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The Peoria County-led Central Illinois Public Information Officer Committee is Recognized as 2015 Harvard Ash Center Bright Ide

Feb 18, 2015

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized today the Central Illinois Public Information Officers (CIPIO) as part of the 2015 Bright Ideas program for their efforts establishing Joint Information Centers in advance of disaster. This year’s cohort includes 124 programs from all levels of government—school districts; county, city, state, and federal agencies; as well as public-private partnerships—that are at the forefront in innovative government action.

The Central Illinois Public Information Officers are responsible for delivering accurate and timely public information during a large scale disaster in the five county region of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, and Stark Counties. CIPIO is a regional committee comprised of public relations and communications professionals who represent government, law enforcement, emergency response agencies, public health, hospitals, education, and private business. The committee is chaired by Peoria Countys Director of Communications Jenny Fulton.

To expedite dissemination of important emergency information, public information officers operate from a Joint Information Center (JIC) during disaster response and recovery. Beginning in 2009, the CIPIO committee solicited local public and private facilities to serve as a JIC should a large scale disaster occur near the facility. After 18 months, the committee had secured agreement with over 100 locations in the five county region to serve as a JIC should disaster strike. Government facilities, libraries, churches, and private companies agreed to open their doors to CIPIO committee members 24/7 in the event of disaster. All facilities with the capability also granted permission for committee members to utilize office equipment as necessary for the timely dissemination of emergency information.

It is this collaborative effort between the CIPIO committee and over 100 government offices, libraries, churches, and businesses to establish Joint Information Centers in advance of disaster for which the CIPIO committee is being recognized. To date, two JIC locations have been utilized during disaster: the Morrison and Mary Wiley Library after the June 2010 tornado in Elmwood, IL, and the Washington Park District Administration building after the November 2013 tornadoes in Tazewell County. Without prior agreement with these two facilities, opening and operating a JIC would have taken more time and would have delayed the delivery of public information.

 “The Bright Ideas program demonstrates that often seemingly intractable problems can be creatively and capably tackled by small groups of dedicated, civic-minded individuals,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in Government Program at the Ash Center. “As exemplified by this year’s Bright Ideas, making government work better doesn’t always require massive reforms and huge budgets. Indeed, we are seeing that, in many ways, an emphasis on efficiency and adaptability can have further-reaching effects than large-scale reforms.”

This is the fourth cohort recognized through the Bright Ideas program, an initiative of the broader Innovations in American Government Awards program. For consideration as a Bright Idea, programs must currently be in operation or in the process of launching and have sufficient operational resources and must be administered by one or more governmental entities; nonprofit, private sector, and union initiatives are eligible if operating in partnership with a governmental organization. Bright Ideas are showcased on the Ash Center’s Government Innovators Network, an online platform for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions. 

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