Morgan Lyons has served as Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s AVP of External Affairs for more than 20 years, building and enhancing relationships with a wide range of stakeholders touched by the agency’s delivery of more than 200,000 daily passenger trips. He and his team were on duty on July 6, 2016, when Dallas was rocked by a sniper aiming at police officers from atop a building near one of DART’s downtown light rail stations. The experience that he, his team, DART and all of the city had is, unfortunately, a reflection of an increasing wave of violence occurring in cities around the world. Morgan shared some points from the presentation he will deliver to PRGN members Thursday night.

PRGN:  Many, if not most, communications professionals will complete their career without experiencing a loss like that of five public safety officers in Dallas last summer. Can an agency prepare on behalf of their clients for the type of experience DART had?Morgan Lyons:  Begin with what you know. We had never experienced the murder of a police officer, but we had been through officer-involved shootings and situations where officers were critically wounded. Because of the police attack, bus and rail operations were suspended in downtown for an extended period. We have been through that due to severe weather. We could apply lessons learned from similar situations then focus on the new elements knowing we had covered most of the fundamentals of incident management.

PRGN:  What was the biggest challenge you faced in responding to the situation
Morgan Lyons:  Organizing a consistent flow of reliable information. We needed this to develop our messages. We entered this with general ideas, but needed details. An equal challenge, purely a function of the time of day when this occurred, was effectively organizing communications staff. We began work remotely.

PRGN:  What’s the key point that agency leaders can take away from your experience?Morgan Lyons:  When you experience something unique, remember it’s not 100% unique. You’ve worked through some aspects of this situation before. Begin by seeking the common elements from previous experiences and build from there. That will give you the energy, in all forms, needed to effectively engage the completely new elements of the situation.