Tag Archives: National Preparedness Month

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.

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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!

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The December List: CRESA Leads the Way

Post by: Kim Stephens

My last contribution to the December List of top SMEM locations was NY’s Digital  Road Map, I immediately heard from readers–“Hey! That’s not fair. They have budgets that we can only fantasize about.” No one said that exact statement, but that was the sentiment.

As Jim Garrow’s 12 Day’s of SMEM post highlighted, it does not take a lot of money, or even talent, to start a social media campaign. First and foremost, it takes a purpose. He reminded us of how the CDC got started: the threat was H1N1; the goal was to reach as many citizens as possible; the objective was to inform people how to protect themselves; the vehicle was a conference room, a videocamera, and a free YouTube account.

The objective for most public safety  messaging is ultimately to change behavior.  But getting people to do something out-of-the-ordinary, such as packing a “go-kit,” is difficult. So for today’s entry I submit the Clark Regional Emergency Service Agency (CRESA) and their 30Days 30 Ways preparedness game as a top SMEM destination of choice.

The Rationale: This campaign  was launched for the first time last September for the 2010 Emergency Preparedness month and was done again, with improvements from lessons learned, for this year’s 2011 Preparedness Campaign. CRESA, thanks to their forward thinking Emergency Manager Cheryl Bledsoe (known in some circles as “that tech girl”, known in the #SMEM circle as “that brilliant woman”) is no stranger to social media, with a presence on Facebook and Twitter, including a Facebook widget on the CRESA homepage, and a blog. Cheryl herself also runs sm4em.org.

The Example: 30 Days 30 Ways was a game designed to not only give people information about emergency preparedness, but to compel them to act upon that information. Contestants were asked to complete 1-3 simple preparedness tasks every single day during the month of September . Game rules were posted that outlined 1. Who could play: answer, everyone; 2. How to play: instructions for each task and how to get credit were posted on the website and included such things as filling in an online forms and sharing information via social networks. I love Task 2 which had contestestants fill out a questionnaire asking “Who is Your Local Emergency Management Provider?”. And 3. What you would win. Most of the prizes were fairly small tokens, but clearly that’s not why people participated. It seems to me that people enjoy being part of a game that has “buzz”. Seeing tweets and posts about the events everyday served to peak interest and make people feel like they should sign-up or they were missing out. According to their own stats 2010, 608 preparedness tasks were completed. In 2011, nearly 2,000 preparedness questions & tasks were answered or completed.

I think this a wonderful example of how to engage your community with typically dull preparedness messages in a new and decidedly none-boring way. It will be fun to see how this game progresses each year. It would be interesting if schools used the contest to see which campus had the most prepared families. They could “win” bragging rights to proudly display a cool badge of preparedness on their websites and social media. Often, just a simple badge is enough to entice people to participate.

It seems with web and social networking  contests, organizations are only limited their own collective imagination and initiative.  We are all just grateful Cheryl and CRESA have shown us how to start.

SMEM December’s Best