Tag Archives: Emergency service

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.


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.

Emergency Preparedness, Web 2.0-Community Style

Post by: Kim Stephens

sf72Getting the public to pay attention to emergency preparedness information can be a challenge. Research in this area tells us that “community-based participatory approaches to designing and disseminating risk communication for at-risk populations, and offering messages in multiple modes that are locally and personally relevant, would have many benefits for strengthen emergency preparedness, response, and recovery for at-risk populations, but are currently underutilized.” Meredith, et al (2008).   Although social media has helped provide a participatory multi-modal approach, there are still many improvements that could be made.

San Francisco, with leadership from Alicia Johnson (@UrbanAreaAlicia) the city’s Resilience and Recovery Manager, is making huge leaps in providing personally relevant preparedness information with the revamp of their 72 Hours preparedness site SF72 or San Francisco 72 Hours. I should note that Alicia emphasized that the site is a team effort and includes the design and innovation consulting firm Ideo, @ideo; Rob Dudgeon, the Director of SF Emergency Services or @sfDEMrob; and Kristin Hogan or @kristinlhogan.

I spoke with an Alicia about the goals and direction this site will be taking. She stated that SF72 concept came from the realization that our current preparepdness messaging is not working.

“So much of what we do is based on individuals preparedness. But research from recent disasters has shown us that people prepare and respond as communities. You never recover from a disaster as an individual, you recover as a community.”

The new site is not quite finished at the time of writing. Once it is done and vetted with SF stakeholders, including the public, the plan is to replace the existing 72Hours.org,

3 Common Preparedness Messaging Mistakes This Type of Site Can Address

photo-91.  Too much information in a non-visual format. We live in an era of video and image communication, yet we continue to provide the public information in a heavy-text format. Public safety organizations are not alone in committing this error. For instance, my high school junior literally tosses college information mailers in the trash if they only include a letter and few, if any, pictures. Mailers that do have a lot of images, however, get placed on her bulletin board.  In terms of public safety,  I commend the new wave of  preparedness apps coming out of emergency management offices, however, quite a few of them look like the screen shot above. And although all of the information is complete, I have to wonder why the content wasn’t made more accessible, with icons or pictures for instance, especially since this particular page is tailored for people with special needs.

banner image

2. Not enough interactive content.  Providing a laundry list of protective action measures is not necessarily the best method to communicate this information.  More than likely it is not even read (see #1).  Even though a list may provide all of the correct content, active learning is way more fun, meaning it holds people’s attention. This increases the chance that the material is retained. The SF72 site embraces this active model, which is evident in the “Quake Quiz,” an interactive quiz that is not only very visual but interesting enough to hold the attention of kids and adults alike. Other apps, such as the game associated with the Disaster Preppers TV show, also provides an example of how preparedness content doesn’t have to be dry, but can actually be entertaining as well.


3. No (or not enough) emphasis on sharing. As the general public moves more and more towards openness this sometimes causes uneasiness in government sectors: sharing isn’t caring… it as a violation of the personal privacy protection act. However, asking people to share with their social networks how they are  preparing  is a great idea/best practice. Why? We know people will often respond more positively when asked to do something by a friend versus a government agency. (See the CDC’s 2012 Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Manual.)

Providing the opportunity for sharing is one thing that the SF72 site also does well. People are asked, for instance, to share that they took the quake quiz and even have access to a bit of code in order to place a banner on any website or blog (which is how I included the image above).  They also intend to include videos of people talking about their experiences during large and small disaster (e.g. a house fire) and how they were prepared, or what they would have done differently. This statement on the site demonstrates their desire to embrace the concept of community.

SF72 is San Francisco’s gathering place for emergency preparedness.
We believe in connection, not catastrophe. We believe in the power of many pairs of hands. We believe in supporting the city we love.

I’m looking forward to seeing the entire site completed.  Alicia also told me that once it is finished, it will be available to other communities to adopt as well, since they are doing the project in an open source format. The quake quiz, however, is a licensed product. If you are interested in more information you can reach Alicia via Twitter or provide a comment below.

Is your organization doing anything similar? Let me know.

Canadian Red Cross Social Media Survey

Post by: Kim Stephens

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is the press release from the Canadian Red Cross that details the survey they conducted of citizen use (or desired use) of social networking in a disaster.  You can download the entire report here: CRC Factum 10 03 12

“The survey, Social Media in Emergencies, is the first of its kind in Canada to look at habits and trends around the use of social media in disasters. Key findings include:

  • 64 per cent of Canadians use social media sites, 62 per cent of whom participate nearly every day
  • 63 per cent think disaster and emergency response agencies, including fire and police, should be prepared to respond to calls for help that are posted on social media networks
  • About one third of respondents (35 per cent) think emergency services would respond to a request for help posted on social media, 74 per cent of whom believe help would arrive within one hour
  • 54 per cent of Canadians say they would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe in an emergency
  •   Although television (39 per cent) and radio (26 per cent) are the preferred ways of receiving news about an emergency, one third (31 per cent) of Canadians say they would prefer various electronic methods, such as web sites, social media or cell phones
  • While the majority of Canadians say they have personally experienced disasters, 66 per cent have not taken steps to prepare themselves for an emergency
  • The main reasons cited for not taking steps to prepare include: perception that a disaster is unlikely to occur in their area (27 per cent); never thought about it (21 per cent); and no time/never got around to it (12 per cent)

“Information is key to keeping people safe in an emergency,” says Conrad Sauvé, secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross. “With the majority of Canadians already engaged on social networking sites, these platforms can be used to get more information on local emergencies and inform people how they can give or receive help.”

In emergencies, the Canadian Red Cross uses social networks to share important updates, provide preparedness information and respond to questions from affected communities.

Across Canada, there have been many disasters in the last year, including wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes. In addition, the Red Cross helps thousands of families each year affected by house fires.

With so many Canadians reporting they are unprepared for emergencies, the Canadian Red Cross is stressing that families prepare for disasters by having enough food, water and provisions to sustain themselves for 72 hours.”

  Contact info: www.redcross.ca;  Facebook (facebook.com/canadianredcross) or  Twitter (@redcrosscanada).

Could Social Media Save Your EM Job?

Post by: Kim Stephens

It is no secret that budget cuts have impacted the emergency management community directly, particularly the position of EM Director. Some community leaders view the EM’s job as dispensable, one that can be filled by the Fire Chief or by a very limited part-time person or volunteer. Isn’t the EM job only necessary in a “disaster”? However, I believe that by using social networking tools to provide a continuous stream of preparedness and crisis communications, EMs can demonstrate the value of  their organization to the community every day. These tools also help EMs build relationships with community members that was never possible with traditional websites. This comes in handy when the time comes for the budget ax. I was very happy today to see a direct example of this from Laclede County, Missouri Office of Emergency Management.

I love this post to their Facebook page, they tell the public how much of the overall budget their office represents, only 1.27%, and request people to “weigh in” on the upcoming hearing.

Getting people to support your office, of course, depends on how well received you are in your community. But, gaining  support for emergency services from people that might not ever personally need your direct assistance can be challenging. By using social media, however, you can connect to community members and provide relevant advise people can heed in their daily lives.  The word “relevance” is key. If you are not relevant in someone’s life then they will not think twice about removing your service from their list of items they have to pay for on the tax bill. Laclede OEM appears to do a great job getting that relevant content to their followers and do have a healthy fan base.

Good luck Laclede! Let us all know how it goes on the 11th!