Category Archives: Social Media and Disaster Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness for Foodies: Arizona DEM has the Right Recipe

Post by: Kim Stephens

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 5.11.39 PMAs National Preparedness Month comes to a close I had an opportunity to check in on the Emergency Kit Cook-Off Contest, sponsored by Arizona State Division of Emergency Management. My mission: Determine the recipe required to cook up a great preparedness campaign (insert canned laughter here).

For those of you who have not heard of their contest, they describe it to potential participants on the cook-off website as follows:

The Emergency Kit Cook-Off is a participatory preparedness activity inspired by the nonperishable contents of a 72-hour emergency food kit. The Kit Cook-Off encourages play with preparedness principles. More to the point, the Kit Cook-Off challenges you to find creative use for the three day’s worth of food and potable water that you squirreled away for the family in case of an emergency. So take a look in your pantry and get cooking.

The website includes multiple entry points for people to participate. For instance, they can do some or all of the following: vote on the ingredients to be included contest (this is done prior to September);  create a recipe designed with the non-perishable ingredients chosen by the voters (recipe submissions are taken  all year); peruse recipes and preparedness tips offered by other citizens; and/or provide a preparedness tip.  The variety of involvement opportunities is a great way to engage people who have varying interests and abilities. There are even tangible rewards–if someone enters a recipe they will receive an apron.

Recipe

I interviewed Ethan Riley, a PIO at Arizona DEM and Cook-Off project manager, about this effort and I asked about the necessary components required to create, sustain and grow such an innovative project. He had some interesting insights and provided me the “recipe” they have used and adjusted over the past several years.

1 Cup Leadership

Strong leadership is required to agree to such a creative project. According to Mr. Riley, the Director of the Arizona DEM and the lead PIO have a great “let’s just try it” ethos. This, he stated, is important in a budget environment that doesn’t allow for extensive market research to determine what types of campaigns might “stick” with the public. Instead, they have taken the approach of taking small risks with imaginative ideas. It should be noted that the campaign had little expenses the first couple of years–this was accomplished by making use of a free blog site, social media and internal staff.

3/4 Cup Creative Thinkers

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 6.35.31 PMIn order to try creative ideas it is necessary to add some creative thinkers to the mix. Ethan stated that the concept of the cook-off came from powerful brainstorming sessions involving food–otherwise known as lunch. Their staff consists of people who consider themselves “foodies” e.g. those interested in great food and restaurants. This interest is also a reflection of the current popular culture that includes television shows such as  Top Chef, Chopped,  Master Chef,  and even entire channels such as the Food Network. The lesson to be learned–if something excites and interests you, it is quite possible others will find it interesting as well.

1/2 Cup Collaboration

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 10.48.05 AMEach year Arizona OEM has incorporated new collaborators in order to expand their reach. Some of the most important partners, however, remain their local emergency management agencies within the state. Ethan noted that local DEMs might not have the resources to initiate this type of program on their own, but they can use what the state has already built. There was a conscience effort not to brand the cook-off with Arizona DEM specifically so that spin-offs could occur at the local level. (I think it would be fun to see a bit of competition between communities by incorporating a leader board-type system as well.)

Collaborations with other emergency management organization across the country have also occurred this year.  For instance, the  Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency’s (CRESA) in Vancouver, Washington incorporated the Cook-off as one of the 30 tasks in their 30 Days 30 Ways Emergency Preparedness Challenge.  On day 16 participants were told:

Today, we want you to put together an Emergency Kit Cook-Off recipe. Recipes should use at least one Featured Ingredient supplemented with other nonperishable pantry items.

Note: If your organization is interested in a collaboration, contact Arizona DEM via email.

The Chef

We can’t forget the project manager. I was interested in the day-to-day effort required to sustain the program given the current budget situation of most emergency management organizations.  Ethan indicated that he spends about 10-15% of his time during National Preparedness Month on the campaign.  A little more time was spent gearing up the project, of course, but in terms of daily maintenance, the effort is not as extensive as one might imagine.

