A media relations officer at Scotland Yard in London is in Houston today, meeting with her American counterparts, and taking notes on how they get information out to the public during big public emergencies. Houston Public Radio’s Jim Bell reports.
Metropolitan London Police Press Officer Helen Kennedy says London has experience with terror bombings and other localized disasters, but they have almost no experience with large scale mass evacuations, so she’s touring American cities that do. Touring Houston TranStar Emergency Operations Center, Kennedy said she’s learned that no matter what the emergency is, a free flow of information to the public is absolutely vital, from start to finish.
“Mass evacuation is just the first step. The key time is obviously the search and rescue, the 72 hours after the event, and then the recovery period. And really that’s the crucial time in talking to the public, reassuring people, getting people back to their homes, and recovering from whatever has happened.”
Most important, Kennedy says, is that people who provide information about emergencies and evacuations to the public must remember what people need to know, and what they want to know.
“Somebody said to me and it’s so true that as soon as you call for an evacuation the first questions anyone is going to ask is when can I come home?”
Kennedy says she hopes to gather enough information in the U.S to create a media strategy for a mass evacuation plan for London. Her American tour includes stops in New Orleans, Florida, and Washington D.C. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.