September 30, 2016 is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s PreparAthon day – “a grassroots campaign for action to get people better prepared for emergencies by conducting hazard-specific group discussions, drills and exercises,”
The program has been very successful and has certainly reminded those in the greater emergency management community the myriad ways they should prepare for disasters and other types of emergencies.
While PreparAthon has had a tremendous impact, there are still those in the community who are not preparing for disasters the way emergency managers and first responders would hope that they would.
Bridging this gap is difficult for those who are preparing well are often well-versed in emergency issues, and those who are not preparing are those who may not have the mindset for it (or, are simply in disbelief that they will ever experience an emergency that required their preparedness).
The emergency community needs to take an active approach to bridging this gap, but it can be difficult when there is a general public attitude that emergencies simply will not happen.
Some scholars of emergency management argue that the media has a tremendous impact on the preparedness activities of citizens. To a large extent, this is probably true.
When the media reports about an upcoming storm with tremendous enthusiasm, and then that storm passes without a lot of damage, residents tend to be desensitized and simply do not prepare for the next “big” storm. Even when the storms are massive, some citizens still mock preparedness efforts letting the world know on social media applications that they have minimal supplies and didn’t need all of the supplies experts were urging residents to acquire.
Bridging the Gap
Emergency management professionals have tried for years to effectively educate the public on emergency issues. The Daily Globe recently published an article recently asking residents just how prepared they are.
This is very much the right course of action for bridging the gaps in preparedness. Emergency professionals need to continue educating the public on preparedness issues. While some people may mock these efforts on social media, they’re at least talking about it and are discussing these issues. Some people may prove to be more into preparedness than others, but these discussions are all good for the public relations they bring to the emergency management world.
It is tremendously important to educate the populous on emergency issues. When citizens are better prepared during an emergency, emergency preparedness professionals have fewer issues to contend with.
Further, it is important to get citizens to prepare for emergencies. Emergency management professionals need to continue to educate the public despite issues with media hype over storms, and despite the skepticism of citizens to effectively prepare for a disaster.