Regarding their reach, they have not yet compiled their numbers for the month of September; however,  I’m guessing that no matter how many people participated, those that did will certainly have a pantry that is ready for a disaster.

I look forward to hearing your comments. Let me know what your organization is cooking up! For more details about the Cook-off click here: http://www.emergencykitcookoff.org.

Boston Hospital’s Focus on Preparedness Paid Off During Marathon Bombing

Post by: Kim Stephens

Emergency-Preparedness-Checklist-1024x682September is National Preparedness Month, so it seemed worth noting a story that appeared on NPR that discussed organizational preparedness.  The interview was on NPR’s “Here and Now” and  was with Dr. Ron Walls, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston,  and Dr. Richard Zane,  Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver. The topic and title:  Before Marathon Bombings, Aurora Helped Boston Prepare. Several things in this interview stood out: 1. Drills and exercises won’t measure your ability to respond to a worst case scenario unless you test the worst case scenario;  2. It’s OK to question your state of readiness; 3. Twitter and social media matter; and 4.  The lessons we can learn from others in our profession are invaluable.  (CBS News did a similar story and the YouTube video of it is embedded below.)

Are We Ready?

hospitalIn this interview, Dr. Walls noted that their hospital did 70 drills in the previous six years, and he thought they were prepared. However, Dr. Zane provided information about the Aurora movie theatre shooting that made him question his underlying readiness rational. Dr. Walls stated “In all of our planning…we had never drilled for receiving more than 12 patients per hour.”  In Colorado, however, instead of 12 per hour, the University of Colorado Hospital received 23… in rapid succession. This information left Dr. Walls wondering:  “Oh my goodness, are we really ready for this?”

Dr. Walls pulled together his Disaster preparedness committee and said: “I want to tear this up [their preparedness update to the Board] and start all over.”  His new theme became:  “Are We Ready?” He said in the interview, “I wanted to ensure we could do this, and I didn’t think we were ready.”

Twitter Matters

One thing noted in the NPR piece was the importance social media played in providing information from the scene. When the bombing happened  staffers at some Boston hospitals found out about the event when they saw Tweets alerting them to tragedy from doctors positioned at the finish line.  This had an impact–for instance, at Mass General an anesthesiologist suggested immediately stopping all elective surgeries.  The report, “Twitter as a Sentinel in Emergency Situations: Lessons from the Boston Marathon Explosions, was referenced by the NPR host in which researchers found that Tweets sent from the scene appeared 6 full minutes before hospitals were notified by Public Health Officials. This information has left some hospitals asking: Can we use social media more effectively?

Prepare to Support the Staff

On a final note, Dr. Walls said that when the dust settled  he called Dr. Zane and asked him what he had done wrong in the first 48 hours after the movie theatre shooting. The answer came down to supporting the staffs’ emotion needs. Dr. Zane told him:

“Think of all the intensive emotional support you need to provide to your staff. Think of it in the most generous way… and then triple it.”

One piece of irony: the Brigham and Women’s Hospital received exactly 23 patients.

Social Pressure: Can it work for Disaster Preparedness?

Post by: Kim Stephens

medium_3955644975In this post I examine what social media, emergency preparedness and get-out the vote messaging have in common–it seems like a stretch, I know!

Every September is National Preparedness Month and the typical information campaign revolves around getting people to understand their risks, make a plan, and get a kit.  But, measuring whether or not people have actually changed their behavior is the tricky part. On October 1 how will we know if people are more prepared for the hazards they face?

