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Annual Training Conference



2008 NIOA Training Conference
August 24-27, 2008

Reno, Nevada

The J.A. Nugget is a luxurious 1,600-room hotel with two 29-story towers featuring sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A full-service salon and eight restaurants are located on site. Please visit for more information. You must call the hotel directly at 1-800-648-1177. 

$695 for members and non-members registering.
Click here to register.

Click here to download a letter from NIOA President Judy Pal to your organization's chief executive that may help justify your training request to attend this year's conference.



About the Conference | Registration | Hotel | The City
Airport Shuttle/Rentals Dress Code
 Conference Agenda | Brochure (PDF)


Our seminars focus on the needs of public safety information officers. We offer unrivaled networking opportunities to meet, and exchange ideas with, fellow information officers from your region and across America and Canada.


Registration forms must be received by Friday, August 1. All registration fees must be paid in full by conference check-in on Sunday, August 24 or Monday, August 25. We accept checks, money orders or cash at check-in. Credit cards or purchase orders are not accepted. No refunds after Friday, August 1. Checks received without a completed registration form will be returned.

The conference fee covers certain meals including, a continental breakfast Sunday-Wednesday, Sunday’s reception, Tuesday’s luncheon and Wednesday’s closing event. The conference fee does not cover hotel registration. Attendees must contact the hotel directly to make their own reservations.

Conference check-in will begin at 7:00 am on Sunday and Monday mornings. If you have questions, please contact Lisa McNeal at or at (865) 389-8736.

A registration form must be received in order to be registered for the conference.

Regular registration

  • You can register now and pay at the door!

    Members - $695
    Non-Members - $695
  • PIO 101 & Advanced Class Only $195

Click here to register


The J.A. Nugget is a luxurious 1,600-room hotel with two 29-story towers featuring sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A full-service salon and eight restaurants are located on site. Please visit for more information.

The Nugget is offering discounted room rates for conference attendees at $86 a night (plus taxes). The NIOA block of rooms will be released on July 24. After this time, rooms may not be available. You must call the hotel directly at 1-800-648-1177 and mention NIOA when registering to receive the conference rate. This special rate is available three days before and three days after the conference for those who want to come early or stay late. !


Reno, the “Biggest Little City in the World,” is the gateway to Nevada’s scenic northwest corner and is just a short distance from Lake Tahoe and Northern California. For more information about the Reno/Sparks/Lake Tahoe area, go to:,, or


The Nugget has a free shuttle that runs to/from the Reno airport every day from 5:45 am to 9:00 pm. Airport pickups are at :15 and :45, hotel pickups are at :00 and :30.


The dress for all conference sessions is professional business casual. Please, no t-shirts or shorts. Nametags must be worn visibly at all times for admittance into sessions.

Conference schedule and presentations are tentative and subject to change without notice. Check back here for any changes or updates.

Conference check-in will begin Sunday and Monday at 7:00 am.
Each session Sunday-Wednesday begins promptly at 8:30 am.

Sunday, August 24


Basic and Advanced PIO Training

Tom Olshanksi, United States Fire Administration, Director of External Affairs and Program Manager of the National Preparedness Network (PREPnet)

Once again, the NIOA is offering a full day of training for both new and experienced PIOs, conducted by Tom Olshanski. A sought-after lecturer, Olshanksy is a certified trainer with FEMA and conducts the Advanced PIO courses for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

New PIOs should take advantage of the entire session, since basic topics will be covered in the morning. More seasoned PIOs will want to attend in the afternoon to pick up the latest on advanced media strategies. This training is free for those registered for the entire conference, or $195 for those who wish to attend this session only.

5:00 – 5:30 pm
New Member Orientation Meeting

This gathering is a chance for new members to meet the Board of Directors, learn about the organization and the conference.
Dress: Casual

5:30 – 6:00 pm
Regional Meetings

Attendees have the opportunity to meet with your Regional Director and other members from your area to network and discuss issues of mutual concern
Dress: Casual

6:30 – 8:00 pm
President’s Reception

This reception is open to all members and spouses, offering a chance to make new friends and renew acquaintances in a relaxed atmosphere. No children please, alcohol will be served – wine and beer is provided – there will also be a cash bar.!

