Central Illinois - In recognition of IEMA's Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 3-9, the region's Public Information Officer Committee is launching a new Facebook page that will keep citizens in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, and Stark counties informed of large scale disaster response, rescue, and recovery efforts should such an event occur within any of the five counties.
The page, www.facebook.com/CentralIllinoisEmergencyInformation, was created by the PIO Committee as a centralized means to reach more citizens faster with important emergency information.
PIO Committee Chairman Jenny Fulton, Director of Strategic Communications for Peoria County, explains further, "Ultimately, the new Facebook page is intended to keep residents of central Illinois prepared, informed, and safe before, during, and after disaster strikes. This page is a joint effort that will serve as the official social media source of public information during disaster; therefore, we encourage residents in the five counties to become a fan of the page before disaster occurs in an effort to speed the flow of emergency information from the source - emergency response agencies - to the public when disaster occurs."
The City of Joplin witnessed over 40,000 fans join the "Joplin Tornado Info" page within a week of the 2011 disaster. Here locally, communications professionals responsible for providing public information during a disaster decided it would be beneficial to launch the Central Illinois Emergency Information (CIEI) Facebook page before another event on the scale of Elmwood's 2010 tornado occurs, to help expedite the release of important information.
Fortunately, natural or man-made disasters that affect either a large geographic area or a large number of people are infrequent in central Illinois. Therefore, to maintain interest in the site and to build a fan base before the next local disaster, the PIO Committee will be updating its Facebook page regularly with emergency preparedness information, such as how to create an emergency supply kit, develop a family emergency plan, and identify points of contact. Boil orders, road closures, power outages, and other important local information from PIO member agencies will be posted as well as winter driving tips, warming and cooling center locations, and parking bans or traffic collision alerts.
The region's Public Information Officer Committee is comprised of over 50 communications and public relations professionals from a variety of public and private agencies that may have a role in disaster response and recovery. Agencies represented on the committee include government, law enforcement, military, public health, education, health care, emergency services, and private business. The PIO Committee is a sub-committee of the State of Illinois' Homeland Security Region 10. The goal of the committee is to provide accurate reports and instructions during a natural or man-made incident in a timely fashion to the media and the public.