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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

New Ad Council/NYC PSA Asks Public Officials: “What Would ‘You’ Do In An Emergency?”

September 4th, 2010 · No Comments

The New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Ad Council have just released a new public service announcement in which top City officials are asked, “What would you do in an emergency?”

The City Council President, Deputy Mayor, the commissioners of OEM, Fire, Health Department and Immigrant Affairs all give their quick answers in the 30 second spot.

NYC-OEM/Ad Council PSA

I like the idea of involving public officials and publicizing their own preparedness process. I wrote earlier this summer there is a need for high profile people both in and out of the emergency management field to discuss publicly their own family readiness efforts as a model for the rest of the community. In this PSA, each interviewee only gets a quick one sentence answer. I would like to see another PSA where they go into more detail about their emergency plans.

To me, one of the biggest gaps in citizen preparedness communications is the lack of personalization and humanization. The messaging is far too institutional, and the result is that people largely do not respond. Officials ask average citizens to create emergency plans and kits, research threats and do practice run-throughs, but they never show them how (and if) they do it for themselves.

As a result, they do not have a full understanding of the challenges for the public in taking what seem to be simple preparedness steps but are not particularly easy for laypeople — there are always many questions and hidden obstacles for civilians going through the preparedness process. But those are almost never addressed in a personal way by those in authority, which is a major reason why the messages do not largely get through to the public. While officials are always asking the public “what’s your plan?” or “what’s in your kit?” but rarely tell us what’s in their plan or their kit.

Now, it is true that public officials are not going react like regular citizens in a disaster but instead will be likely be working managing the situation. So, they may not have to plan for themselves in the same way an average person would. However, most have families who are going to prepare and respond along with the rest of the public. The fact is that everyofficial is also a citizen; it would be helpful for other citizens if officials show that perspective more, and it would be similarly useful for leaders to take that point of view more in their preparedness planning and communications.

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Tags: City Preparedness · Media

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