New technology and programs can assist city managers, county administrators and government agencies to become more efficient.

The California Association of Public Information Officials, CAPIO, is working on spreading lines of communication to the public when a public emergency is on the horizon. CAPIO is an affiliate of The League of Cities, and has 300 members.

CAPIO member Sheri Benninghoven is working with public administrators on a survey aimed to learn the best tools to reach out to citizens in the event of a public emergency.

In Santa Barbara, Sheri Benninghoven has experienced the destruction of recent wildfires.

A current member of The California Association of Public Officials, Benninghoven is the former Public Information Officer for the City of Anaheim. She has bolstered her credentials as a journalist and has joined the California League of Cities as their Communications Director. Benninghoven currently works with cities and counties.

Benninghoven has been evacuated four times because of wildfires in Santa Barbara.

“This made me think, what tools now exist in the realm of news and social media that could communicate to the public in this sort of emergency?” Benninghoven said.

“The use of Twitter during the Santa Barbara fires drew more than 300 tweets.”

Twitter is just one of the many outlets used by organizations such as Santa Barbara Red Cross and others to quickly spread emergency information.

With the ever-increasing methods to spread news and communicate, it makes sense for municipalities to utilize these technologies, especially during an emergency.

“The emergency could be a wildfire, earthquake, or tsunami. People need to be able to get the information” Benninghoven said.

The California Association of Public Information encourages all Californians to participate in the survey, helping them provide cities and counties with information on how to best reach the masses during an emergency.

Although survey information is not statistically valid because it is online, it will still show ways to communicate more effectively.

Benninghoven said the CAPIO will take the information from the completed surveys to put on training programs and provide written information.
 “Government agencies can save lives if they can widely spread the right emergency information,” Benninghoven said.

You can read more about CAPIO here.