In terms of benchmarks, an often cited American Red Cross survey in 2008 found that only one in ten American households had accomplished these tasks. Research in this area also reveals interesting demographics regarding who is more likely to take these steps (e.g. homeowners vs renters, older adults vs those younger than 34, etc.) and why people prepare or not. There are many barriers to disaster preparedness, each with implications for messaging, but it is somewhat common knowledge that risk perception is dependent upon both how the information is communicated (Mileti and Sorensen, 1990) and how it is interpreted through social interactions (Kirschenbaum, 1992).

Can Information Shared on Social Networks Influence Behavior?

If social interactions play such an important role in how people make decisions, then Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management is on the right track. They are experimenting with the social platform ThunderClap, which was specifically designed to influence people via their social connections about a product, idea or movement. The “about” tab states:

Thunderclap is the first-ever crowdspeaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. It allows a single message to be mass-shared, flash mob-style, so it rises above the noise of your social networks. By boosting the signal at the same time, Thunderclap helps a single person create action and change like never before.

Fairfax County’s Thunderclap involves accomplishing 30 Easy Emergency Prep Ideas in 30 Days. Participants agree to allow a pre-scripted message appear on their Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr timeline on September 9th advertising the fact that they are doing one, some or all of these preparedness activities.  The platform does have a few idiosyncrasies:

  •  If the County does not reach their goal of 100 supporters then the message is not delivered–at least not on this platform. Talk about an incentive structure!
  • The tool can be a bit confusing. I had to read and re-read what they wanted me to do until I finally realized that I didn’t have to post–that it would be done for me. Although I had no problem with them posting on my behalf, this might cause concern for others.
  • Making a pledge to do a preparedness activity is not the same as actually doing the deed, so although this platform is quite cool–it does not eliminate the problem of actually measuring behavior change, other methods have to used for that purpose.

However, with that being said, the potential to amplify the message and reach a huge audience with this model is immense, since it is based on people’s existing social connections.  For instance, if two people sign up to blast the message to their Facebook friends the reach isn’t 2–it is 300! (The average number of connections is 150.)

Does this work?

031110_votedThe impact of Fairfax County’s Thunderclap might not be known anytime soon, however, quantitative analysis of the 2012 “I  voted” virtual campaign does speak to the potential significance.

On the day of  the 2012 election, for the first time, people could display their civic engagement on their Facebook page with an “I Voted Today” virtual sticker. Researchers wanted to know if this display elicited an “Oh–I need to go do that!” type of response. Apparently, it did. Techcrunch reported the findings:

The first large-scale experimental research on the political influence of social networks finds that Facebook quadruples the power of get-out-the-vote messages. While the single-message study produced a moderately successful boost in turnout (a 2.2% increase in verified votes), the most important finding was that 80% of the study’s impact came from “social contagion,” users sharing messages with friends who would otherwise never have seen it. This is the first definitive proof that social networks, as opposed to television or radio, have uniquely powerful political benefits.

Published in the latest edition of the prestigious science journal, Nature, the 61 million participant study randomly assigned all Facebook users over 18-years-old to see an “I Voted” counter at the top of their newsfeed with the number of total users who had voted on Nov 2nd, which had a link for more information about local polling places. Turnout was verified from a database of public voting records. Interestingly, the 3-pronged experiment displayed two types of “I Voted” messages, one with pictures of friends underneath and one without. Those who did not see pictures of their friends were barely affected by the message at all, “which raises doubts about the effectiveness of information-only appeals to vote in this context,” surmise the authors.

Although voting is a somewhat easier task than doing 30 separate preparedness activities, this research does shed some light on how social sharing can help influence desirable behaviors. Let’s hope people will see these posts and think–I should do that too. Best case, they actually do!

