Posted by Bill Selzer on Nov 07, 2022

On 11/4/2022, Linda Wickstrom, an Elmbrook Rotarian and Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Waukesha County Health and Human Services Department gave a presentation on the role of the Public Information Officer. As a member of the Incident Management Response Team (IMT) for Southeast Wisconsin, she described the need for a “Go Bag” that is kept in her car with the essentials needed to perform her duties. As a Team member, she may be deployed at any time, day, or night.

This past August, Linda spent 4 days at the National Information Officer Association Convention, which she is a member. Four hundred PIO’s from across the country, shared their experiences with “the good, bad, and the ugly”, with Lessons Learned from incidents, as members of the Response Team.

Linda shared two events that were presented and critiqued at the convention. One of many challenges for the PIO is to be transparent providing, timely and accurate information to the public.

On August 29th, 2021, Hurricane Ida, a major Category 4, hit Louisiana as a “Life Altering Storm”. With that terminology from the PIO, along with a mandatory evacuation order, residents understood the severity of the situation. As a result, there were no deaths associated with this incident.

The storm knocked out all power and internet service, delaying the first news conference by 4 days. Social Media became a means for the PIO and Team to view and track postings of the storm damage and needs of the community.

Some of the PIO Lessons Learned:

· Debris from an event like a hurricane, can cause flat tires on various first responder vehicles. Dedicated maintenance and repair units are needed to help keep the first responder mobile.

· As soon as possible, have a news media conference. At that conference, identify reputable charities the people can contribute to, and warn residents and business owners of potential contractor fraud.

· Due to the possible occurrence of the internet being down, have paper maps available for (EOC) Emergency Operations Center and response teams.

On January 22nd, 2021 a county in a southern state was a victim that brought their operation to a grinding halt for weeks by a cyber-attack that entered their system via a spearfishing fake emailed invoice with a macros enabled attachment. Once opened, the malware entered the county network system of 60 independent servers that were not backed-up. The attackers demanded a $500,000 bitcoin ransom. In the end, the county did not pay the ransom.

As a result:

· Emails were down for one month and communications were by phone

· 3,000 of the county computers needed to be scrubbed. The costs to scrub the computers and upgrade the system was significant.

· The county was unable to cut payroll checks

· They lost two days of data that could not be recovered

· Most of the system was down for 4-5 months

Take aways for business owners:

· Have your system backed up

· Have a cyber security insurance policy

· Make sure the insurance company will monitor the dark web if an attack occurs to see if the attackers have posted anything regarding the cyber attack

· Have a Crisis Business Continuity Plan in place in the event there is a complete loss of power

· Have an attack plan to keep operational

Linda, thank you for sharing the role of the Public Information Officer, your experiences, and thoughts with the Elmbrook Rotary.