Risk communications expert, doctor to address lead in water at gathering of public officials

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Denver -- One of North America’s foremost risk communications experts, Dr. Randall Hyer, will gather with public officials overseeing water on June 21 to share science-based approaches for communicating about lead in the aftermath the Flint, Mich., incident.

Dr. Hyer’s presentation is part of the Public Officials Breakfast & Caucus at the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition, June 20-22, at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. The breakfast event begins at 8 a.m. on June 21 and is free to public officials registered at the conference.

Dr. Hyer is a physician with more than 25 years of experience in managing high-profile risks, emergencies, organizational changes, and emotionally charged crises across diverse institutions. He is the Deputy Director at the Center for Risk Communication and co-founder of CrisisCommunication.net.  He also serves the country as the Scientific Vice President for risk communication at the National Center for Radiation Protection.  Among his many prior positions, Dr. Hyer was a U.S. Senate staffer and a Medical Officer at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He graduated with Distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy and earned his MD from Duke University and his PhD from Oxford University.

“When breaking bad news in the high-concern setting, officials must use core communication techniques that address people’s natural reactions so that they can hear and process critical information,” Dr. Hyer said. “It follows that effective risk and crisis communication is crucial for utilities in maintaining trust with their customers and in the development and acceptance of smart public policy in the wake of Flint.”

AWWA President Gene Koontz will provide welcoming remarks and discuss the association’s support for the complete removal of lead service lines over time. Tommy Holmes, AWWA legislative director, will provide an update on legislation related to lead and the broader issue of water infrastructure renewal.

The event, which takes place in Room W470 at the McCormick Place Convention Center, is sponsored by EJ, IDE Technologies and Pure Technologies.

The Public Officials Breakfast & Caucus – free to public officials registered for the conference – is part of a broader public officials program that includes 12 hours of certificate training. ACE16 public officials events include:

Public Officials Breakfast & Caucus (Tues., June 21, 8-11:30 a.m., McCormick Place Convention Center, Room W470)
Public officials hear from local and national speakers and discuss common issues during this popular annual event. The breakfast is complimentary for public officials who register.

Public Officials Certificate Program (June 19-21, 1-5 p.m. each day, McCormick Place Convention Center, Room W475A)
By participating in three four-hour courses, public officials registered at ACE16 have an opportunity to earn the AWWA Public Officials Certificate. The course on June 19 is “Introduction to Water and Sewer Operating Environments”. The course on June 20 is “Water and Sewer Infrastructure, Operations, and Maintenance”. The course on June 21 is “Making the Hard Decisions”. Renowned water educator and author Frederick Bloetscher, PhD, P.E., will teach the courses. Public officials may register for all three courses to earn the certificate or take individual courses.

Registration Information: Those wishing to register for the Public Officials Breakfast and Caucus and/or the Public Officials Certificate Program may register online or on-site at the registration desk at the Conference. Only registered ACE16 attendees may participate in the public officials events.

ACE16, which will bring more than 12,000 water experts to the Chicago area, is the longest running water conference in the world, having first convened in 1881. The event will feature 111 sessions in 19 professional tracks and an exposition of more than 500 companies.

Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.

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