Kara Bowlin, press secretary to St. Louis, Mo., Mayor Francis Slay, attended the Center for Domestic Preparedness Advanced Public Information Officer for Health and Hospital Emergencies course in May.
“We have been through several emergencies in St. Louis,” Bowlin said. “If you don’t have a background in emergency response you are going to be lost in a real emergency, so training like this is an important step for public information officers. It provides experience and confidence in intense emergency settings.”
The course was Bowlin’s first CDP training experience. Although her primary position is public information, she believes other CDP courses will improve her understanding of first response. She said there are several emergencies her city may deal with and this training can apply to all types of crisis communications.
“It is incredibly important, now more than ever, for public information officials to be effective during an emergency,” added Bowlin. “Social media allows rumors to spread like wildfire. We all must learn to work more quickly, and this training helps us make decisions in an emergency. It’s very likely that all of us will use the things we learned in APIO training in the near future. I think it is vitally important that we train, that we have the background knowledge to take control of emergency communications, and that we perform our jobs in the face of an emergency.”
Bowlin said that regardless of the job, all state and local first responders must train to stay prepared, which she discovered first-hand following the tornado outbreaks in 2010 and 2011 that devastated parts of St. Louis and other cities across Missouri. “Nobody hopes to be confronted with disaster - but, unfortunately, we don’t have that choice. Disasters can happen in anyone’s home town; I think no matter what you’re doing, the more practice you have, the better off we will all be. And the fact we have practiced in a very realistic setting, here at the CDP, will help me remain calm, more organized, and work with others more efficiently. This was a week away from work, but a week very well spent.”