One of Arlington County’s safety departments has undergone a staff-led rebranding effort, complete with a new name and a new look.
As of July 1, emergency management employees and those in the county’s Emergency Communications Center work in the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. Department staff voted for the name from several suggestions.
“While we do not often change the name of our departments, and not all departments have logos, in the past 15 years some have had name changes,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. Two examples are the current Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which both underwent reorganizations.
At the heart of the Office of Emergency Management’s rebranding is an effort to be more inclusive of the entire department’s staff. The two initially had been separate divisions — OEM fell under the fire department and ECC under the police department — but they merged into the same department in 2004. Still, they kept their separate functions: Emergency management staff plan public preparedness campaigns and hazard and crisis mitigation, while communications staff run the 911 call center and dispatch first responders to the public.
The name, however, technically only covered the emergency management section, not the communications staff. Department director Jack Brown sought out a new name that more accurately represents both functions.
“The mission sets are a bit different, but bringing them together under one department makes a lot of sense,” said Brown. “The previous name only reflected part of the mission. We are on the same team, and our name now reflects that.”
Schwartz confirmed that these types of name changes should benefit both the county staff and the public. “Our goal is to ensure that each department’s mission and purpose is clear, both internally and publicly… We believe the new name makes the work of this critical team clear to all,” he said.
Instead of hiring an independent consultant for the rebranding, the project was fueled entirely by ECC and OEM staff, including the logo design. The logo incorporates elements representing various aspects of the department’s safety missions. For example, the radio tower represents communications, and the lightning and rain drops represent preparedness for weather events. The individual parts are encompassed within a pentagon shape.
“Our set of missions are within that pentagon. It’s a symbol, it reminds us why we’re here,” Brown said. “We’re here not just because of the Pentagon and 9/11. We’re here because really bad things happen and we want to prevent them from happening. If they do happen, we’re here to help the public get through it.”
That being said, Brown adds: “But these symbols are nothing without our people and their character. Our brand is our professionalism, our work ethic and our mutual commitment to public safety. I think these changes reflect that and I’m proud of this department and its future.”
Brown has been contemplating the rebranding for a couple years but set the plan into motion last fall. He received an overwhelmingly positive response when he asked for employee feedback about the idea, and some employees volunteered to help with the project.
The new brand’s launch was intentionally timed to reduce effects to the community. “We’re not going to do it in the middle of budget cycle, we’ll do it at the beginning of a fiscal year,” Brown said. That way, none of the budget documents for fiscal year 2017 needed to be remade and the department could start fiscal year 2018 with its new name.
To further reduce expenses, the department will not overhaul all items bearing its old name and logo in one fell swoop. Employees have been encouraged to make no-cost changes such as updating websites, presentations and email signature lines with the new name and logo. Plus, some low-cost items such as letterheads and entrance signs will be reprinted over the next few weeks. But lower priority items including business cards and branded clothing will remain unchanged for the time being.
“I’m very mindful of the county budget and its limited resources. Something like this shouldn’t break the bank,” Brown said. “Over time, as normal expendables need to be replaced we can make those changes. I’m not going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars of taxpayers money because of a changed logo and name.”
So far, employees seem to have a positive view of the changes. “I think they’re proud of it,” Brown said of the rebranding and the teamwork that went into it. “We’re all here for the same purpose: to keep Arlington safe. We have to take care of the public and also each other.”