Monday, August 25

7:00 am

8:30 – 9:00 am
Welcome/Opening Ceremonies/Remarks

Colors: Nevada Highway Patrol
Benediction: Chaplain S. Arvin, Reno Fire Department
Remarks: Mayors of Sparks and/or Reno, Nevada

9:00 – 10:15 am
Where is Steve Fossett?

Chuck Allen, Nevada Highway Patrol; Cynthia Ryan, Nevada Civil Air Patrol

On September 3, 2007, millionaire adventurer and world-record setting pilot Steve Fossett disappeared after taking off in a single-engine plane from the private airstrip on hotel mogul Barron Hilton’s ranch near Yerington. At one point, more than 40 Civil Air Patrol, military and private airplanes and helicopters were aloft over an area that covered 20,000 square miles, and scores of searchers went on foot into deep, brushy canyons to look for Fossett who has never been found. After a month, the public search was called off. Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen, and Civil Air Patrol Major Cynthia Ryan will talk about the case and the continuous hunger for information about this incident.

10:15 – 10:30 am

10:30 am – Noon
Social Media: Bloggers, Spammers and Scammers

Mary Grady, Los Angeles Police Department & Rich Palmer, Washington Township Fire Department

The “new media” revolution/evolution has created even greater responsibilities for public information officers. In addition to dealing with mainstream print and broadcast outlets, there is an increasing number of online media forces that public information officers must take into account, including bloggers. Some agencies have even taken to offering their own blogs. Mary Grady, Commander of the LAPD’s Public Information Office and Rich Palmer, VP of the NIO and PIO at Washington Township Fire Department, will discuss how the new social media is affecting your agency, what has worked well, and what has not, including information about their own blogging efforts.

Noon – 1:15 pm
Lunch on your own

1:15 – 2:15 pm
When Your Department Becomes the News

Anne Schwartz, Milwaukee Police Department

It happens all too often – a member of your department becomes the lead story on the evening news. Anne Schwartz from the Milwaukee Police Department provides information how to do damage control when your department is the news, that will help maintain the department’s image and public support.

2:15 – 2:30 pm

2:30 – 4:00 pm
Minnesota Bridge Collapse

Christine Krueger, Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Last August without warning, the West 35 Freeway bridge near downtown Minneapolis collapsed sending drivers to a watery death. Christine Krueger from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety shares how her department dealt with the never-ending media barrage following the worst bridge collapse in U.S. history.

Tuesday, August 26

8:30 – 10:00 am
The Magic Bridging Solution

Richard Brundage

Richard Brundage is widely recognized as one of this country’s premiere risk communicators and media response trainers. He is an award winning television director, former anchor, correspondent and author of the critically acclaimed book, “The Heart In Communicating”. Mr. Brundage has created a simple and effective way to respond to any question the media may ask – and get YOUR key points across. From international press secretaries, PR executives and U.S. Ambassadors, Brundage teaches a host of techniques no PIO should be without. His proven methods literally guarantee the media will use your messages. His clients have called it “new millennium thinking” about how we all communicate.

10:00 – 10:15 am

10:15 – 11:30 am
Communication Concerns in a Pandemic Crisis

Dan Rutz, MPH, Centers For Disease Control

It seems that almost all crisis communications simulations in the past year have focused on pandemic issues – whether it is the Avian Flu, a biological chemical or the outbreak of a virus. Dan Rutz, MPH, a Senior Communications Advisor from the National Center for Health Marketing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide a tactical outline about how agencies should communicate with the public and with each other in these unique and difficult circumstances.

