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Let’s get Visual!

handle the media’?

Mitch Miller, MNR Information Officer, Aviation Forest Fire and Emergency Services

Mitch Miller, a fire information officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services, knows the answer. Being trained and experienced in forest fire fighting, Mitch armed with video and digital cameras  heads to the source of the action, to capture images of fire fighters ‘on the line’ in both Ontario and out-of-province events for the past few years. Knowing that the traditional emergency information responses of media interviews and writing forest fire bulletins, no longer cuts it; Mitch captures images of forest fire fighting as it is happening both on the fire line and from the air.  His video images have been used by national media and specialty channels such as the Weather Network in recent events.

What makes Mitch’s images so newsworthy?

Well, Mitch can go where most media can’t! He gets out on the fire line, and then posts the images on an internet service for news media to download. All this can happen before the next traditional news cycle is due. Note: You can visit Mitch’s BoxNet account to see some of his current video footage (select low-res version to view on screen  for internet use).

The issue now is that the traditional news cycle is superseded by the demands of the social media users.  The challenge is getting the visual images out as evidence of emergency response,  to support the work being done by the operations side of emergency management. These time sensitive images are essential so that rumours or speculation by bloggers and tweeters can quickly be set straight.

“These days, you can use the visuals to drive people to your message ” says Mitch.

Emergency operations deal with ‘reality’.

Emergency communications deals with the ‘perception of reality’…trying to ensure that the ‘perception’ reflects what is actually happening on the ground.

What is the payoff for having timely information out in the public domain?

  • For the public, it means that they can make better informed decisions about an emergency situation.
  • For the Incident Manager, it means that they can get on with dealing with the actual operations rather than having to deal with public concerns based upon rumour.

    Mitch Miller captures waterbomber preparations at Kamloops BC

An investment in training and equipping of emergency information officers beyond the traditional media interview skills, is well spent. Workshops in using the social media tools effectively and exercising those skills on a regular basis, is really the most effective use of these people’s skills.

Well, do you have an interest in becoming a qualified emergency information officer?

Categories: Emergency Management
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