Related articles

Getting Folks to “ShakeOut” via Social Media: Lessons for all Hazards

Post by: Kim Stephens
shakeout
 The Great ShakeOut (not to be confused with the Harlem Shake)  started in California but has now become a multi-state as well as international earthquake drill. The objective is to get citizens to practice the recommended action to take during an earthquake. The protective action mantra that is repeated in almost all of  the messaging is simple to remember: “Drop, Cover and Hold-On.”
Drop, cover and hold-on for ShakeOut BC

Drop, cover and hold-on for ShakeOut BC (Photo credit: BC Gov Photos)

The ShakeOut has become a bit of petri dish for those in the social sciences who study citizen engagement and participation in disaster preparedness activities–as well as the effectiveness of preparedness messaging. In turn, the outreach efforts have been fine tuned throughout the years in order to take advantage of lessons learned from each year of the event.

A key aspect of the Great ShakeOut is the integration of comprehensive science-based earthquake research and the lessons learned from decades of social science research about why people get prepared. The result is a “teachable moment” on par with having an actual earthquake (often followed by increased interest in getting ready for earthquakes). The Great ShakeOut creates the sense of urgency that is needed for people, organizations, and communities to get prepared, to practice what to do to be safe, and to learn what plans need to be improved.
               Quote via: http://www.washington.edu/emergency/shakeout

Marketing

This event is promoted through a variety of methods that are centered on websites designed  for each region. Citizens are encouraged to register via the website and make a pledge to participate in the drill.  Once registered, they are asked to use resources on the sites such as drill manuals, broadcasts, scenarios, and safety information to help develop their plans in order to be more prepared for an earthquake.

How do you keep interest year-round?

Even though the ShakeOut is planned for one day out of the year, community outreach  is a job for all 12-months; and reaching people via social media has increasingly become an important piece of the “ShakeOut” communications strategy.  Jason Ballmann, (@JasonBallmann) the Social Media Strategist of the Southern California Earthquake Center told me how they keep people’s attention.
“I think what makes us special is that we are already extremely relevant. We’re based in Earthquake Country. Yet, we try to make preparedness and recovery fresh, interesting, and fun. Social media is a great way for us to do that, and I think our sincerity and wish to keep people safe and ready is obvious.”

Define Your Strategy

Being “fresh, interesting and fun” however, is not something that can be done in an ad hoc fashion.  According to Jason, their social media strategy includes the following 5 main points:
  • Define the best platforms for our audiences and ways to use them, notably Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Vine App;
  • Identify key players and read/share/retweet their content (Twitter lists, like them as our Facebook Page, follow them on Pinterest, etc…);
  • Listen to how audiences are participating in ShakeOut, staying prepared, and practicing Drop, Cover, and Hold On with their shared content;
  • Create innovative, unique content that will engage and inspire our audiences to be better prepared and informed;
  • Attend live events (expos, fairs) and post event/news-related content to engage people on social media while staying true to our mission.
Their social presence, as mentioned above, include the big 3 (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) but also they have added the Vine App, Pinterest and Google Plus. Their presence is robust with over 7,000 thumbs up on Facebook and over 4,o00 followers on Twitter. I really like the way they have taken full advantage of adding other social apps to their Facebook page–making it a bit of a one-stop social stop: fans can readily see their YouTube videos and their Pinterest page without leaving Facebook.
I’m also loving that they are experimenting with humor. The video: “Don’t fight a brick–the brick will win” (see below)  is something that teenagers might actually share. Why is that important? Getting people to share the message is always one of the main goals of any social media strategy. Also, it is important to keep in mind that even though an older person might not find the video humorous, not all content can connect with all people. That is the beauty of social media–it allows the messenger to reach all segments of the audience with tailored content with the knowledge that one size does not fit all.
Don’t forget–the ShakeOut is on 10/17 at 10:17AM–no what your location. See the California ShakeOut website here: http://shakeout.org.

Should Your Emergency Management Agency be on Vine?

Post by: Kim Stephens

vine-logoSome consideration ought to be given to adding the new video-sharing-mobile-application from Twitter called “Vine” to your Public Safety Organization’s communications toolbox. However, if you don’t have teenagers in your house you might not be sure what Vine is or what it could do for your organization. Currently, Vine is one of fastest growing video-sharing apps and tops Apple’s app download chart. Some Federal entities have noticed: the White House is already taking advantage of this new means of connecting to their audience and GovLoop recently posted an article titled “Vine: Government’s 6 seconds to Shine.”

