Disaster Zone

New Standard: Two-Week Disaster Preparedness

What message are you telling people about disaster preparedness?

by Eric Holdeman / March 31, 2015

Three-day or 72-hour disaster preparedness messages have dominated the national message for decades when it comes to how long you should tell people to be prepared for disasters.

My thinking on this started to change in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. We were about to launch a big public education campaign in King County, Wash., called "Three Days, Three Ways." The three-way message was have a plan, build a kit and get training. At the time, when I checked with American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency about the possibility of that message changing, they said "no" so we went ahead with the campaign so as to standardize and not confuse people with different messages.

Now 10 years hence, Hurricane Sandy was another learning lesson and the great quake that could happen any day still is looming in our future. Many emergency management agencies in locations where you can have a huge regional disaster have moved on to telling their communities to become prepared for a week.

On a trip to Salem, Ore., last week I learned that the state's Office of Emergency Management has upped that to two weeks. I believe that creates a much more realistic expectation for the general population about how prepared they need to be personally, and when they might expect a more organized disaster relief effort from all levels of government.

One of the real challenges I see is getting emergency managers to walk the walk and become personally as prepared as their message is to the community.

How long are you telling your people to be ready for?