PART 1 - Accepting the national American Society of Civil Engineers Outstanding Civil Engineering Advocate Team Award on behalf of the Pittsburgh Section
In the snowy early morning hours of Friday, January 28, 2022, the 447-foot Fern Hollow Bridge located in the busy East End of Pittsburgh collapsed. While thankfully no fatalities occurred, ten people were injured and the incident quickly become a national news story, as it collapsed mere hours before President Biden was scheduled to go to Pittsburgh to talk about infrastructure.Jonathan Shimko and Jodi Klebickwere honored to accept the national American Society of Civil Engineers Outstanding Civil Engineering Advocate Team Award on behalf of the Pittsburgh Section from Dennis D. Truax, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, D.WRE, F.ASCE, ASCE Past President, at the 2023 ASCE legislative Fly-In in Washington, D.C. on March 1-3, 2023.
As soon as word broke that the bridge had collapsed, the ASCE Pittsburgh Section jumped into action and had organized its government and media relations efforts within two hours of the event. The leadership team, led by then Section President Erin Feichtner P.E., Immediate Past President Jonathan Shimko, President Elect Tom Batroney, Section PR Chair Jodi S. Klebick Klebick, and Government Relations Chair Greg Scott PE, PMP quickly reviewed the known facts, researched more information, identified a Section speaker, prepared talking points, and crafted an action plan. Jodi began coordinating all responses and Jonathan became spokesperson. Before 9:00 am that morning, the section was organized and already fielding its first media inquiries and skillfully answering questions concerning the bridge collapse.
The section response team also closely collaborated with ASCE staff in Reston, Virginia and following President Biden’s remarks on the incident in Pittsburgh, began to coordinate local and national requests, ranging from radio, TV, newspaper, and online news outlets like NPR and the New York Times. Because of their quick thinking, and due to the foundational training provided by ASCE and resources inherent in the way the Pittsburgh Section operates, what could have been a weak or poor response from the Section to a tragic local event was transformed into a proactive, coordinated, and professional response by ASCE to a major crisis on a national scale.