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Guest Post: Complacency’s Place in Everyday Preparedness

August 18, 2010

Ed. note: With National Preparedness Month coming up, it’s important to remember that our best laid plans (at least those of us in public information, crisis communication, emergency alerting and, dare I say, public health) are dependent — wholly — on the ability of the public to follow those plans. Dawn Dawson, the superstar Social Media Manager for the Medical Reserve Corps of Greater Kansas City, gives us this great post on complacency. Dawn writes on Twitter at @northlandfox and manages KC-MRC’s amazing social media presence.

An industry associate recently sent me this article “Sirens Ready to Sound Alarm—but Never Have” found here which raises several issues worth taking note of.

I often see an article asking the question have we become too complacent, but I am more apt to think it’s a matter of, is the message in essence the right tool for the right job.

In the text you have an early warning siren in California Earthquake and comparatively the same in the Midwest which I’ll use for a scenario example an approaching Tornado. The eventual effect in say Kansas or Missouri were a tornado to hit, is an instance directly related to memory and experience no doubt more profound.

Much like the train analogy used in the article, our sensory overloaded society tends to block out many things. Ads on the sides of our computer screen, living in a path of a flight pattern, myself can remember as a child living next to a commuter rail and never “noticed” the rumbling vibration till someone came to visit, are all daily sensory experiences we learn to block.

Ah! Learned behavior . . . perhaps the approach could be defining the tool or methods then determine the frequency and use based upon a measurable effect. As society has become more sensory respondent to various visual and audio stimuli maybe at local theaters for example a return to the War Era announcements might prove more effective.

Somewhat like a PSA, develop ads to be shown just prior to a film showing a short clip with full surround sound of people standing around during different scenarios such as an Earthquake, Tsunami, or a Power Outage with a short message of “do you know what to do?” and blast away. Some short clips of this type shown in the video “Seattle Quake” from Nat Geo may work well as something everyone can identify with, then of course follow with instructions or a link.

Schools, assemblies and other venues could also be options and then on the website under the AlertSF Notification in addition to the audio clip some suggestions for the hearing impaired/deaf blind, and pet owner communities.
An attention getting example that comes to mind is the “Prepare today for tomorrow’s disaster” video part of a previous campaign from the Bay Area Red Cross.

According to Wikipedia a natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard (e.g. flood, tornado, hurricane, volcanic eruption, earthquake, or landslide) that affects the environment, and leads to financial, environmental and/or human losses. The resulting loss depends on the capacity of the population to support or resist the disaster, and their resilience. (Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People. Bankoff, Frerks, Hillorst 2003) so I consider the “visceral experience” another aspect to consider in building resilience into preparedness planning.

With the expectation of complacency in mind, develop the ability to resource – re-evaluate – then repeat, while reaching out to all in developing a culture of learning and sharing within our communities.


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