The first day, I showed up, and promptly got lost. The directions given me by the gal had been to turn right. Having gone to school there (ahem) years ago, I thought it sounded funny, but it had been long enough, and there had been enough changes to the campus, I figured, okay, I guess I just have it wrong. Walk. Walk. Walk. Scratch head. Walk. Repeat.
Finally, a gal with an ID tag walks up and says, you lost too? I'm here for the PIO class. I said yes, I thought it was in X room. She said something to the effect that she did, too, but when all else fails, ask directions. I flew along in her wake, as she asked some of the chef students where X room was. They pointed... to the LEFT. We zipped into the class. Nooo problem. I sat down, then realized I needed to sign in. I recognized a name! It was the guy that had invited me to class, (I was one of only about 3 non-law or medical folks there. And even mine is tangentially related to law.) So I stopped by his seat and said hi. He told me about the class, and I started feeling a bit better. He also said it might give me some ideas for the newsletter I am going to start for the county. Cool. Any help is appriciated.
I started back to my seat, and realized I recognized another name. I introduced myself, and said thank you to her for getting us to the class, and, oh, I am the one that is always emailing you for information for our SALT (Seniors And Law Together). She blinked, then grinned, shaking my hand, and saying, wondered who the new gal was! We chatted a bit more, then class started.
We started with a 'getting to know each other' exercise, and then some general info on what our class would do. Then we had our first exercise. We watched this video on Oregon's own exploding whale, then had to write it up as if it were something we were going to give out as a news release. I was surprised at how many people hadn't seen it in class, that were Oregoninans. This bit of history is trotted out almost yearly, and even has its own website, now. Anyway, we had to let people know about things like road and school closures, safety concerns about flying, and stationary, blubber to people and pets, things like that. It was pretty funny, and I think most everyone enjoyed it.
The only 'eew' thing, we had a policeman and a city manager in our group, and they started discussing the smells of something dead. Then gave examples. Uh. I officially want to skip a meal now... I am such a rookie. In this case, I think that might be a GOOD thing.
We then had an exercise where there was a terrorist attack that shut down I-5, with the threat of a dirty bomb. We did up info releases, then some more class time. I had an epiphany in this exercise. There was a person that just didn't understand why we were doing what we were doing. More or less, I tried explaining it to her while doing what I was supposed to be doing. (She was supposed to be writing releases, I was recording, which amounts to the same thing, but the recording is for future use, so the PIO's know what was released. The reason will become important in a moment.) After going through the process twice with her, and she wasn't doing a thing, I suddenly realized, why am I explaining this to her? I told her that perhaps she should go talk to the instructors, and then went back to my recording. (I was taking in the information as it came in, so I ended up doing two jobs. This, in real life, isn't unusual.) She, as far as I know, never did go talk to the instructors, but talked to my friend, who's job was not busy at the point I was. (The way that we are being taught is through a process called the ICS, (Incident Command System) and each person has a specific job, with a direct hierarchy. This makes it a bit easier for me, I know I need to do this, and it goes to this person. Some of the alpha dogs in class, not quite so much. That's life, I suppose.) The day ended, and we were told to hold on to our information on the terrorist bombing for the next day.
The next day was St. Patrick's Day, and the majority did turn out in green. After a bad experience in grade school of being punched after pinching someone, I just say 'oh, no green, pinchpinchpinch'. The people in question had no idea it was St. Patrick's Day. Um. And these folks are responsible for what, exactly?
Our first exersize was to deal with aftermath. This was an eye opener. One of the instuctors was a former reporter, and was trying to show us how to not let the reporter lead you in an interview, and get the info out. Not to say cutting and editing still might make you look like a raving idiot, but at least we could give out information civilly, and directly. She still made a few of us look like snarly dogs. Me? I just looked dumb. Literally. She started interviewing me, and I went blank, couldn't say a word. She suggested I practice with someone. Good choice, or possibly NOT doing interviews, if I can avoid it? Meh. But we had to more or less defend information we'd given out, was it verified, was this necessary, then some ad hominum attacks, that got interesting. One of the 'reporters' piped up saying something to the effect that we were really stupid for falling for a trick like that (the bomb turned out to be a large stink bomb). This actually set off one or two of the guys, and they were doing all they could not to snarl, as they drifted into NO COMMENT mode. We then got a quick lesson from the instructors on the art of flagging and bridging, basically saying, no, I don't feel that way, but this is the important information you need, or something like that, repeating as necessary. Having this info from someone who was a reporter for several years was probably more valuable than if it had just been a standard issue instructor.
We then had a class on media and how it can help. Everything from the basic, radio, tv, newspaper, to Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and so on. They even had an item for research that I would like to pass along, if you use Google, there is a Google Cheat Sheet available. (You can check if there is something similar for other search engines, I haven't checked). It has a LOT of information, and I have already been able to save a bit of time on searches, because it can be narrowed down considerably.
Then we had our final exercise. A 9.0 earthquake off the coast. We had to get out information for three counties. I ended up being "Audio Visual", which more or less meant any maps were my area. I asked if there was a computer available.
Nope. Sorry, they were wrecked in the earthquake.
Map? I really don't know if I can draw what needs be drawn without some clue...
The instructor grinned, and said, well, you have to share, but I just happen to have a map of the area you need to draw here... And turned her computer around, with Google Maps on the page I needed. (Think they like Google?)
I commenced drawing, and had about 3 maps finished for a train wreck, and where various shelters were. I decided to draw multiple maps after the last exercise, so I would have a record of what I drew. Turned out to be rather valuable, as there was someone that came back and said I'd put something wrong on the map, that had went out. I checked my copy of the map, showing her that no, I had labelled it correctly. Annoyed, she realized she'd have to tell the guy giving out the info that he'd written it OUT wrong. We survived. One quick correction, and we were on our way again.
I feel I learned quite a bit, and might even be able to not totally dissolve into flop sweat if I would have to help, doing something like this later. (Hopefully a LONG TIME later, but anywho...)
In other news, Husband did some trading, and I have a new phone, I believe it's called a Razor? Don't really care, it WORKS! The only drawback... I dislike pink, and this sucker is Barbie's best friend. So, I have officially decided it ISN'T pink. Husband said, well maybe it's faded red.
And so it is. Here is my faded red phone.
Isn't rationalization wonderful?