Post by: Kim Stephens
Getting 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
1. 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.
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.