High Country PIO Media Summit

August 1, 2017
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Plemmons Student Union, Room 420 (Parkway Ballroom)
Appalachian State University / Boone, NC
Registration is by invitation only / No cost to attendees

The High Country PIO network is a group of Public Information Officers representing emergency management, law enforcement, public health, the local healthcare system, university, community college and public schools. This group seeks opportunities to strengthen relationships with local and regional media outlets, and gain a common understanding about how to publicly address matters that affect the public we all serve. To that end, we have developed a daylong event that will provide opportunities to discuss matters of common interest.

We would like to thank the Office of the Chancellor at Appalachian State University for sponsoring this event.


The High Country PIO Media Summit will take place on the campus of Appalachian State University. The event will last from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and feature three panel discussion and a keynote speaker. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided. There is no cost to attendees, but registration is limited.

Registration & cost of attendance

This event is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor at Appalachian State University. There is no registration fee for attendees. Registration is by invitation only. For PIOs in attendance it is strongly encouraged they complete online FEMA courses IS 100, 200 & 700.A and 800 prior to this event.


Parking is available for registered participants in the parking deck located on College Street.

More Information 

About the keynote speech:

In September 2016, Charlotte Mecklenburg Emergency Management staff responded in an all-hazards capacity to an officer involved shooting and subsequent civil disturbance. Learn more about Charlotte's response to this community crisis, including details about successful partnerships, triumphs, challenges and what they would have done differently.

About the keynote speaker:

Elaney Katsafanas
Emergency Management Planner, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management & Charlotte Fire Department

Elaney Katsafanas

Elaney Katsafanas serves as an emergency management planner for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office, and is tasked with all-hazards planning, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts. Elaney serves as the health, medical, and human services liaison for the department, coordinating efforts specific to mass care, emergency assistance, housing and human services, public health and medical services, long term community recovery and external affairs. Additionally, Elaney serves as the functional lead for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg All-Hazards Advisory Committee (AHAC), the Joint Health Operations Committee (JHOC), health care facility review plans, the department's information technology programs, situational awareness tools, and the overall readiness of the Mecklenburg County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). She earned a Bachelor of Science in public relations from Central Michigan University and is a graduate of the Leading Educating and Developing (LEAD) program at the University of Virginia. Elaney maintains membership in the North Carolina Emergency Management Association (NCEM) and the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). Elaney joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office as a grants administrator in 2015, after previously serving in the public, private and non-profit sectors as a public relations, risk mitigation and crisis management professional.

About the panels and panelists:

Session 1

HIPAA, FERPA and matters of privacy: what is the line between the law and a judgement call?
9:15 - 10:30 a.m.
This discussion is designed to inform discussions for the day moving forward, and answer questions from PIOs and members of the media about what can and cannot be discussed legally, and making judgement calls about when to disperse “need to know” and “want to know” information to the public. Panelists will each spend about 10 minutes with some basic background about their area of expertise (HIPAA, FERPA and how one or both apply to the work they do and the clients they represent) and provide examples.

Aaron T. Fleischauer, PhD, MSPH
Career Epidemiology Field Officer, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Carolina Division of Public Health

Aaron Fleischauer currently serves as the Career Epidemiology Field Officer (Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) assigned to the North Carolina Division of Public Health. Aaron has served in this position since July of 2008. In this role, Aaron serves as epidemiologic science advisor to the State Epidemiologist, Communicable Disease branch, Public Health Preparedness and Response branch and the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology branch. Aaron directs the state’s disaster epidemiology program, served as Operations Team leader for the state’s pandemic influenza H1N1 response, serves as co-investigator with the University of North Carolina (UNC) Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (PERRC), and provides supervision to an EIS officer. Aaron began his tenure with CDC in the EIS class of 2002, where he was assigned to the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program (BPRP). During EIS, Aaron was deployed for West Nile virus, SARS, the multi-state Monkeypox outbreak and avian influenza H5N1. Following EIS, Aaron was a team leader in BPRP involved in efforts to validate syndromic surveillance and serving as CDC’s delegate to the WHO advisory panel on mass gatherings. Aaron later became the chief epidemiologist for the Biosurveillance Coordination Unit and contributed to the National Biosurveillance Strategy for Human Health.” He is an expert on HIPPA and communicable disease law.