11:30 am – Noon
Business Meeting and Election of Officers

Noon – 1:15 pm
Building Trust – When The Media is Against You

Keynote Speaker - Gerald Baron, Author “Now is Too Late”

Building trust with the public and key stakeholders has always been a high priority for emergency services leaders. But it has never been so difficult to do. There are many reasons – a primary one is the negative news reporting about large-scale response, particularly following Hurricane Katrina. We live in an instant news world where everyone carrying a cell phone camera can become an on-the-scene reporter. There are three essentials to effective communication today – speed, the ability to communicate directly to multiple audiences, and transparency. This presentation will explore these challenges in depth and reveal how emergency response leaders from large federal agencies to local first responder agencies are taking the escalating demands head on with new strategies and technologies.

1:15 – 1:30 pm

Experience level notations for breakout sessions are suggestions only. Attendees are welcome to attend any and all sessions at their own discretion.

1:30 pm

Track A/0-3 Years Experience Building Internal Trust

Judy Pal, Savannah - Chatham Metro Police and NIOA President

Congratulations, you’ve been named PIO for your agency. Now what? No matter if you are an “outsider” coming in, or a veteran being thrust into the position – you are now in a job that is looked at somewhat suspiciously by your colleagues. If you are a former member of the media – you in fact, are the enemy! Some will think you have the “cushiest” job in the organization, while others think you have become a “rat” to the media. Learn how to overcome these internal issues and simple tools to help demonstrate how the PIO can help individuals and the organization.

Track B/3-7 Years Experience Line of Duty Deaths and the Public Information Officer

Andy Hill, Phoenix Police Department

Handling the death of one of your own may be the most difficult task a PIO will face. There is so much emotion involved, along with the possibility of a manhunt for a suspect, a grieving family, a stunned organization, and a querying media. Addressing all the issues surrounding the handling of the initial incident, along with internal and external communications on many levels, can make or break the organizational and community trust in the PIO. Andy Hill from the Phoenix Police Department will cover all these issues, as well as provide a template for turning tragedy into a positive image of the organization that suffers the loss.

Track C/7+ Years of Experience Mentoring New PIOs

Tammy L. Chatman, PIO and Professional Relations/Marketing Manager, Flight For Life-Northern Illinois

You can do your job as a PIO with your eyes closed. You also know there isn’t a book that covers every situation PIO’s face. So how do you educate and mentor a new PIO? A well-trained PIO can provide you needed assistance in a crisis, coverage for days off and become a valued addition to your staff. NIOA Regional Director Tammy Chatman will give you some great ideas on how to mentor a new staff member.

2:30 – 2:45pm

2:45 – 4:00 pm

Track A/0-3 Years of Experience Effective News Release Writing Workshop

Andrea Summers, Delaware Office of Highway Safety

Press releases, news releases or media releases, no matter what you call them, they are one of the primary methods that PIOs use to get the message out. Nevertheless, why don’t they always get used? In this session, Andrea Summers, PIO for Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety and a former reporter herself, will explain the secrets to writing a more effective release, with titles designed to catch an editor or reporter’s eye, and leads that will make the media want to cover your story, your way. You’ll learn the formula for writing a news release and how to identify and avoid common mistakes found in poorly written versions. Finally, you’ll learn how, when and under what circumstances to issue releases in a way that is to your agency’s advantage. Once you know these easy tips, you’ll walk away with one more tool under your belt to make your agency stand out.

Track B/3-7 Years of Experience Building Community Trust

Chief James D. Fox and Lou Thurston, Newport News Police Department

Have you ever asked yourself why the media keeps “coming after” certain agencies and why these agencies may not have the support of their communities? Probably the most important word in ensuring good media relations and community support is “trust.” Chief James D. Fox and PIO Lou Thurston of the Newport News, Virginia Police Department will explain how they, with the help of their entire department, have built both a trusting and working relationship with their local media. They will share how that relationship led to support from both the media and the community following a justified police shooting that resulted in the death of an unarmed suspect and a dramatic increase in homicides last year.

Track C/7+Years of Experience Victims and the Media

Mike Tellef, Peoria Fire and Police Department and NIOA Past President

Victims are a major part of the incidents we handle and as a PIO you must deal with them with great sensitivity. Mike Tellef, NIOA past president and PIO for the Peoria, Arizona Police and Fire Departments will provide an overview of what has worked well when working with the victims, investigators and the media as well as discussing importance of knowing Victims Rights Laws in your state. .

