As one of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) for OWCN, I usually remain at our home base in Davis while our readiness team leads training sessions throughout California, and acts as first responders to spill reports.
I’ve traveled for full deployment spill drills and Oilapalooza, but for the most part, my role is to stay at my desk, monitoring and sharing news on social media. Two weeks ago, however, my fellow OWCN PIO Kristin Burns and I had the chance to go out “in the field” (anywhere other than Davis for us!). Along with OWCN Director Mike Ziccardi, we met with our PIO counterparts at the CDFW OSPR offices in Sacramento, Steve Gonzalez and Eric Laughlin, as well as Greg McGowan, program manager for response technology, and Holly Gellerman, wildlife branch director.
Our agenda for the meeting: discuss and plan communications strategies for future spills. Similar to our wildlife-handling colleagues on the OWCN and OSPR teams, the PIOs must be prepared at all times to respond quickly and effectively in the event of an oil spill.
While handlers are primarily responding to wildlife, the PIOs are responding to—or at least interacting with—the media and the general public. As you might imagine, there is a lot of interest from both groups in the event of an oil spill, and a lot of questions about the animals affected. With a lot of moving parts in a response, there can also be the potential for misinformation. At this meeting we discussed a workflow that would help guide future joint communications, allowing us to present timely, accurate official information to our audiences.
It was a great experience meeting face-to-face with our partners in oiled wildlife response. I look forward to future discussions on communications response.