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Toni Schwartz

Public Information Officer
Hawaii Department of Public Safety

Toni Schwartz is the Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Hawaii State Department of Public Safety, consisting of the Corrections Division (jails and prisons), Law Enforcement Division (Sheriffs and Narcotics Enforcement), and Administrative Division.  Toni is responsible for the external and internal communications of the department including news media coverage and special events with the Public Safety Director, state lawmakers, and public/private organizations. Toni is FEMA certified for Incident Command and Disaster Communications and has been called to assist on several incidents with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA) Joint Information Center (JIC).  She recently deployed for 26 days to the Big Island of Hawaii to help the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency and HIEMA with their media communications and public messaging during the on-going Kilauea Volcano Eruption Event. She previously served as the Hawaii State Department of Human Services (DHS) PIO, overseeing communications for several programmatic functions to include Medicaid, Child Protective Services, Welfare and Food Stamps programs.  Finally, Toni was a news producer for KHON-TV in Honolulu for three years.

Toni Schwartz’s Session(s):


9:50 am–10:30 am — Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Social Media & Natural Disasters - Media Relationships and Communication Strategy Forged in Hawaii’s Volcanic Eruption

This case study will discuss tips we used to strengthen relationships with the news media while pushing out constant messaging through radio, TV and social media, to communicate accurate information to the public during the prolonged Kilauea Volcano lava eruption event on the Island of Hawaii.  The Hawaii State Emergency Management Agency, and the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency and the Hawaii Department of Defense used this strategy to provide updates, critical aid information, and safety alerts. 

During this discussion you will hear:

  • Examples of the growing pains during the chaotic initial stages of the lava eruption event.
  • What worked and didn't work when trying to collaborate with media to get messaging out.
  • The challenges of keeping up with constant media information requests (and the social media explosion).
  • Fighting misinformation (in media coverage and social media) and getting the right message out, with or without the media's help.

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