Barbara L. Krause
Deputy General Counsel, Appalachian State University

Barbara Krause began serving as Appalachian’s deputy general counsel in February 2013.  Prior to arriving at Appalachian, she served for seven years under the president of Skidmore College as the executive director for the Office of the President and Coordinator of Strategic Initiatives. Prior to that, she served for eleven years at Cornell University in roles that included the judicial administrator (campus conduct officer), associate university counsel and assistant secretary of the corporation, and senior advisor to the president.  Barbara began her legal career as an associate and later as a partner in a Portland, Maine, law firm, where she represented schools and towns. She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University, where she played on the women’s basketball team and was a two-time captain, and obtained her Juris Doctorate from Cornell University Law School.  Barb is thrilled to be in the North Carolina mountains and enjoys hiking, golf and working around her new home. 

Patricia A. Markus
Attorney, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP (Raleigh, NC)

Trish Markus is a partner in the Raleigh office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.  She represents health care providers and related organizations on an array of health care regulatory compliance and transactional matters, with a focus on health information privacy, security and technology issues.  Trish regularly advises clients on HIPAA and other federal and state law information privacy and security compliance, health information exchange initiatives, cybersecurity risks, responding to data breaches, technology licensing agreements, and telemedicine initiatives.  She represents health care clients in reimbursement appeals, acquisitions and divestitures, and she provides regulatory compliance guidance to several substance abuse treatment providers.  She serves on the Board of Directors of the American Health Lawyers Association.

Amanda Martin
NC Press Association attorney with Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC (Raleigh, NC)

Amanda Martin serves as general counsel to the NC Press Association, a membership organization of approximately 150 North Carolina newspapers, and NC Press Services. She routinely counsels reporters and editors about resisting subpoenas, avoiding libel suits or gaining access to closed government meetings and records and increasingly answers questions and represents clients with issues related to speech online. Ms. Martin has enhanced and applied her media law concentration as an adjunct instructor in Media Law at UNC School of Law, Campbell University School of Law and the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She is a frequent speaker and panelist at media law forums and workshops. She regularly contributes articles to legal and media law newsletters and other publications.

Session 2

When the worst happens – how to talk about death in a public setting
10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m.
When someone dies unexpectedly, the public sympathizes, empathizes, seeks to make sense of an unsettling situation, and looks for ways to prevent it from happening again. This panel will present examples of their experiences in talking about death in a public setting, whether as members of the media or as representatives of organizations and families who have sought to manage public conversations about death while also honoring and respecting the privacy of those involved.

Elisabeth Cavallaro
Coordinator for Student Mental Wellness, Appalachian State University

Elisabeth was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in psychology from Florida State University and a Master's of Public Health from University of North Florida. She loves being able to apply a truly public health approach to improving the mental health of the students on campus, especially since improving mental health through public health techniques is such a new practice in the mental health world. Making a difference with students and working with Appalachian’s great Wellness and Prevention team keep her excited to come into work every day. In her off-time, Elisabeth is usually playing with her dog or cat, enjoying all that Boone has to offer with her friends, contra-dancing or reading a good book.

Randy Collins
Chief, Watauga County Rescue Squad

Randy Collins has been a member of the Watauga County Rescue Squad since 1992, for which he was sergeant and lieutenant before becoming chief in 1995 and again in 1999. His professional fire and rescue experience began in 1975 with Francisco Fire, for which he was twice named Rescue Person of the Year. He has been an emergency medical technician (since 1997), and is also an emergency vehicle operations course instructor and a North Carolina Emergency Medical Technician examiner. Randy holds a Bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University and a Master’s degree from Gardner Webb University.

Megan Hayes
Director, University Communications, Appalachian State University

Megan Hayes has a background in higher education marketing and communications, cultural tourism and event marketing, PR, and management. As director of University Communications at Appalachian, she manages the international award-winning University Communications team and the university’s overall communications, marketing and content management strategy. She is certified in crisis communications and media crisis interview and response training. Megan holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Appalachian and an MBA in management from Wake Forest University. She has a great love for the North Carolina High Country, has generations of family roots in the area, and highly values community and family. She runs with her dog as often as possible and listens to tons of podcasts.

