Tag Archives: Fire and Security

Emergency Managers should find their funny bone.

Post by: Kim Stephens

Reaching the public with preparedness and mitigation information has always been difficult. The Federal Emergency Management Agency even tried to address this problem with a crowdsourced project: Sharing the Responsibility to Protect Communities Against the Impacts of Disasters This government “challenge” offered no monetary incentive, but they received 188 submissions, nonetheless. (CDCs Flu App Challenge, in contrast, is offering $35,000 in prizes.)

THE CHALLENGE: To come up with ideas on how we can all help prepare our communities before disaster strikes and how the government can support community-based activities to help everyone be more prepared.

Looking through the submissions, there is everything from “Air Port Kitchens for cooking,”  to “Disaster Preparedenss Tax Credit,” to a “Just-in Time Disaster Registry”. Full disclosure, I also submitted an idea that utilizes social media called  “Peer-to-Peer Preparedness.”A lot of these proposals have tremendous merit, but I doubt any one item will be the magic bullet.

Social media is already serving as a platform for emergency management programs to communicate preparedness and mitigation information, but to be honest,  it is difficult to get people to pay attention to your sites when there is not a crisis. How can “be ready” possibly compete with a stalking cat–which has gotten over 21,000,000 million views! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzzjgBAaWZw&feature=related

One recommendation I would have to gain more viewers is simple: be funny. Of course, what is humorous and what is not is up for debate and even research; see this  article: An examination of Cognitive Factors Related to Humorousness in Television Advertising. However, watching this video of a TV-fisherman-personality, I realized that people of all ages (from my 80 year-old dad to my 14 year-old daughter) find this funny.  If the message was “don’t be this guy, do XYZ instead,” it might be a way to reach people.

I’m under no illusion that this would immediately solve our lack of interest in disaster preparedness in the U.S., but a funny personality to carry the message might be a good start to at least promote awareness.  Find the funniest person in your office and think about how to gain viewers through the power of laughter.

The Need for Challenge Grants!


Image by jim.greenhill via Flickr

Opinion piece posted by Claire B. Rubin

In recent weeks I have noticed two requests for ideas that can use new digital and interactive media to improve some aspect of emergency management. The first was the challenge issued by Craig Fugate for ideas on preparedness, and the second is in the popular blog done by Eric Holdeman, titled Mobile Apps for Emergency Management. Both share the same sentiment – make your good ideas public, essentially giving them away, with no remuneration.  After that, who knows who will pick them up and develop them.

Now, I am a public-service oriented person, and I do a great deal of pro bono work in the EM community. In fact, this blog is just one of many examples. But I have to wonder how many people think this is the way to advance the state of the art and practice of emergency management. As someone who just happens to have quite a few ideas of projects that would be a contribution to EM, I  wonder just how widely held this expectation of a “challenge-with-no-grant” is. ( I would also add that people on salary who expect this pro bono work may not realize that such innovative work often is done by those not on salary.)

So, How about some contests or challenges with a modest incentive – like $10 or 20 K? This would allow independent thinkers and doers to come up with some much-needed projects and products. Several federal agencies have done this and had a return on their investment that was substantial. And businesses use competitions with great success.

In the emergency management and homeland security communities most of the funding goes to large contractors, where the total cost is in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Let’s be fair and let’s be creative.  We need a few good challenge grant opportunities, especially for the newly emerging area of endeavor of applying digital and interactive media to emergency management.

How about some of our readers stepping up to the plate and supporting small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs?  I hope we have some brave leaders out there who will sponsor a challenge.