Last year, Captain Brian Jordan from the LA County Fire
Department shared some of his thoughts on PIOs and how
they can help news reporters. With brush fires in some
communities and summer drownings once again making the
news, we thought it was a good idea to revisit Brian's
- What we are and what we can do for you, the reporter!
By Captain Brian Jordan
What We Do
The Public Information Officer, also known as the "PIO", has
duties and responsibilities very similar to the role of the
Assignment Editor. Though there is no rule book to guide us
through these duties and responsibilities, we must perform at
a minimum of 100 percent 100 percent of the time.
This is why we apply for this position; we like it! The PIO
has a very interesting task; keeping the media pleased as well
as our boss.
first, this may seem very simple however; we must look further
into what it takes to attempt to please everyone we work with.
Once the PIO places their self in the position of the media
and thinks like their boss, the PIO has a better understanding
of how to perform.
We understand the story must get to the public and our avenue
is the media. It is our job to provide a timely and accurate
release of information to the media.
The County of Los Angeles Fire Department's Public Information
Office is staffed with seven sworn personnel who function as
PIO's. Three of the seven personnel also function as Public
Education Inspectors. The staffing consists of one Captain (the
Department PIO) and six Inspectors (Assistant PIO's). During
large-scale emergencies, we have the ability to draw from over
ten additional PIO's from our fire stations. We work a 40 hour
week and are assigned after-hours on-call duty.
Our 24-hour media number, (323) 881-2413, has recently been
upgraded from three to seven incoming telephone lines and after
5:00 P.M. the number is transferred to our dispatch center.
When there are multiple media calls after hours dispatch becomes
swamped and normally will notify the Duty PIO to intervene.
Though our primary media line is (323) 881-2413, our back-up
media line is the cellular telephone number of the Department's
Public Information Officer, Captain Brian Jordan, (323) 855-0117
[don't worry about the bill, incoming is free].
Yes, this can become busy and that is why we PIO's are here.
The back-up number has been established because of the seven
incoming lines the media has access to during business hours,
only one line is provided for the media on the dispatch floor.
Providing a number where the media can reach a Department spokesperson
24 hours a day is part of fulfilling our Department's mission
statement, in which one statement includes, "our national reputation
and hometown attentiveness." In addition to cellular phone access,
the PIO's pager number is also provided.
Our motto is "the media's schedule is our schedule." Upon arrival
to an incident, the PIO will obtain as much information as possible
from the IC (Incident Commander), bystanders, and - believe
it or not - the media. After we put this information in an orderly
fashion we provide as many interviews as the media requests.
The County of Los Angeles Fire Department PIO's tend to cater
to the media. We will get cameras as close to the incident as
possible, obtain as much information as possible and sometimes
have the media attend planning meetings during large-scale incidents.
There are times where we may be very restricting on what information
we release. This is normally due to the nature of the story.
Information for any story caused by an intentional violent act
is categorized as a "Sensitive Issue (SI)". SI's are handled
by the Department PIO, Captain Brian Jordan. This procedure
was established to ensure strict confidentiality for firefighting
and law enforcement personnel and the protection of victims
of violent crimes.
I have been the Department PIO since May 2000 and have enjoyed
everyday of work. Though the Los Angeles media is very challenging
(I discovered this on a few SI's), they are very fun to work
with. Several people have their own opinions about "the media".
I have learned that people who work in the media are just like
everyone else in the world - they have a job to do and want
to do it well. We have to assist the media in doing their job
and your County of Los Angeles Fire Department PIO's will put
forth an effort of 100 percent. I've learned a great deal from
the media and look forward to learning more about television,
radio and the press.
Months ago, I told Hal Eisner that I would write an article
for the web site. Well, as I mentioned earlier, the PIO is like
the Assignment Editor, hence, the word 'busy' has been on my
calendar practically everyday.
I will conclude with a few safety messages:
WATCH: Water Awareness Training for Children in the Home · No
one should swim alone; have a "water buddy"
· Children must be watched
· You cannot take your eyes off swimmers for even one second
· If you have to answer the telephone phone, make sure you have
a cordless telephone
· When you answer the phone, keep your eyes on children CPR
· Learn CPR; classes range from 4 to 8 hours and it's worth
the low price
· "If you have children and do not know CPR you are making a
big mistake" Wildland Fire Safety
· Clear the brush from around your home for a distance of 30
to 200 feet o High hazard brush areas require 200 feet of clearance
· Never throw cigarettes or matches out of your car window ·
Fire burns uphill 16 times faster than normal.
AND PLEASE!!! When you're doing a story on a Wildland fire watch
the wind, your location and anticipate the direction the fire
· Stay hydrated while covering Wildland fires; you do not want
to go from being a reporter to being a victim.
About the Author
CAPTAIN BRIAN JORDAN has been a sworn employee of Los Angeles
County Fire Department Department for 15 years, he began his
work with the fire department when he became a fire explorer
at age 14. Prior to this, he had been visiting the fire station
near his house since he was 5 years old; his kindergarten class
was across the street from a fire station. He has held the ranks
of Firefighter, Firefighter/Paramedic, Apparatus Engineer, Inspector,
and currently holds the rank of Captain. He's been assigned
to fire stations in Calabasas, Carson, Lakewood, Altadena, Newhall,
West Hollywood, La Canada, Hawthorne and the Community Relations
Unit at headquarters in East Los Angeles. He is the Assistant
Director of the United Peace Officer's Against Crime (UPAC)
Camp program; every year the organization takes over 250 youths
camping in the San Bernardino Mountains [hey, sounds like a
great story...hint hint....]. He dedicates his time to improving
media relations, and was also a staffer/mentor at the 2000 APTRA
Academy for Aspiring Journalists. He can reached at all times.....and
through email too at firstname.lastname@example.org