St. Patrick Catholic School
University of Southern Mississippi communication specialists, David Tisdale and Van Arnold, spoke Friday with the students at USM’s Remembering Hurricane Katrina High School Journalism Workshop about the challenges the university faced following Katrina.
Tisdale explained his job as a public relations practitioner during Hurricane Katrina to the workshop’s students.
He said he was responsible for communicating with his faculty and students and telling the estimated time the university would reopen. He was also responsible for letting the public know USM’s intended plan to get the students back to school as quickly as possible.
He also said the university created a committee to raise funds for the students affected by the storm. The fund was to be used as a boost to help victims return to school.
Tisdale was constantly producing works to keep the public updated on what was going on, and when they could expect a date for the University’s reopening.
Tisdale shared that it took approximately two and a half weeks for the Hattiesburg Campus to reopen and about a month for the Gulf Park Campus.
The University was able to regain power quickly because of its efficient communication after the storm. Every day until the power returned, Tisdale would meet with the media to give them situation reports.
Alongside his media reports, Tisdale was in charge of contacting parents and keeping them updated on the status of their students who had stayed on campus during the storm.
Tisdale said he felt that the media played a major role in natural disasters.
“You understand that your role is crucial,” Tisdale said. “You are the liaison. You are just as important as the first responders.”
Tisdale explained to the students that being a PR during the storm was something beyond himself.
“The world wanted to know,” Tisdale said. “Katrina affected every area and every person differently. People wanted to hear their situation.”
Tisdale concluded by telling the students the importance of public relations, especially in the event of crisis.
He shared the plans of better preparation around the university in the event of another disaster, and he encouraged everyone to do the same.