Five Questions with Alumnus Don DeLucia
By Josh Newby, University Communications
Capt. Don DeLucia, B.S. ’70, was recently named Public Information Officer of the year by the Florida Association of Public Information Officers. The 29-year department veteran serves as a liaison between the fire department in Palm Beach County and the media. He also promotes the department and ensures that the tax dollars he is entrusted with are not put to waste. DeLucia graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in broadcasting in 1970.
Q. What are some typical things you do in the day as a Public Information Officer?
A. The interesting thing about being a public information officer is that no two days are alike. Working for the second largest fire department in the state that runs over 113,000 calls per year can, on some days, be quite challenging. I never know when “that big, very newsworthy call” will come in. Also, besides maintaining a good working relationship with the media on normal fire and rescue call inquiries, a PIO must do his best to promote the department during slow times to be sure the local citizens see what their tax dollars are doing for them. This means I try to show how much training goes on regularly, what type of equipment we utilize, what services are provided besides emergency rescue and fire suppression and what various community education projects may be scheduled on any given day.
Q. How did your time at UWF prepare you for this position?
A. UWF gave me my degree in broadcasting. It was very well-rounded and taught me how to write, speak and organize. It taught me about public relations as well as all aspects of radio and television broadcasting. My internship at WEAR-TV gave me invaluable insight into the functions of a media outlet. Even though I am in the world of fire rescue, as a public information officer, everything I learned at UWF has been invaluable for what I am presently doing.
Q. What does winning this award mean for your career, and who most helped you achieve it?
The recent award as Public Information Officer of the Year was one of those “feel good” achievements I got unexpectedly that said, “Hey, that work that you have always felt was routine is now recognized by others as more than that.” This position has allowed me to be very involved in state emergency management and disaster preparedness. Deployments as a PIO to a number of hurricane disasters in Florida, as well as Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, allowed me to do more than my regular job. Assisting others in their time of need was both a challenge and very rewarding. This award is truly a nice pat on the back for being involved in things that were, in fact, above and beyond the norm. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve worked with. It’s always a team effort in this business.
Q. When you were younger, did you want to be a public information officer? Was winning this award or something similar one of your goals?
I never had public information office on my plate of things to do. Half of my 29-year career has been as a fire officer and a paramedic. It’s been an exciting, challenging and rewarding job. It’s quite ironic that over the last seven years I’ve been able to use what I learned at UWF to my best advantage. We have a fantastic relationship with the media here in South Florida. I credit that to excellent training at UWF and my initial career in broadcasting where I learned a lot about television’s inner workings.
Q. What has been the most difficult crisis or situation you have had to deal with in your 29 years with the department?
A. The most difficult crisis I’ve had to deal with was the random shooting and death of a brother firefighter. A lieutenant had just finished having lunch with his wife and child and was getting ready to pull out of the parking lot when he realized the toy usually included with a child’s meal was missing. He went back inside the restaurant to obtain one when someone began randomly shooting inside. This fellow employee was killed instantly. The media storm following the incident lasted a week until the funeral. It was the most stressful week of my life, and had it not been for the assistance of the County Sheriff’s Office PIO, I might not have been able to keep my sanity. I learned that it doesn’t hurt to ask for help, and that teamwork should be taken advantage of whenever possible. It’s also a week of my life I’ll never forget.