-person interviews during crisis situations. “The program provided a wealth of information, some already known and some presented in a very unique format, including a formula for actually staying on message and providing the 12-second sound bite that a news crew is looking for and then would be less likely to take your words out of context.”
Other lessons included how to best communicate your message to your key audience – your residents. “Everyone in communications, especially in government, tends to be very specific and technical with our details,” explains Barrett-Miller. “We were reminded that we are talking to the public and that we need to reconnect with the heart. We were encouraged to think about what we would say if we were talking to a child or a friend – and just say it that way.”
She notes that the training program also covered selecting the best interview location and time, how to challenge incorrect information, what to include in fact sheets, tips on how to stick to the topic, and how to wrap up the interview.
Barrett-Miller is hoping to never have to use these crisis management skills but says this training could come into play for various reasons. “Heaven forbid there was any type of mass casualty incident, a natural disaster, a plane crash, a bad explosion or large fire – it really could be anything that causes a media interest. It actually doesn’t have to be bad. It could just as easily be a superstar or high level politician that decides to come into town and that attracts wide attention and media.”
Attending this crisis communications training program is one of many things the City is doing to ensure it is prepared in the event of a disaster or crisis situation. It is reminding residents that they, too, must be prepared, especially as we head into the heart of hurricane season.
“Preparation and communication are our main messages,” stresses Barrett-Miller. “An emergency can happen at any time. Have a communication plan. Be sure ALL members of the household know another location to meet if your home cannot be accessed and a family or friend to call. Everyone should have enough supplies on-hand to last for three days after a hurricane. This means enough of everything you would need without being able to leave your home.”
- The City of Weston wants residents to be #WestonReady. Visit www.WestonFl.org/Hurricane for more information.