Jim Williams, associate director, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, briefed members of the GBC Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee on the “Ready? Set? Good” disaster and emergency preparedness study and campaign. The project assignment was to develop a communication campaign to convince residents of the Baltimore region to assemble a basic “home preparedness” kit with at least a flashlight – with extra batteries; a portable radio; and a gallon of water per person, per day for 3 days.
The kit isn’t meant to be a complete solution, but just to start to get people thinking about being prepared, said Williams.
A survey was conducted among heads of households to gather background information about the audience and to establish baseline perceptions about preparedness. Some of the key research topics included: concerns about disasters, level of preparedness, kit ownership, and barriers to ownership. The data was collected in 2005 – after the London bombings and before hurricane Katrina.
• Mixed feelings of security in the region
• Greater concerns about manmade emergencies than natural ones
• 2/3 currently say they have emergency preparedness supplies assembled
• 1/3 of respondents without a kit are likely to assemble one within the next month
• Men and women were generally equally likely to prepare a kit
The idea is to shift some of the responsibility for disaster preparedness through kit ownership, Williams said. The survey showed that people think the fire and police departments are expected to take responsibility for preparedness more often than other agencies. If individuals can be convinced to do their part and assemble a hazard kit, the demands on first responders may be reduced.
Fear can be motivating or incapacitating in an emergency, said Williams. Only 1/3 to ½ of survey respondents agreed that the risk of a natural or manmade disaster in the Baltimore region is high, and that such a disaster would affect them personally. About 70 percent said having a kit would help them cope with a disaster and that they can assemble a kit.
Qualitative research focus group discussions identified what people think about in an emergency; what images come to mind; and what questions they have, said Williams. One of the major concerns is about the lack of a unified effort to prepare and overcrowded evacuation routes in the Baltimore region. Some of the “threat factors” the focus groups mentioned included: Inner Harbor, Aberdeen, Fort Meade, BWI, Naval Academy, industrial plants, I-95 and the proximity to D.C.
The focus groups decided the kit should be called an “Emergency Preparedness Kit.” The groups said the message delivered by a preparedness campaign should be appropriate and relevant to the local communities, said Williams. The message most people agreed would work is “Be responsible.” The idea of taking care of loved ones is very appealing and emotional. Taking responsibility is appropriate and does not over-promise.
The study recommended development of materials to introduce and promote the campaign through media awareness, public service advertising, and a website (www.readysetgood.org), Williams said. Preparedness advertisements ran on Comcast and five major networks in the Baltimore region, as well as in the Patuxent Publishing papers.
Additional survey results following the campaign proved the “Ready? Set? Good” campaign achieved its initial goal of increasing awareness of the need for emergency preparedness supplies for the residents of the Greater Baltimore Region. It delivered a specific message as to what these supplies should be, and motivated the general public to take specific action.
“With additional time, resources and funding, this important campaign could achieve even greater results in proportion to the need for greater emergency preparedness for the region,” said Williams.