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No One Is Coming to Help

The value of a memorable phrase in disaster public education.

I was just reminded today about the value of a memorable statement being included in your disaster public education messaging. The one I use, which might not be applicable everywhere, is "No one is coming to help!"

It is the title of my presentation and it is the phrase I use during the presentation, which I also end with, "Remember, no one is coming to help."

This is earthquake country where I live in Western Washington, and our greatest natural disaster threat is a large and even catastrophic earthquake. It could be a crustal earthquake where the damages are extensive or a Cascadia Subduction Fault Earthquake that will impact 600 miles of coastline from Northern California into British Columbia.

Today I chatted with someone in an office on the same floor in the building where I work. About four years ago I gave the staff there a preparedness message that used the statement above. Now, almost three years into the pandemic and not seeing staff in that office for years, one staff member reminded me that the message she remembered was, yes "No one is coming to help" in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Therefore you are on your own and you need to take personal actions and be accountable for your own personal welfare.

One piece of advice given to speakers is sometimes this: "Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them." Some would call it "staying on message," while others might like the repetition aspect of the messaging.

Use what works for you, but for me,"No one is coming to help" is working just fine.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.