What is it?

For detailed  background information on this new social sharing application, see Twitter’s FAQ page here, but in a nutshell, Vine allows users to post very short (only 6 seconds) of video content to the application via a smartphone. Other Vine users can follow you to see your posts, however, content is easily shared via either Facebook or Twitter and can also be embedded in a blog (as demonstrated below). In fact, “A post on Vine cannot be viewed outside of the Vine app unless it is shared on Twitter or Facebook, in which case a link for the video will be made publicly available.” The Vines loop–so unless you click away from the video it continues to play over and over, although this can be a bit annoying, it is actually pretty good feature for getting your point across.

Why?

Public Safety and Emergency Management organizations are having a hard enough time finding resources to post interesting content to the “big 3″ social media sites–YouTube, Facebook and Twitter–so thinking about adding responsibility for another social network might seem ludicrous. However, in my opinion, the forced brevity of Vine actually makes it a great tool for preparedness messages and maybe even for protective action information/demonstrations. In terms of preparedness messaging, this video below is intended to be funny versus instructional, but it inspired me, nonetheless. (Click the x to hear the sound–otherwise it is muted.)

Although the Vine above is shot all at once, a great feature of the app is the ability to stop the action. Once recording from within the Vine app, to stop the scene you simply tap the screen of your smartphone and then tap again to restart.  This feature makes it a great way to create instructional snippets without having to edit the content post-production. See this cringe-worthy “How to Fail” video below by the same slapstick comedian from above (I hope this young man has a good relationship with his local EMTs).

Adding very short video content to your Agency’s Tweets and Facebook posts could be a very valuable asset. Instead of saying: If you catch on fire remember to “Stop Drop and Roll” you could actually demonstrate what to do. Similar demonstrations could be done for “Duck, Cover and Hold On” or  “Don’t drown–Turn Around.” Increasingly this is an image driven society–this tool provides another way to insert ourselves into the conversation.

Let me know–is your Agency considering Vine or have you already started using this tool? I’d love to see some public safety examples.

#SMEMChat Receives Honorable Mention

Post by: Kim Stephens

English: Blue ribbon

English: Blue ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alex Rose (@U62 on Twitter) thought it would be a great idea to submit the #SMEMChat for the FEMA Citizen Corps “Partners in Preparedness Award.” Since #SMEM is populated with people who are collaborative by nature, a Google Doc was stood up where many of us contributed to the entry. I was asked, on behalf of the group, to send it in with my contact information.

I am happy to report….we almost won! Darn! We didn’t come in first, but honorable mention is not too shabby. Below is the email I received from the National Office of Citizen Corps.

Dear Partners in Preparedness

We are pleased to announce that you have received an honorable mention for the 2012FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness Awards! Thank you so much for promoting and sharing with us the amazing work that you do to help prepare your communities for disaster. It was obvious that you all put a lot of thought, time, and energy into your applications.  Thank you again for inspiring FEMA to continue to recognize achievements in Individual and Community Preparedness. As a recipient of an Honorable Mention, you should receive a certificate from FEMA in recognition of your accomplishments, and you will be recognized on our website.

While you were not selected to receive an Individual and Community Preparedness Award this year, please know that even among an exceptionally strong pool of applicants, your submissions really stood out! We received over 150 applications from every corner of the country, and we may follow up with you in the future to learn more about your programs and efforts – you’re all contributing to a safer America, and your work should be celebrated! We hope that you will apply again next year. Thank you again for your time and your efforts.

The National Office of Citizen Corps

 Here is the link: http://www.citizencorps.gov/newsevents/awards/2012/2012winners.shtm

Yea us! Thanks to everyone who contributed and a special thanks to Alex Rose!

