ARRL Public Relations Committee Honors PIOs
When the ARRL Public Relations Committee, led by Bill Morine, N2COP, met in April 2009, they discussed the recognizing those ARRL Public Information Officers (PIO) and Public Information Coordinators (PIC) whose actions are exemplary. From that meeting, The PIO Excellence Award came into being. This award is given when the committee believes an ARRL PIO has gone above and beyond in ensuring that the role of Amateur Radio is explained to media and the public, especially in unanticipated situations in the field.
"While not of the same level as other PIO awards such as the Leonard or McGan Awards," said ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, "these recognitions are a way to say 'thank you' to people who put in the extra effort to make us all look good in a bad situation."
Public Information Officer Joe Gadus, KD5KTX, of Porter, Texas, was commended for taking the lead to ensure that the media knew about the efforts of ARES® and local amateurs who helped at Points of Distribution (PODs) in the Houston area following Hurricane Ike last year. Hams in Harris County supported at least six PODs who provided communications between the National Guard units at the PODs and the Harris County Office of Emergency Management to coordinate the delivery and resupply of food, water and MREs (meals ready to eat) to the victims of Hurricane Ike. Most of the participating amateurs were also victims of the storm], having suffered property losses and power outages.
ARRL Santa Clara Valley Section Public Information Coordinator Bill Moffitt, AE6GS, of San Jose, California, was recognized for reporting to the Emergency Operations Center in Santa Cruz. While there, he worked with the Santa Cruz County PIO to clarify the role of Amateur Radio. Volunteers from Santa Cruz ARES provided a vital layer of communications to support firefighters, law enforcement, Red Cross and even animal control during the Martin fire in the hills above Santa Cruz over Father's Day weekend in 2008. Pitts said that the committee took into account that Moffitt took time away from his job to handle this situation.
Public Information Officer Steve Sanders, KE7JSS, of Hillsboro, Oregon, was praised for taking the lead to ensure that media in the Pacific Northwest knew about the vital role Amateur Radio played in supplying emergency communications. After other forms of communications were compromised in December 2007 by fierce storms, flooding and mudslides ravaged the area and shut down roads and highways, including Interstate 5. Other infrastructure, such as telephone lines and electricity, were obliterated.
Pitts said that due to the actions of these amateurs, many media outlets ran stories about the response of Amateur Radio operators in each situation. "The role of the PIO is far more than club newsletter, or even press releases. Being at the right place at the right time, presenting our story to the media, is critical to the future of Amateur Radio. These three hams went above and beyond to ensure that our story was told in a way that was easy to understand in a critical situation."