Last Tuesday – June 1st – marked the official start of Hurricane Season. With the gulf oil spill top of mind, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season “above normal season” Outlook naturally sparked conversation in the media, and among my friends and family. Here at Ogilvy, our Emergency and Risk Communication team reviewed the list of potential storms names that could become “all too familiar” to Americans – like Andrew, Katrina, and Ike.
In the first week of Hurricane Season, I expected the coverage about storm patterns and preparedness initiatives around the country. What I didn’t expect to see was the tornado warnings issued from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic and into New England, and to read about the devastation left behind by tornados in Ohio. That’s precisely one important issue we face in communicating about natural disasters – the science behind predicting and tracking events is more sophisticated and accurate than ever before, but what we can’t predict is exactly how and when we will be personally affected – and all too often the unexpected becomes reality.
The personal impact of disasters is a critical component of what brings people together around an issue and to take part in helping those affected –in a specific locale, and also in wider circles. After the Nashville floods in May, news footage, videos, recovery groups and individual stories shared both offline and online gave us a near first-hand view and instantly connected us with ways to support and engage in recovery efforts.
The challenge for social marketers in increasing individual preparedness is showing the value of applying the empathy and lessons learned in the wake of disasters inward. Making it personal means that we should take action not only for others, but for ourselves and our families to increase our own level preparedness.
During this storm season, our Emergency and Risk Communication Team will be doing some storm tracking of our own –and we’ll be highlighting some of the preparedness tools, activities and campaigns, such as Louisiana’s Get a Game Plan program, here at the exChange.
Starting this month, I’m encouraging my friends and family to be a little self-centered when it comes to disaster planning and support. Make it personal for those who depend on you and who you depend on, before the next tornado or storm decides to head your way.