Public Education and Training
Public education and outreach not only can help people understand the purpose and capabilities of an alerting or warning system but also can prepare and motivate them to take appropriate action when alerts or warnings are received. In the workshop session on public education and training, Mark Benthien, Southern California Earthquake Center, discussed his experience with education initiatives pertaining to earthquakes. Michele Wood, California State University, Fullerton, discussed current research on public education campaigns, and Daryl Rand, Harrison Advertising/The Rand Group, examined the education question from a marketing perspective. Inés Pearce, Pearce Global Partners, Inc., was moderator for the panel. This chapter provides an integrated summary of these presentations and the discussions that followed, organized by topic.
AN EXAMPLE: THE GREAT CALIFORNIA SHAKEOUT
Earthquakes are typically “no-notice” events, which means that the first alert that a person generally receives of an earthquake is the feeling of the ground shaking. (Today it is possible to provide very limited advance alerts to those sufficiently far from the epicenter of an earthquake; see Box 4.1 for a description of earthquake detection and alerting systems.) Those affected by an earthquake do not have the opportunity that those receiving a hurricane alert might, to take time gathering information about the hazard and to decide what actions to take; nor is there an opportunity (or need), as there might be with severe weather, for people
Early Earthquake Warning Systems
Early Earthquake Warning Systems (EEWSs) exploit the limited window afforded between the time that earthquake energy propagates from the epicenter of an earthquake to the time that it reaches an affected population. Numerous locales are developing tools such as EEWSs, but only two have a public message component—those of Mexico and Japan. EEWSs can be used, for example, to tell people to take shelter and to tell drivers to pull over to the side of the road. They can also be used to automatically secure transportation and industrial systems. For example, the Japanese EEWS is used to stop trains automatically.
Mexico City is especially well suited to the EEWS approach because earthquakes generally occur on the coast and then propagate to the lake-bed deposit under Mexico City, which amplifies the shaking. Mexico City’s system provides a public alert when shaking first occurs at the coast. The Japanese system delivers both Emergency Alert System (EAS)-like television and radio alerts and alerts resembling the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio that makes use of dedicated receivers.
California is also developing an EEWS. The first phase of development, from 2006 to 2009, involved developing and testing detection algorithms. Work has now progressed into a prototyping phase. The development and deployment of the system are being conducted with caution so as to avoid false alarms, which might undermine the credibility of the system. An existing system, the California Integrated Seismic Network, does send out a notice of the location of the epicenter and the magnitude of an earthquake within 5 seconds after the earthquake. These notices are sent only to official emergency managers, but they could possibly be used to issue public alerts as well. The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate is also examining sensor technologies and automation and sensor data that could be used to trigger alerts or warnings.
The EEWS program has raised a number of challenging technical and social questions associated with the time sensitivity of alerts, including the following:
to personally confirm the event. As a result, it is especially important to provide the public with advance education and training about earthquake risks and proper protective action.
The Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA) is a statewide coalition of California organizations and individuals who are developing materials and activities with consistent messaging. The goal is twofold: to educate people about preparedness and to educate people about protective actions. The ECA focuses on practicing simple protective action, such as that recommended in the easily remembered phrase “Drop, cover, and hold on.” The goal is that, through drills, not only will people learn appropriate protective behavior, but they would practice it instinctively when they received an alert. Annually the ECA coordinates a statewide drill called the Great California ShakeOut. The ECA provides manuals to participating organizations on how to perform an earthquake drill, as most organizations have not held such drills before. At the appointed time, the ECA also issues the test alert.
In addition to teaching people the simple actions advocated in “Drop, cover, and hold on,” the ShakeOut also provides an opportunity to educate participants on preparedness practices. Educating those living in earthquake country about preparedness is extremely important. To be properly prepared before an earthquake occurs, the ECA asks that people do the following: secure their living space, ensuring that top-heavy furniture, water heaters, television sets, and other heavy objects will not fall during an earthquake; store water, 1 gallon per person per day for at least 3 days, but ideally up to 2 weeks; and have a fire extinguisher and ensure that family members know how to use it properly. The ShakeOut is having an impact, as the state of California sees an increase in the purchase of preparedness products at the time of the drill.
The ShakeOut started in 2008 with the Great Southern California ShakeOut. November 12-16, 2008, was a week of special events to educate and encourage Southern Californians to be prepared; a regional drill was held November 13, 2008. There were 5.57 million participants—chiefly schools but also businesses, communities, governments, and families. In 2009 the event went statewide, with 6.9 million participants. The Shake-Out is now an annual event for which the ECA partners with state agencies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Although the ECA has been successful in recruiting businesses, schools, and organizations as participants, individual registrations are quite low. The ECA is using social media to encourage people to participate and also to count people who may not be registering.
