Fannin County hosts PIO disaster training

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FANNIN COUNTY, TX - When catastrophe hits it's usually followed by panic and misinformation that can make the situation even worse. That's why county officials hosted a regional workshop today to learn how to better inform the public - and get the right information to residents.

The workshop used disaster scenarios and mock press conferences.

Shawn Mecham, with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, said it's imperative to get out ahead with the information.

"We know now there will be many voices but if we can have the messages all be congruent and shared, people will get that information and take care. And they'll feel comfortable with their government taking care of them," Mecham said.

Those attending the conference included first responders and officials from Texoma counties.

Mecham said these days there's an instant demand for information.

"They feel their government will respond, according to Harris polls within one hour. Can that be realistic in any type of audience and community?" he said.

In these cases he said information helps keep the public safe.

"They'll know where to go, what to do. And self reliance is very important," Mecham said.

Chief Deputy James Woods, with the Fannin County Sheriff's Office, said they already work with the office of emergency management to respond to disasters. But the next step is keeping the public informed, he said.

"With this training, and going through this, it helps us look to the future, to plan better for that. And hopefully have a spokesperson available to the press to make sure the citizens are informed," Woods said.

The program is put on through the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, paid for through a federal homeland security grant. The group travels all over the state putting on this training.

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