Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Rick Atterberry
1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?
I spent 30 years in commercial broadcasting; we were a full service station, so we were always heavily involved when severe weather or a disaster happened. When I left there I was asked to become the public information officer for the County Emergency Management Agency as a volunteer. I did this while I was working at the university. After a few years, extension administrators who had been the EDEN Point of Contact had taken on additional duties, so I was asked to become the new EDEN PoC about 12 years ago and I’ve been doing that ever since.
2. Can you explain a little about your role for disaster preparedness and recovery in your state?
I am currently wearing two hats in this aspect, the public information officer, and under Illinois state law, when the emergency management agency is activated state employees (such as university employees) are allowed basically “unlimited” leave time, as long as the activation continues to fulfill their volunteer roles. So I do that a lot with any disaster that occurs. On the extension side, it’s a multi-level thing, we work to support the local extension offices even in terms of their own safety. In fact we’re working with them to re-write the office disaster manuals for the state right now. I also teach, through extension, the ready business course, the continuity of operations course that we have available and do some other general education of overall preparedness, speak to scout groups, and other groups like that. Locally, I am the co-chair of a mutual aid group for public information officers.
3. What do you consider to be the most significant accomplishment during your tenure as EDEN chair?
I think really just staying out of the way and encouraging the delegates to continue their good work. Nothing happens without the delegates. I think the thing that is best about EDEN is that for almost everyone of the 300 and some delegates, this disaster education and recovery work is something they volunteered to do. It is something they are passionate about. In a lot of cases this is not even in their job description, they just enjoy EDEN. Working with those dedicated people, trying to make sure they have the resources to do everything necessary is something that I really made a focus. Each state does things differently, and recognizing that as one of the great things about EDEN is the flexibility that each state, the local extension offices can do what best serves their community.
4. What has been your favorite part about writing #WeatherWednesdays?
Writing those posts has been a lot of fun. It provides me with an outlet for writing, which I enjoy doing very much. I’m kind of a weather geek anyway, so it’s a way for me to spread the word. I have purposefully delayed writing some until we can see how the weather plays out, or how it does not play out. In a previous one, I focused on how difficult it is to precisely forecast winter storms. I also enjoy defining what certain terms are: such as a blizzard, people think you have to have a whole bunch of snow to have a blizzard, actually the amount of snow is not part of the definition at all. It comes down to wind speed and visibility issues. I enjoy educating people about all parts of disaster, including weather.