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    Scandal Leaves Former FEMA Rep To Pick Up Pieces Pat Philbin walked into his job as chief of public affairs for the Coast Guard each morning feeling he was one of the best in the field. Philbin, an adept specialist in crisis communication, took the job as director of external affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2006. By October 2007, Philbin’s career was in its own crisis. Responsible for a press conference scandal where FEMA staff played the role of jour  nalists, Philbin’s  respect in his field dwindled. Recent years have shown improvement for Philbin, whose career has become a journey. Rising Through the Ranks Philbin’s career began with a degree. He graduated  from the Coast Guard Academy in 1983 with a bachelor’s in Government. While serving for the Coast Guard, Philbin began to focus more on a career in public relations. He earned his master’s degree in public relations at Syracuse University in 1988 , further expanding his skillset. A well-qualified member of the Coast Guard, Philbin received a  promotion and became press assistant for the commandant and chief of the Coast Guard in 1994. In one of his first major public relations jobs, Philbin  began to thrive in a new role. Crisis management came easy to Philbin. He emphasized building “muscle memory” as a team when dealing with a crisis.   “E veryone must immedia tely know what needs to be done,” Philbin said. This technique ensures a quick response that minimizes time wasted by hesitation. During his tenure as press assistant, Philbin handled many notable matters that involved the Coast Guard. “TWA Flight 800 was the toughest crisis I had to deal with,” Philbin reflected. The plane crash, which killed all 230 passengers after exploding after take off from New York, still remains shrouded in mystery. “Tragedies like that must be handled extremely delicately,” Philbin said. He insisted that sensitivity to the families of the deceased is extremely important. He was also involved in the Coast G uard’s part in finding  the remains of the plane crash that killed John F. Kennedy Jr. Philbin ascended to assistant chief in 2000, eventually becoming chief of public affairs. “Those were happier days,” Phiblin said of the job as chief. “I  was one of the best at my  job. Tenure at FEMA Philbin supervised 35 headquarters staff and 130 personnel throughout the United States and overseas as chief. He was regarded as important and successful. Philbin left after three years for the Anteon Corporation, where he directed communication initiatives for the Department of Defense.    Pat Philbin served as director of external affairs for FEMA from 2006-07. After involvement in a press conference scandal in October 2007, Philbin has lost much respect in his field. -More-    After more than a year with Anteon, Philbin received word from FEMA about a job opening. FEMA had been under a large level of scrutiny for its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and needed a competent head of public relations to handle the media. They offered the job to Philbin, who accepted and became director of external affairs for the agency. With FEMA, Philbin was under a heavy workload and had little rest. He took only 3 days off, including weekends, during his entire 17-month tenure with FEMA. Because FEMA was a government sector under media watch, Philbin had to weigh agendas, politics and taxpayers’ money with the goals of the company. Philbin emphasized accountability for actions, which came back to bite him in a 2007 scandal that almost ruined his career. Career in Crisis On October 23, 2007, FEMA staff held a press conference to address recent wildfires in California. Philbin joined fellow staff in the audience shortly before it began. Reporters were given little notice about the conference, and when journalists failed to show up, the FEMA staff began to ask the questions posing as reporters. Actual reporters were involved as part of a telephone conference, but could only listen to the conference. Once the media realized the press conference was staged, they erupted on FEMA and its already damaged image. Philbin said he had no knowledge of the plan, but he took public responsibility as head of the staff that conducted it. Philbin had resigned two days previously to take a new job as head of public relations for the director of national intelligence. The job offer was quickly rescinded in the aftermath of the scandal, and Philbin felt the bite of the media. “Journalists don’t want to know the truth , ”   Philbin said. He insisted he was never given a chance to clear his name and the media was desperate to make him the scapegoat. However, as head of the staff, he knew he was responsible regardless of his involvement. He also knew employment would  be hard to find. “I was looking for a job anywhere; McDonalds, Burger King,” said Philbin. Only six years before that moment, Philbin was in the middle of the  job he loved and held highly by those in his field. After his stint with FEMA, much of the respect he built was gone. Getting Back Up Philbin began to regain his career slowly. He began his own company, Crisis1, a month after the scandal. “ You must think about the consequences of every action you make ” –   Pat Philbin -More-    “Its small, but its growing” Philbin said of Crisis1. The company, which consults companies in crisis communication, has slowly started building into a formidable company with around 50 current employees. The Coast Guard is one of his clients. “I would have done many things differently,” Philbin said, looking back at his career. “In this job all you have is your integrity.”   Although some still question Philbin’s integrity, his ability to regain traction in his career has shown he still has plenty of drive to succeed. ###
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