 

Using YouTube to Communicate Preparedness Messages

Post by: Kim Stephens

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

When communicating life safety and preparedness information online, it is really important to remember what retailers have already learned: video sells your message much better than text. The article “10 Web Video Stastics You Need to Know” details some interesting trends in how people are consuming web-based and mobile content. Five key points:

  1.  Visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average (Comscore)
  2.  59% of senior executives prefer to watch video instead of reading text. (Forbes)
  3.  50% of smartphone users watch web video on their mobile device. (Google Blog)
  4. Video and other multi-media product viewing options were rated more effective than any other site initiatives in an Adobe survey of almost 2,000 interactive marketers. (Adobe)
  5. Video in email marketing has been shown to increase click-through rates by over 96% (Implix Email Marketing Trends Survey)

What does that mean for the public sector? It means that we need to be more creative in content production and distribution. This, of course, is already happening. A simple search on YouTube for “emergency preparedness” yields 17,900 results. The content of these preparedness videos, however, does not always compel viewership. To be frank, if your video is lame, no one is going to watch it. Content is king–even with video.

One of the best videos I’ve seen to date is the recent Department of Homeland Security grant funded project produced by the city of Houston, titled: Run, Hide, Fight, which describes what citizens should do in the event of an active shooter in an office building (or any building). The release, or at least circulation, was very timely–just after the movie theatre shooting in Colorado. The best thing about the video is that the viewer feels genuine concern about the actors. I watched the entire 5:55 minutes to see who survived.

I did find the content, however, to miss the mark in some respects: they completely forget people with access and functional needs, both in terms of production and distribution. The video is not captioned nor is there a script readily available, and furthermore, they depict every person in the video as young and able-bodied. What about a person that does not hear that a shooting is happening in the building? What about a person that is in a wheelchair and therefore can’t run, hide, or fight easily?  They also disabled the comment section on the YouTube platform, which is unfortunate, in my opinion. How else will they learn what people thought about the content?  Nonetheless, the video is compelling. It made me consider my own exit and/or hide plan.

Does your agency have any videos ready for production? Let me know!

Cell Phone Preparedness: Small County, Great Example

blackberry

blackberry (Photo credit: arrayexception)

Post by: Kim Stephens

Cecil County, Maryland proves that you don’t have to have huge budgets or a large staff to provide quality service to your citizens.  My last post highlighted Fairfax County and their cell phone preparedness page.   James Hamilton (aka @Disaster_guy on twitter) chimed in that he had written something similar for Cecil County’s emergency management website. The content, however, has some added tips for citizens that I think are really important.  I even like the introduction:

During a major emergency your cell phone may become a lifeline in many ways. Is your cell phone up to the task? Particularly if you have a smart phone such as an iPhone, Android, or Blackberry, there are many resources available that may be helpful in the case of an emergency. This becomes even more critical if you have lost power and/or internet.

There are five things this tip sheet does right:

1.  Points out what kind of phone will work with wireless emergency alerts:

  • If you are shopping for a new phone, select one that is capable of receiving CMAS / Wireless Emergency Alerts messages. Your carrier should be able to direct you to these phones.

2. Highlights specific information regarding the county’s notification system and social media presence:

  • Ensure that you have registered your cellular number with Cecil County’s emergency notification system. This system is only used in the event of extreme emergencies.
  • If you use Facebook or Twitter on your phone, ensure that you are following our Facebook or Twitter accounts. (In an emergency, any phone that can send and receive text messages can receive DES’ Twitter feed by texting “follow @CecilCountyDES” to 40404).

3. Points to and provides hyperlinks to local response partners, including the power company:

  • If your home is served by Delmarva Power, download their iPhone/iPadAndroid, or Blackberry app to report outages and view outage status.
  • Search for an app that will provide you with weather alerts and weather radar. There are many free weather apps for each operating system.

