Emergency Media and Public Affairs
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EMPA Committee Members to Attend FEMA Conference

Following the successful 2010 EMPA annual conference in Sydney, several members of the EMPA executive were invited to attend the annual FEMA Public Information Officers Conference in Washington DC.

In 2009, EMPA committee member Jenny Barrett attended the FEMA conference in Denver Colorado, returning to lavish praise on the quality of the speakers and the worth of the information gained from her attendance.

For this year’s FEMA conference, EMPA Chair and Director of Crisis Ready Peter Rekers, and EMPA executive member and SES Senior Public Affairs Officer Phil Campbell have been able to secure their attendance.

Both Peter and Phil will attend the two day conference from June 7-8 and will spend several other days in meetings with representatives of FEMA, state agencies and the American Red Cross.

Building stronger links between the US and Australia in emergency media, investigating training in emergency media skills, as well as investigating US trends in communication with the public using social networking are amongst a range of topics that will be investigated.

Following their return, both Peter and Phil will provide reports on the attendance that will be published on this website

Report on the 2010 Emergency Media and Public Affairs Conference

This year marked the fourth annual Emergency Media and Public Affairs conference. For the first time the conference was conducted in New South Wales, at the Marriott Hotel in Sydney from the 11th to the 13th of April.

The conference attracted over 80 delegates from across Australia which was consistent with numbers over the past few years.

Of particular note was a delegation of four from the United States representing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and led by the Administrator of the United States Fire Administration, Chief Kelvin Cochran. Notable too were the large contingent of State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service volunteer media officers eager to develop their skills.

Representation also included such organisations as the Bureau of Meteorology, Country Fire Authority, FESA, ACT Health, Federal Attorney General’s Department, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Department of Sustainability and Environment and many other agencies, university representatives and consultants as well as several practicing journalists providing leading to diverse and interesting discussions during the breaks between sessions.

After small numbers in 2009, the workshop on the first day of the conference proved an outstanding success with over 50 delegates attending a Social Media Workshop. Such was the success of this workshop that a similarly themed workshop is planned for the 2011 conference in Canberra.

After a welcome from EMPA Chair Peter Rekers and Conference Chair Phil Campbell, and the official opening address from Director General of Emergency Management NSW Stacey Tannos; this year’s opening keynote address was delivered by Chief Kelvin Cochran on meeting the evolving challenges of disaster communications.

Professor Sandy McFarlane from the University of Adelaide provided a fascinating insight into how trauma affects communication, and ABC News Foreign Editor Peter Cave provided his own dramatic personal experiences as part of a DART presentation examining journalists as first responders and coping with traumatic exposure.

The role of the ABC as an emergency broadcaster and an insight into the Australian Response to H1N1 were amongst the many outstanding sessions after lunch.

This year the Conference was fortunate to have well known comic, mathematician and ABC 702 radio personality Adam Spencer to provide hilarious yet incisive pre-dinner entertainment. Dinner also featured ‘Emergency Services Trivia’, hosted by Alastair Wilson, pitting tables against each other in a battle to see who could wear the crown of the most trivial group of emergency managers for 2010.

The final day of the conference started with an address by SES Commissioner Murray Kear, who reminded the audience of the importance of engaging with the community educators as crafters of many of the messages that the emergency media professional needs to disseminate.

A feature of past conferences, the media panel, again saw lively debate, so much so that at next year’s conference more time will be allocated to it.

Major General Hori Howard reminded the audience of the importance of volunteer media officers, and Rebel Talbert explained how the NSW Rural Fire Service managed decentralised media units. After Peter Rekers closing address on leadership in crisis, Alastair Wilson again presented the ever popular hypothetical, rounding off another outstanding conference.

In 2011 the EMPA conference will travel for the first time to the nation’s capital, Canberra. Once again the conference will be in early April and all involved in emergency media and public affairs are asked to check this website regularly for updates.

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