Wednesday, August 27


8:30 – 9:15 am
The Darren Mack Manhunt

Deputy Police Chief Steve Pitts and Steve Frady, Reno Fire and Police Departments, Reno, NV

National media attention was quickly drawn to downtown Reno late in the morning of June 12, 2006, when Family Court Judge Chuck Weller was wounded in an apparent sniper style shooting at a Washoe County Court facility. Within a short time that morning, police were tipped to the possible murder of a Reno woman and a link between the two crimes. What ensued was an 11-day international manhunt for accused sniper/wife murderer Darren Mack who was apprehended in Mexico. Reno Police Department Deputy Chief Steve Pitts and Police-Fire Information Officer Steve Frady discuss the investigation, manhunt and the intense media interest in the case.

9:20 – 10:05 am
Misinformation Mishap

Pete O’Leary, Durham Fire Dept. Durham, NH

After an investigation of a church fire involving multiple agencies, Pete O’Leary was told, and relayed to the media, there was no indication this was a case of arson. Days later, and while NIOA-member O’Leary was on vacation, it was indeed confirmed to the media that the Fire PIO had “misspoken”, and that the fire was indeed deliberately set. Pete will discuss strategies he used to save his reputation with the media without losing face externally and internally.

10:15 – 11:00 am
Multiple Messaging

Matthew Stanley, Savannah Fire Department

This past spring, the quiet evening air in Chatham County was destroyed by a deafening explosion. The Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, close to Savannah, Georgia had exploded. Dozens of people were hurt and many others feared killed or missing. The scene was chaotic at best with multiple agencies and jurisdictions coming to the aid of the workers and people of the small community. Federal agencies worked with state, municipal and local groups – full-time firefighters worked with volunteers – and everyone had something to say. Veteran PIO Matthew Stanley of Savannah Fire Rescue was in the middle and came out as the lead spokesperson. Learn how he dealt with the multiple messages and worked to combine the voices of many.

11:05 – 11:50 am
Rumor Control

Joseph Hopple – Sussex County EMS, DE

A volunteer fire company ambulance carrying a Sussex County EMS paramedic was returning from a hospital. The ambulance was sitting at a four-way stop when an SUV left the roadway and struck the ambulance. A paramedic was declared dead on major web sites when he was very much alive. New media (the web and blogs) presented a host of difficulties because of the speed of the spread of misinformation. Joseph will discuss how using multiple PIOs allowed him to implement rumor control quickly and get correct information to the public.

Noon – 1:30 pm
Lunch on your own

1:30 – 3:00 pm
California Wildfires/Mixed Messages Spread as Fast as Flames

Matt Streck, CalFire

Matt Streck of Cal Fire was the lead information officer for the multiple wild land fires that occurred in Southern California last year. Streck will talk about coordinating local, state and national news media as well as being part of the joint information center. He will share valuable lessons learned from these experiences.

3:00 – 3:15 pm

3:15 – 4:30 pm
Caring for the Caregiver: Surviving the Stress

Chaplain George Doebler, University of Tennessee Medical Center

Being around the big incidents and adrenaline-pumping events…although it is one of the main reasons people in our business become PIOs, it is also the main reason we burn out. The stress does not come entirely from external sources, but internal demands as well. In this session, Chaplain George Doebler from the University of Tennessee Medical Center will provide important tips on how to maintain our emotional balance when forces are pushing from every angle.

Doebler spent more than 10 years at the National Institute of Mental Health and has spent the last 20 years counseling doctors and other medical professionals at the medical center’s Level I Trauma Center. In addition to training chaplain residents, Doebler spends much of his time lecturing to groups across the country about dealing with stress. If the NIOA could mandate attendance at one session at the conference–this would be it!

6:30 p.m.
Closing Banquet

This is one last chance to visit and unwind before heading home. This casual evening closing event will include an informal dinner and the Big Raffle. Make sure you stick around through Wednesday night or you’ll miss a great finale to a memorable conference!


If you have any questions, e-mail Executive Director Lisa McNeal at

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