Wherever there’s an emergency, there’s emergency relief. The California wildfires have been wreaking havoc on the West Coast for five days now and show no sign of slowing down in some regions of the state. CNN reports that over 9,000 firefighters from seven different counties have been working day and night to try to control the blaze. These firefighters have been dealing with 23 different fires, with 10 still not fully contained. While they are being praised for their dedication and response services, people are a little more stubborn with handing out praise to state officials who handled the crisis situation.
In any crisis situation, people are going to question whether those in charge did all that they could or if they were prepared enough for such a situation. As an elected official, you are guaranteed to face this type of scrutiny and criticism no matter what you do. No one ever claimed the job of a politician was a glamorous one. All one can do is keep good contact with the media and public, while instituting crisis management plans and tactics.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been in the thick of things on location and speaking words of encouragement and motivation since the fires began. Residents received reverse 911 phone calls telling them, not urging them, to evacuate their home until the fires in their area were under control. The phone calls worked well and possibly saved the lives of thousands of people. Emergency workers were on the scene quickly and volunteers aided them in their efforts.
Schwarzenegger assures anyone who’s questioning whether he asked President Bush quickly enough for military assistance that he did what needed to be done at the correct time. With the reports I’ve seen so far, I think the Governor has done a pretty good job of keeping as much order as possible. He has maintained a positive attitude and message that the state will recover and that everyone will work together to accomplish that. I honestly never thought I would be impressed by the Arnold I’m familiar with, but I must admit he’s changed my perception of him. Thumbs up Governor.
President Bush has also been receiving coverage about his response to the wildfires. Not a day goes by where the President is not being criticized for one thing or another, but he reacted quickly to this crisis. Granted, President Bush is definitely not on my list of the country’s greatest leaders, but he seems to have learned a little something from the Hurricane Katrina fiasco. He answered Schwarzenegger’s call for military assistance and has visited the state to show his support.
From a PR standpoint, Bush might be trying to redeem himself somehow to the general public. Although I could go on and on about my political views concerning the man, I have to admit that he seems to have learned some public relations skills from the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He was slow to react and provide assistance and well, the country ripped him apart for it. In the case of these wildfires though, he acted quickly and was ready and willing when called upon by Schwarzenegger. He seems to be receiving good reactions from the American public. By George, I think he’s onto something!
Politicians face public relations situations just like everyone else. Their’s may receive more coverage and scrutiny, but it only pushes them to make better decisions. Or at least attempt to.
Photos courtesy of CNN.