Communication is key
From a communications standpoint, making sure people understand this is critical – and certainly affects their quality of life. But being on message is easier when all of the agencies are on the same page – which miraculously, they are. As the communications director, I must ensure that it stays that way. When a new commander comes on board (which happens often in these agencies as district line changes/promotions occur), I bring everyone back to the table. We meet, establish a relationship, exchange mobile phone numbers, and get off on the right foot. We host annual Public Safety Days, where ALL of these agencies interact with the public, and we have quarterly Public Safety Roundtables, where ANYONE can come to ask questions, share concerns and get answers. Our Coffee with a Cop transitioned to a Public Safety Breakfast, with all of the agencies represented.
In December we had a grand re-opening of our substation in the Civic Building. And while it was “hosted” by the sheriff’s office, Phoenix Police, Daisy Mountain Fire, Neighborhood Watch, North Valley Posse, the Arizona Rangers and Department of Public Safety were all in attendance to show support and stand together as a united front for our residents.
The Crisis Communications Plan that our Communications and Public Affairs office oversees ensures that all agencies work together, regardless of the location of the incident. All of the agencies also include our office in their plans. A good relationship with all of the chiefs also is paramount in making sure this arrangement works in times of deployment. Each agency has its own PIO, for example; and I serve as the PIO for our community at-large. So we all know what needs to be done in what order when times of crisis occur – it’s spelled out AND practiced in advance.
Our residents still aren’t sure whom to call sometimes when it comes to their HOA questions, how to activate their Community Center membership or when they need a permit to build a pool, but they do know that when they call 911 or need help, someone will be there. And it won’t matter to that someone what jurisdiction the person in need is in.
At the end of the day, I’ve come away with a different view of all of this border sharing and who-does-what approach: Focus your time and energy on matters that truly matter. Making sure people are safe is something none of us can take for granted, or squabble about when it comes to being territorial.
If we strive every day to do what’s best for the people, we all win.
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