THE MAGAZINE

Urban Area Perspective - Salt Lake City

By Joseph Straw
 

 Does your office engage the private sector in its mission? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. We work with the private sector relatively extensively. Here in Utah we have a Private Sector Coordinating Council, and the Salt Lake Urban Area is a members. We encourage the private sector to become involved in any of our nine subject-matter-expert committees that are relevant, and currently we have members of the private sector on those committees. So they’re looking at the impact of the private sector, how to protect assets appropriately, and how to work with them so that we can better reach the public.

 

How best can private sector stakeholders engage in this process?

There are a couple of ways. One is to contact our office, or to contact their area emergency management office if they’re in a specific community, another option is to go through their Local Emergency Planning Committee to get involved in that particular way, that’s essentially the group that works specifically with chemical hazards. It’s a very specific part of the private sector but a very important one. And finally, the third option is really to work with the Private Sector Coordinating Council at the state level. So there are multiple ways to get involved, and we would accept all of their help.

 

How is your office exploiting social media?

I am a very strong proponent of social media and of offices getting involved in it, especially in the social media in emergency management movement that’s taking place on Twitter and Facebook as well—all social media in general. We leverage it as an office just in getting information out about types of committee meetings or concerns. Personally I leverage it to assist the committees and in building a nationwide network of people who can answer our questions, and to foster discussions about how our work impacts not only our communities but the rest of the nation and worldwide in general. There are some really great things that are happening in the social media arena that can play into what we do long term.

 

Is use of social media in emergency management limited to networking and external communications, or can it be used for situational awareness during events?

I don’t think we are “there” completely in terms of using the technology for situational awareness. I think we are moving there, and I think that’s what makes it really exciting. We’re moving forward and we’re continually adjusting after each disaster, not only in the United States but worldwide.

 
And again, it’s a highly critical tool in external communication. It’s really vital that as government agencies and private sector are listening prior to a crisis—that we know how to communicate with our stakeholders, and we’re doing it effectively every day, so that when something does happen, we’re a natural voice of authority and knowledge. I think that’s really vital in communicating. The public, the people who we are here to protect, are on social networks. And it would be a shame for us not to be involved in those to communicate with the public appropriately. And I think what I mean by communication, to have a conversation with them. It’s two-way. We’re talking and we’re listening at the same time.

What are your office’s primary goals going forward?

Long-term, it’s really important for us to maintain our regional strategy and to work together as a team, as a group of people, to leverage the relationships, the dollars, and the communities that we work with. And I think that’s really where we’re headed in terms of what we do. It’s also really vital in terms of the long-term goals to finish what we start—to look at projects and programs that we have started and to really complete them as opposed to just stopping midway through because we aren’t satisfied with the results. The important thing is to have some stick-to-itiveness. So those I think are the two major goals that we want to concentrate on: the regional strategy and communication and preparedness, and sticking to what we start and finishing that.

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