Monday, June 2, 2008

Working with FEMA

I spent the day Friday helping the FEMA representatives who are in the area following the Mother's Day tornadoes. While Fort Valley was spared, Bibb and other outlying counties are still deep in the recovery process. Friday, FEMA opened new Recovery Assistance Centers so that people with storm damage could file claims. It was a privilege to help, and a learning experience.

Why would FEMA call on Fort Valley State? Well, several months ago the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) held training on campus for public information officers at colleges around the state. Having participated in that training, we were asked if the agency could call on us in the event of a disaster. Of course, the answer was "yes."

It all comes down to locality. When there's a disaster, and GEMA comes in to help, then FEMA comes in to help, the individuals who work for these agencies aren't usually from the area they are helping. So it falls to those of us who live here to say "this is the local television station. And this is the person in charge there. These are the top radio stations. Here are the phone numbers for the deejays." Because the best thing we can do to help disaster victims is give them the information they need to get help.

So when the disaster recovery center in Twiggs County opened at 8 a.m. on Friday, and the local media was already telling people that we were there to help, your local public information officers considered that "a job well-done."

--Misty Cline works in the Office of Marketing and Communications for Fort Valley State University.

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