4. Describes cloud computing options and why they are important:

  • Consider hosting emergency information such as insurance policies and a home inventory in an online repository such as Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox so that it will be accessable to you on your phone or from any computer after an emergency.

5. Describes power issues and how to address them:

  • Consider purchasing a solar or hand-cranked charger for your cell phone.

Thanks again to James for directing me to their great tips. If your agency is doing something interesting please let me know!

Digital Preparedness Kit – Fairfax County, Virginia

Post by: Kim Stephens

I like to scan emergency management websites looking for best practice examples to share. Due to the recent #derecho storm on the easter corridor I checked into Fairfax County–always a great example–to see what they were up to and I stumbled onto their Digital Preparedness Kit. Although this recent storm was humbling regarding the use of cell phones in a crisis, now that power is being restored, cell service is actually one of the first things coming back online.

Verizon announced Tuesday afternoon that nearly all of its customers had cellphone service restored, but there were lingering problems with TV, landline and Internet service in Virginia, Maryland and The District. Mitchell  [of Verizon] said there was no timetable for when those problems might be resolved. (Washington Post Local)

Recommending how citizens can have their cell phones “emergency ready” therefore, is still a great idea. Fairfax has ten great tips that should be a staple on all emergency preparedness websites.  Recommendation #7, which describes the importance of conserving cell power in case the user needs to dial 911, is a bit ironic considering 911 was out of service for an unacceptable amount of time in the county during the storm. That recommendation should also come with a side note for government agencies: “avoid sending tweets with links to information that needs to be downloaded by citizens, therefore increasing network congestion.” Nonetheless, this page is a great resource which also provide information and links to all of their mobile apps.

Do you have a “cell preparedness” page on your local agency website? Let me know. Here are their tips:

Top 10 Digital Preparedness Tips

  1. Tell your friends & family you are OK via text, email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
  2. Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Avoid calling by phone.
  3. If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1. Remember that you cannot currently text 9-1-1.  If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 9-1-1.
  4. Save important phone numbers to your phone.
  5. Keep charged batteries and car-phone chargers available as back-up power for your cell phone.
  6. Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using that draw power.
  7. Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1.
  8. If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
  9. Charge your digital camera or buy batteries for your film camera if you need to document storm damage afterwards.
  10. Get connected with us through the tools listed on this page: texts, Twitter and more.

YouTube Can Help Spread Emergency Preparedness Messages

Post by: Kim Stephens

Yesterday (March 26) I had the amazing honor of sitting on a panel at the National Emergency Managers Association with some of the most talented and creative emergency managers in the country, particularly with regard to their use and application of social media: Cheryl Bledsoe (@Cherylble), Greg Licamale (@G_r_e_g) Jeff Phillips (@JSPhillips), James Hamilton (disaster_guy), Chris Thompson (@redcrossmom), Brian Crumpler (@emgis), Rob Dudgeon (@sfDEMrob).

For my small contribution to that esteemed panel, I talked about how to creatively provide disaster preparedness information to the public via social media. My talk was based, in part, on this post.  A tweet today led me to another example of agencies doing great work in this area. The Greater Kansas City Region’s Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee  (MEMC) has developed three YouTube videos that  look and feel little like the Mac/PC commercials. They even have nice catchy music in the background. A big guy is “Mr. Disaster,” and he’s up to no-good. Another reasonable guy walks citizens through easy steps they can take to prepare for Mr. Disaster should he come their way.

The use of YouTube here, is important.  YouTube allows for videos to be shared easily on a multitude of platform: blogs, facebook, twitter, and google +.  The MEMC have embedded the video on their own webpage, and as you can see, I’ve posted the video to this blog post. This ease of sharing can only allow for more eyes to see the content and therefore, hopefully, increase public engagement and preparedness.

Is your agency creating this kind of message for YouTube? It would be fun to have a repository for those videos. Maybe the Emergency 2.0 wiki would be a good place for that.