Friday, June 5, 2009

Good advice is everywhere

The followng is from MDERN - Maryland Emergency Radio Network via the Florida Emergency Radio Network's Yahoo presence (ergo the email format). It is worth all practitioners' attention. NACO is the National Association of COunties.

From: Rocky Lopes <>
Subject: [MDERN- Maryland Emergency Radio Network] Those who fail to learn...
To: MarylandEmergencyRa dioNetwork@ yahoogroups. com
Date: Friday, June 5, 2009, 7:50 AM

There is an old adage, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

We learned from Hurricane Andrew (1992) that telling people to have supplies for “72 hours” was wrong. Why? When interviewed, many people thought that the cavalry would rise over the hill at hour 73, and therefore, had far fewer supplies to last during prolonged periods when stuck in their homes because they couldn’t get out of their neighborhoods. A subsequent study showed that people who were asked to acquire “72 hours-worth” of supplies gathered far fewer supplies than a statistically significant parallel group which was asked to acquire “3 days-worth” of supplies. People just can’t do mental math. “Three days” sounds far longer than 72 hours. Go figure.

We must get over this “72-hour” thing, which dates back to the nuclear attack preparedness days of the Cold War. Preparing for prolonged periods of being confined to home due to a disaster is different. People think differently. We must get the old language out of our system.

Further, having co-created those long lists of supplies in cooperation with FEMA when I was Manager of Disaster Education at the Red Cross – I learned very clearly that promoting having a “grab-and-go” kit of some sort is a good thing, but implying that one has to go out and BUY all that stuff doesn’t work. Especially when the economy sucks and people are fighting day-to-day to put food on the table. It has to be easy, quick, and simple, as was written in the headline of the message on this list to which I am responding.

Studies have shown that most people already have what they need to eat and drink during a prolonged period of confinement OR to take with them if they have to leave home. The problem is, most people don’t have these items all in one place. So the focus should be on gathering and organizing, rather than buying. (Thus the current statement that “putting together a kit isn’t a costly enterprise… most items… are likely scattered throughout your home”) … this is good.

While on a history lesson, other things we learned include:

  • Do not say "rotate" supplies – a lot of people thought you meant to turn them around. We began saying “change and replace” with much more effectiveness. After all, it’s what we meant. (The word “rotate” dates back to the Cold War, too).
  • The word "evacuate*" can be misunderstood by people whose primary language is not English. To some, it means to take a dump (evacuar in Spanish). That’s why for public education, we try to say “leave” instead of “evacuate.” I recall the gales of laughter when in Puerto Rico, I said, “in caso de hurican, evacuar immediamente”. Well… they might have had to do that, but that’s not quite what I meant.
  • The word "citizens" is often mistakenly used by local, state, and federal officials when intending to mean the *public*. In these days with heightened concern and political wrangling over “citizens” and those who are in the United States who are not citizens – what’s best is to avoid a political hot potato and if you mean “the public” then say it. (“Residents” works well, too.)

John Glenn's comment: "Resident" is ill-advised; as a tourist/visitor do I need to leave? After all, I'm not a "resident." (The answer, of course, is "Yes, you DO have to leave.")

I commend “unopsec” (whoever s/he is) in sending out this series of messages to this list, to remind us of important preparedness actions to take ourselves and to recommend to others. He or she is using public domain information which, for the most part, is well-established information based on research and content in the standard messages guide “Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages.” It’s good to see the work that went into building that Guide from some 21 agencies continue to live through the various pubdom docs and content being sent out.

If you want more information as to the basis of research to which I refer, see “The 12Cs of Disaster Preparedness Education” which is available free from my website, here: The Guide for Standard Messages is also linked from that page.

Be safe, be prepared, and lead by example!

Rocky Lopes

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