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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

“What If You Threw A Citizen Preparedness Training And No One Came?”

May 13th, 2010 · 4 Comments

The challenge of citizen preparedness is well illustrated by this letter to the editor to a newspaper in Canada during that nation’s Emergency Preparedness Week. I think anyone involved in public preparedness will empathize:

To the editor:

I guess everyone in Scugog Township is prepared for any emergency that may arise.

They must be, because at the end of Emergency Preparedness Week, on Saturday May 8, the No. 1 fire hall in Port Perry was open to everyone to learn about numerous ways to prepare for emergencies, and no one came.

I know my wife and I were not the only ones disappointed with the turnout. Five speakers were lined up to discuss anything and everything needed to prepare for disasters and emergencies of all kinds.

Some of the emergency situations noted in the past that have affected residents of Scugog were H1N1, increasing windstorms and severe summer weather numerous times, resulting in downed trees and other damage as well as the blackout of 2003.

Do you remember what you and your family went through during that blackout? Were you prepared? It could happen again. Will you be ready? Have you ever considered what could happen if flooding were to occur here? Think about broken dams, torrential rain and backed-up storm drains and septics.

At the seminar, tables were set up with giveaway information and supplies. Volunteers were on hand to inform and assist with information and to answer questions. Enbridge set up and prepared hot dogs, hamburgers and pop for visitors.

We want to thank the chief, the mayor and councillors and all the volunteers that were on hand for this event.

Bruno and Darlene Gauweiler Caesarea

Thanks to the Twitter feed of READYColorado for bringing this my attention.

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Tags: City Preparedness · Humor · Preparedness Events

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Claire B. Rubin // May 14, 2010 at 4:38 am

    That is a sad commentary. The big push by federal officials on “resilience” will never succeed unless and until individual citizens take responsibility for their own preparedness.

  • 2 Tom Crane // May 15, 2010 at 10:35 am

    The big question is “How can government improve citizen engagement to educate and prepare citizens?”

    The public may not see the value in going to town hall meetings, preparedness fairs, getting trained, or volunteering… so what activities and innovative practices will effectively engage the public? Let’s work on this!

  • 3 leslie fastenberg // May 17, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Take heart residents of Scugog, you are not alone. There is a startling lack of energy for proper emergency preparedness permeating our communities all over. For those of us in the emergency business, the resistance and apathy is startling. There must be a new social awareness, akin to the campaigns to add seat belts and smoke detectors to our lives, that champions the message that proper emergency preparedness is everyone’s responsibility.

  • 4 Paul Garth // Jul 31, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Standard Disclaimer: The following is not the “truth” – just my own personal opinions.

    The challenging question is, “Why didn’t the community show up for the event?”. I empathize with the apparent apathy and disinterest, as I’ve experienced similar responses for my own meetings.

    There are different gradations of interest that typically show up to Public Emergency Preparedness events: Professional First Responders (Paid and Volunteer); Professional Amateurs (people like myself who show up for everything; hold every badge – CERT, Amateur Radio, Red Cross (soon), and spend 45 minutes writing this response on a Saturday); CERT/Other Trained residents who will show up to annual events; and finally, Spontaneous Volunteers/General Interest. Seems like the first two categories (now referred to as the “first two categories”) showed up in this instance. Not even the standard lure of, “hot dogs, hamburgers and pop” were adequate.

    Unfortunately, the Mass Media has had way too much fodder to chew on lately in the form of Earthquakes (Haiti, Chile, China, etc), Tornadoes (Bronx, New York), and now the ongoing debacle in the Gulf with BP and the Oil Spill. What’s happening is that the public is going steadily numb with the never-ending spew of information that can create a sense of helplessness, fear, concern, followed by a shut-down in order to cope.

    I typically enjoy watching Anderson Cooper on CNN but his catch-phrase “we’re keeping them honest” is indicative of his industry – going beyond basic reporting of what happened to creating a semblance that there is underlying dishonesty needing to be uncovered. The hook works, because it gets people to stay tuned while we watch strategically placed advertising and continue being concerned.

    The biggest disservice the Media did for the ongoing “Emergency Preparedness Conversation” was to display the incessant live footage of the oil leak – oftentimes out of context with what was actually being reported at the time. What this created was a constant sense of helplessness by the public where we were entrained to believe that the answer was akin to calling the plumber to fix the kitchen sink from leaking. For the last several months, we’ve been biting our nails waiting for the leak to “stop” and now that it’s “turned off” we happily go on with our lives thinking that “it’s all good now”. Anderson then puts aside his t-shirt and jeans and gets suited up to go back to the studio.

    After a major disaster, there inevitably comes a moment of decision where individuals (ideally trained in basic Emergency Response), go beyond their current situation and focus on attending to their neighbors and community by forming volunteer response teams. The question is, “Will there be any hesitation because of a realization that I don’t really know who my neighbors are?”. If that’s the case, then maybe we have a clue to what could be an issue to address.

    Average folk don’t walk around thinking about Emergency Preparedness (except for the above two categories) and are just trying to live their lives well while some guy called Anderson “keeps everyone honest”.

    Possible answer to the dilemma – The key element to focus on is “community” – encouraging people to actually care enough about each other to actually leave their house/apartment and engage their fellow neighbors just for the sake of fellowship and community.

    I don’t have all the answers, but the question really is, “How do I get the community together to focus on what’s really on their collective minds, where I can then gently slip in some Emergency Preparedness stuff when I’ve enhanced their awareness to care about each other?” What may happen is that the community may want to discuss all their fears and concerns first whereby the above two categories then have to re-frame (aka adjust their prepared agenda & focus) of their various presentations to suit the public mood and audience.

    When the Community first have an opportunity to talk things out and engage each other, the possibility of Emergency Preparedness Training becomes attractive through new awareness, self-realization and self-preservation with a need for Community Support.

    The article has a final paragraph, stating “We want to thank the chief, the mayor and councillors and all the volunteers that were on hand for this event.” How about this – “We’d like to thank everyone who didn’t show up, because we learned from this, and will work towards creating a working program that has the community talking and the above two categories responding to your needs.”

    Thanks for having the courage to publish your seemingly negative experience in Scugog Township, because it’s given me something to think about in improving my own community relations.


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