Starting in 2011, participation in the drills will be extended to states in the central United States, coinciding with the bicentennial of large earthquakes which struck that region in 1811 and 1812. Similar drills are being
planned or are under consideration in other regions that have historically experienced severe earthquakes, including the Pacific Northwest, Utah, and Alaska.
BUILDING AN EDUCATIONAL CAMPAIGN
Much time and money have been spent educating the public in the areas of preparedness and emergency management. However, such educational campaigns often have not proven very fruitful for three key reasons: (1) The time or space allocated for public service announcements is limited, and many pro bono commercials run late at night. (2) Emergency management professionals may not be familiar with marketing. Indeed, few undergraduate or graduate programs provide courses in public education, outreach, or marketing. (3) Professionals with marketing expertise tend not to be involved in emergency planning and preparation activities.
Several organizations have aimed to close the gaps listed above by creating guidelines for public awareness. Two of them, the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP), a nonprofit organization that provides assessment and accreditation of emergency management programs and personnel, and CBS Outdoor, a for-profit advertisement managing firm, have developed a set of blueprints for creating public awareness plans and educational initiatives. EMAP’s public awareness program guideline, Assessing Your Disaster Public Awareness Program, was issued in 2006.1 In formulating its guidelines, EMAP convened experts from a wide variety of disciplines. The contribution of CBS Outdoor was An Approach to Preparedness, a blueprint for emergency managers to use in creating a public education and outreach plan.2
The blueprints from EMAP and CBS Outdoor, along with an extensive body of earlier work,3 lay out guidelines for the development of success-
ful public education campaigns. They draw on the social psychology of hazard education and on extensive investigations into the public response to past campaigns to set out principles for effective public education campaigns and other lessons learned.
OBSERVATIONS OF WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS
In the discussion following the panel presentations, workshop participants made the following observations regarding planning and implementing effective educational campaigns:
Do not use fear to engage the public. Fear is not an effective tactic for engaging the public and should not be used as the primary tactic for this purpose. Although such tactics may be effective in increasing people’s perception of risk, this perception does not necessarily translate into desired behavioral changes.
Make use of multiple sources of information. For example, local fire departments are considered by the American public to provide the most honest and complete information about emergency situations, but only about a third of the U.S. population has access to such information. Local fire departments are thus a very effective source of information, but not for everyone. Rather than identifying and relying on a single credible source, use a panel of sources to reach the broadest audience possible. Ensure that messages are consistent across information sources.
Understand community demographics and media cover. Geodemographic mapping allows demographic variables that correlate with risk to be overlaid with the areas covered by various media.
Make public education interactive and experiential. People benefit from experiencing what warning messages and alerts will look like. It is essential to build in feedback for the system in order to collect evaluation data from those experimenting with the system.
Encourage information seeking. Encourage people to talk with one another about emergency preparedness. People who start communicating with one another are more likely to take appropriate action. People are seeking information in new ways using social media and other communications technology, and it is important to embrace the new opportunities that this use presents.
Partner with businesses. Businesses have a responsibility to their employees to provide emergency planning. Businesses have specific needs, and it is important to coordinate with them during their emergency planning to ensure that there is not conflicting information and that there is planned action between the business and emergency management officials.
Partner with school groups. Students typically absorb new information readily and can become conduits for such information to their families.
Educate those responsible for preparing messages. Credibility is important and will be diminished if a message contains incorrect information, unclear information, or even typographical errors.
Put the information on the table and include the elected officials. Conflicts can arise between governments—for example, between city and county governments. Although emergency managers may have conflicts, they can usually work together and generally already are doing so. The challenge comes with public information officers who are managing information for elected officials. The elected officials often engage in extensive battles in terms of getting information out.
Have a simple message. Regardless of what type of disaster a geographic area may face—hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or flood—the recommended preparatory actions are often very similar even if the priorities are different. These preparatory actions include telling people to have food and water on hand, to have a battery-powered radio, and to be prepared to evacuate if necessary. If these basic “calls to action” can be conveyed to and acted on by even a significant fraction of the population, much progress will have been made.
Engage various funding sources and partnerships. Professional marketing campaigns can be costly. Building public education campaign funds into grants can be helpful, but private-public partnerships can also be helpful. Emergency managers can also reach out to local marketing or public relations professional associations.