Monday, August 26, 2013

Preparedness in Unlikely Places

Beginning this week and going through August 2nd, 50,000 + people have new addresses as they setup camp in Black Rock, Nevada and transform the blank Playa canvas into a makeshift city complete with its own post office and airport:
A little before and after for you
Burning Man is many things: art festival, music festival, fire festival, dance festival, you get the idea...Having never been, I've only heard about it from friends who've attended and they all have said what a great time they had...however, I've never heard any of them say anything like:
"Burning Man was a great opportunity to beef up my Disaster Preparedness kit and put it to use!" 
But if you look at their site and the list of things they recommend bringing, it looks very similar to a preparedness kit:
The list goes on to mention: 
  • Garbage and recycling bags, and tools to clean up your camp site ( rakes, magnets, gloves, etc.)
  • Rope or tie-down straps—one way or another, you’ll need them.
  • Duct tape—you’ll find a need for it, guaranteed.
  • Any required prescriptions, contact lens supplies (disposables work great), or anything else you need to maintain your health and comfort in a remote area with no services
  • Flashlights and spare batteries (headlamps are useful) so as to see and be seen at night
  • Sunscreen/sunblock & sunglasses
  • Crank powered / battery powered am/fm radio
  • Common sense, an open mind, a sense of humor, and a positive attitude
With National Preparedness Month creeping up on us, I thought this was apropos given the emphasis being placed on getting preparedness to resonate with everyday people. Here is a festival that has tied preparedness into its very fabric, not by design, but out of necessity, because if you want to go, you have to be able to survive in the middle of the desert for a week. While I'm sure not every attendee comes fully prepared for 100 degree days and 40 degree nights, Burning Man provides an exercise in living off the grid, and as such those people who attend are unwittingly getting put through an exercise in Disaster Preparedness...which is pretty cool. Burning Man has accomplished what many in emergency management and the preparedness community are striving for: relevance and integration without bashing people over the head.

Even if part of my correlation between Burning Man attendees and disaster preparedness is way off, I still believe there's an opportunity that the emergency management community could jump on: Festivals and Races (obstacle, traditional, adventure, otherwise), where people, specifically young people are in situations where they're "roughing it," use these events to reinforce the idea that being prepared is advantageous. Use these types of events to host kit building activities, have trivia and giveaways, use the opportunity to become a sponsor, whatever...From what I've seen, these types of messages get relegated to community days and local events at malls which is fine, but I believe there is an opportunity to broaden preparedness appeal by surprising people by with where and when they see this type of messaging. 

A great example of this can be seen in the Center for Disease Control's Zombie Apocalypse preparedness campaign.
If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.

What started as a joke turned into one of the CDC's most effective ways of reaching people with a traditional message in a new way. The Zombie Preparedness campaign does a good job of taking preparedness and giving it context that makes it accessible for everyone and not just people who are involved promoting preparedness. 

Creating new opportunities to interact with preparedness messaging is key to stakeholder engagement, and building on the success of some of the public service announcements posted previously, maybe this would be a good time to reach out and tap the professional marketers of the world to see if they can help.

If events like Burning Man are getting 50,000+ people to unwittingly put the beginnings of a preparedness kit together without really trying, then the community within emergency management can build on and learn from that to grow partnerships and get out to events that they wouldn't normally attend. 

So what do you think? Am I full of it, or is this a good idea? Have any examples of good preparedness campaigns? Share them below.


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