The Public Information Officer is responsible for media relations, photojournalism, and publications. The Public Information Officer has general responsibility to aid in maintaining good working relations with the news media. The Public Information Officer facilitates the flow of factual information from the department to the news media. He is to expedite those types of news releases requiring a departmental spokesperson for administrative issues and dispense pertinent information regarding policies and situations of major news value. Other responsibilities will include assisting news media personnel in covering routine news stories and at scenes of significant incidents being reported. The primary focus of the Public Information Officer is to work with the Fire Chief and other Chief Officers and advise on issues that affect the department that media may find an interest in.
The goal of Mobile Fire-Rescue’s Media Relations Office is to establish a professional working relationship with the media and to use that relationship to promote the department. Mobile, Alabama is the 62nd largest media market in the United States, which translates to lots of news coverage. With advances in communications and technology, today’s news is almost immediate.
When Mobile Fire-Rescue personnel respond to a major event such as a building on fire or a terrible accident, it draws attention from both the citizens and the media. Major incidents are often newsworthy events bringing lots of questions and storytelling images. The office of public information takes responsibility in being proactive to ensure that stories involving the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department are told accurately.
In covering an event, the media wants information about what is going on. If Mobile Fire- Rescue is operating at the event and not providing information about what they are doing, the media will seek that information from other sources. This could be from their personal observation on the scene, from those in the crowd who would like to tell their impression of what we are doing, or even from other agencies. While these may be good sources in their own right, they may not be accurate.
By responding to the scene and working within the established Incident Management System (IMS) used by Mobile Fire-Rescue, our Public Information Officer (PIO) is able to have accurate information about the operation and disseminate that information to the media and subsequently, the public. By utilizing trained personnel of the department for this function, there is a working knowledge of department operations that allows them to speak knowledgeably about what is taking place at the scene of an incident.
Mobile Fire-Rescue Media Relations has some specific criteria for response, making sure that someone is available to respond 24 hours a day. The PIO will respond automatically to the scene of all 2nd alarm or greater fires and major hazardous materials (Haz-Mat) incidents, especially those involving citizen evacuations. The PIO will respond as needed to other events not falling within these specific guidelines, such as events that are gaining media attention and as requested by the incident commanders in the field. Daily, the PIO responds to many inquiries from the media about incidents that are happening but do not necessarily require a scene response.
The Media Relations Office also works proactively to promote the department by informing the media of other operations that are not of an emergency nature. Some examples of this include:
It is the mission of the Media Relations Office to promote not only the emergency operations of the department but also the day-to-day operations. This allows the citizens and visitors of Mobile to have a greater understanding of one of the finest departments in the country, The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department.
The Public Information/Media Relations Office can be contacted at (251) 654-2757 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.