Anna Oakes
Editor, Watauga Democrat

Anna Oakes is editor of the Watauga Democrat and All About Women magazine in Boone and has been a professional journalist for more than a decade. She holds a bachelor of science in communication/journalism from Appalachian State University, where she got her start as a staff writer and editor of the student newspaper, The Appalachian. She previously held reporting and editing positions at High Country Press and The Clayton News-Star. Her work has garnered multiple North Carolina Press Association awards.

Shane Robbins
Sergeant, Boone Police Department

Administrative Services Sergeant Shane Robbins serves as the lead Public Information Officer for the Boone Police Department. Shane began his work in emergency services in 1988 as a firefighter before becoming a full-time police officer in 1995. Shane graduated from The Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University in 1994 with a B.S. Business Administration - Finance. Shane holds a North Carolina Advanced Law Enforcement Certification and is a North Carolina Law Enforcement and Fire Service Instructor. Shane also works extensively with High Country Crime Stoppers, serving as the law enforcement coordinator for Watauga County. Shane and his family live in the Bethel community of Watauga County.

Session 3

The role of social media in public information
1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Social media has become an increasingly important tool for informing the public. This panel will discuss their own personal and professional experiences in informing – and being informed by – different social media outlets.

Nathan Hunerwadel
Social Media and Digital Content Strategist, Davidson College (Davidson, NC)

Nathan Hunerwadel is an experienced SMEM (social media for emergency management) professional. As a deputy sheriff in Jefferson County, Colorado he joined an incident management team just before many of the large fires broke out in Colorado in 2012. After responding to those fires, largely in a social media role, Nathan went on to work for the State of Colorado, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as a PIO and founder and manager of the Colorado Virtual Operations Support Team (COVOST). In 2016 Nathan, while working as a social media manager for the international non-profit Samaritan’s Purse, Nathan volunteered on the Horton Fire in Watauga County, managing the public information campaign using a heavily social media-based strategy. Nathan currently works at Davidson College where he strives to use the power of social media to elevate the Davidson College story to a national and international audience.

Kenneth Reece
Owner-Operator at WataugaOnline.com

Kenneth Reece is the creator and owner/operator of WataugaRoads.com & WataugaOnline.com. In 2011 WataugaRoads.com and associated social media outlets broke new ground in providing weather and road conditions updates for the High Country in as close to real time as possible. A 25-plus year traditional broadcasting veteran, Reece recognized the early impact of social media, and created a presence that quickly gained over 7,000 followers in less than 2 months. Today, the combined reach of his social media outlets and website views is approaching two million.

Chase Newmyer
Sophomore Supply Chain Management student, Appalachian State University

Chase is a second-year student studying Supply Chain Management at Appalachian State University. He serves as a student ambassador for the university and works as a social media assistant with University Communications. Chase has developed social media skills through trial and error in methods of reaching a target group of individuals, specifically for events he may be helping host.

Matt Stevens
Sergeant and Detective, Boone Police Department

Matt is an administrative sergeant at the Boone Police Department, with responsibilities including body cameras, investigative casework and internal affairs. Matt implemented the Boone Police Department’s social media presence and served as the department’s first designated Public Information Officer. A 22-year veteran of the Boone Police Department, Matt began his service as a 911 telecommunicator, served as a patrol officer, and then spent the majority of his career as a general investigator and investigations supervisor. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College, with the majority of his coursework completed here at Appalachian. Matt regularly speaks with Criminal Justice classes at Appalachian. He is a North Carolina Justice Academy certified criminal investigator and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Garrett Price
Director of Communications and Public Relations, Watauga County Schools

Garrett Price works as the director of communication and public information for Watauga County Schools. He is a native of Watauga County and attended Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute in Boone. Before coming on board with Watauga County Schools, Price worked in local media for Mountain Times Publications, both as a hard news reporter for the Watauga Democrat, and a feature writer with the Avery Journal-Times in Newland. Price worked closely with law enforcement and emergency management officials from both Watauga and Avery counties during his time as a reporter, and gained valuable insight into how public information is handled from both perspectives.

About the moderator

Dave Blanks, moderator
Production Assistant and Audio Engineer

Dave Blanks has a background in radio production and emergency operations. He manages the podcast studio, and provides voice talent and audio engineering for podcast and video production. He also supports emergency communications and advises on social media. He graduated from Appalachian in 2005 with a Bachelor's degree in electronic media broadcasting.