Thursday, August 8, 2013

Preparedness is about more than having a kit

Having the physical resources to get through a disaster are important: food, water, flashlights, a radio, medicine, a means to charge your phone, etc...these are some of the components that make up the foundation of self-sufficiency that everyone should have in preparation for an event. Many of you probably know much of this because physical preparedness is drilled into our heads, because it's tangible; you can create simple messaging around it and it’s easy to quantify impact and evaluate results. The tougher side, the side that is often overlooked and far more difficult to quantify, is creating social value in learning and passing on the knowledge of relevant information pertinent to response outside of: Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Get Involved.

Make a Plan | Build a Kit | Get Involved
This is the message that gets pushed at all levels of government, simple and straightforward, yet translating awareness into action remains a challenge. In the Booz Allen Hamilton paper: Mitigating Our Nation's Risks: Calling upon the Whole Community an examination of the psychology of behavior and what needs to happen in order to turn awareness into action is discussed. As it turns out, we all think a disaster is going to happen to anyone but us, and as a result, we can be lax in our approach to preparing for an event. This delusion is what ends up hampering response and recovery efforts down the line because many don’t know what to do and more importantly, what to expect.

Teach Someone To Build a Kit and They’ll Know How to Build a Kit
Disaster Preparedness is not just about having a kit and a meeting point, although those are integral aspects to personal preparedness; it’s about education and the setting and managing of expectations in an effort to help mitigate some of the confusion of an overwhelming situation. While there are a host of resources out there that reference preparedness, here are few topics that I think individuals would benefit from if included in preparedness materials:

Topic
Info
Insurance: Knowing what you’re covered for and an idea of how the process works will save you time and frustration.
·     How to read your policy
·     What’re you covered for?
·     How do you file a claim?
·     Does an Adjuster have to 
      conduct a site visit before I 
      begin cleaning up?
·     In lieu of a site visit will   
      photos or a video suffice?
Roles & Responsibilities: Knowing who is supposed to do what will work to mitigate a lot of misdirected anger.
·     What is FEMA’s role in         
       response?
·     What does the Red Cross 
       actually do?
·     An explanation of the FEMA 
      grant process
Timelines: Having a general idea on timing can help mitigate confusion and anger.
·     Search & Rescue
·     Response
·     Recovery
Long Term Recovery: What happens once everything is cleaned up?
·     Transition from cleanup to 
      Long Term Recovery
·     Long Term Recovery 
      Committee formation
·     Permitting process for 
      repairing and rebuilding

The point of the above is that there are more pieces of information out there that will help create a base level of understanding beyond existing messaging related to disaster preparedness.

So what do we do about it?
We need to approach this like any for profit enterprise would in an effort to try and change mindsets - use Marketing, PR, and Advertising and the many tools it has at its disposal. This is already happening and what's being produced is pretty cool...but in too much of an ad hoc manner. With operational budgets dwindling, finding room for advertising sounds ridiculous, and is. But there are people out there whose sole mission is to change the way we think about soap, toothbrushes, and dish detergent...why can't we hire those minds to help us think through how we can change mindsets around preparedness and do it in a way that will change behavior?








Let's Get Digital
Sites like Khan Academy and Ted Ed are examples of online education 2.0, they are places that people seek out to gain access to new ideas and perspectives...when was the last time you went to Ready.gov to do that or FEMA's Independent Study Website? The opportunity is there to create an online space that can act as a resource clearinghouse while providing access to tutorials, updates, and relevant content promoting preparedness.

or...

Let's Go Old Skool
I vividly remember Officer Grazonty standing in my Elementary School auditorium telling us about ‘Stranger Danger’ and how to be safe on Halloween 20+ years ago. I also remember D.A.R.E from high school, Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Of course we all made fun of it…but we remember it. And finally I remember P.A.S.S. from a safety lecture in reference to how to use a fire extinguisher. Maybe I'm Rainman and have a gift for remembering safety related information...or maybe I was in school and the confluence of age, environment, message, and speaker all worked to indelibly imprint these safety tips in my psyche. Based on that, I believe there are opportunities for integrating disaster preparedness into existing school curriculum: Earth Science, Health, Social Studies, etc...ways to illustrate a disasters' impact and what they can do and encourage their parents to do to help mitigate them.

If we are going to get serious about integrating disaster preparedness into a ‘whole of community’ paradigm, it can’t just be for senior level officers in Non-Profits and Emergency Management. Of course we want those people well versed in all things disaster, but the support of a community who has been involved in the planning will be a far greater asset than those who feel like they've been kept in the dark during response and recovery.

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