SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Preparing for major emergency events and advancing training for athletic media relations professionals was the emphasis of a panel chaired by University of Arkansas Assistant Athletic Director Bill Smith at the College Sports Information Director’s of America Convention.
"Preparing for Catastrophe: Understanding the Communicator’s Role During Disasters" was one of three convention-wide panels on the opening full day of presentations at the CoSIDA national workshop.
Smith brought together the panel which included Lou Marciani, the director of the Center for Spectator Sport Security and Safety, along with the perspective of two sports information professionals. Smith also presented an outline of educational opportunities for SIDs.
Marciani provided an overview of the training and certification programs availble through the Center for Spectator Sport Security and Safety housed at the University of Southern Mississippi. Marciani reviewed the basics of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System, and the importance of the sports information director in the event of major crisis involving an athletic event.
"We’re in a whole new business, all of us," Marciani said. "I know you have a lot of hats, but very important down the road with federal directives, when you look at stadiums — at any level, Division I, II or III — the athletic department is responsible in the eyes of this country."
Marciani used the example of a backpack explosive device at a college sporting event, walking the audience through a hypothetical incident. He emphasized the need for the athletic media relations personnel to be ready to step in and assist in the command staff of an event, and that it would be their responsibility to prepare.
"Get involved with your athletic department in crisis commuincation planning," Marciani stressed. "It’s better to get this done up front than when the event starts happening. Like anything else in this industry, planning is key. It’s 85% of the entire process."
Former sports information director Daucy Crizer of Lamar University addressed the convention about the crisis you can see coming, reflecting on the hurricane impacts on the Beaumont, Texas, university. Now the assistant athletic director for business affairs, Crizer emphasized the learning experience in evacuation and communications plans at Lamar over the course of the past several hurricane seasons.
Southeastern Conference associate commissioner for communications and CoSIDA past president Charles Bloom discussed the sudden onset crisis by recalling the events of the 2008 SEC Men’s Basketball tournament and the impact of an F2 tornado which grazed the Georgia Dome and forced rescheduling of the last five games of the tournament.
Smith’s presentation closed the panel with recommendations of on-line educational certification programs provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He encouraged the membership to take the initiative to become involved in their local emergency management agencies.
"The time to exchange business cards with your emergency responders is not at the start of an event," Smith said.
Smith added the professional development benefits of completing the public information officer courses available on-line, and through volunteering with local agencies the possibility for gaining further advanced training.
The panel and presentation was the fifth overall and the third consecutive year for Smith to address the national athletic media relations director’s convention. His previous topics have included web site management and programing, the impact of social networking web sites like Facebook and strategies for interaction with bloggers and citizen media.