Today marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts through November. Today the media is abuzz with the question “are you prepared?” with various experts explaining the steps individuals should take to prepare for hurricane season:
- Build and emergency kit: In addition to your flashlights, batteries, and canned food, do you have a few days of any prescription medications? Food for your pets? A battery operated weather radio?
- Make a family communication plan: Where will you meet if you get separated from your family? Do you have an out-of-town contact who can act as a communications liaison for your family?
- Know your evacuation route: Do you know where you would go, if you need to evacuate? How about the best way to get there?
- Determine your flood risk: Are you near a levee, dam, or body of water? Are you within a storm surge zone? Do you have flood insurance?
- Have a plan to secure your property: as the folks at the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) will tell you, tape won’t protect your windows during a hurricane or tropical storm. Do you have storm shutters or plywood? Do you knave a place to tie down your patio furniture or a place to put it away?
There are a number of social marketing and risk communications efforts underway to help people understand and prepare for the hazards of hurricane season, from Ready.gov to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Preparedness Week to FLASH’s Go Tapeless campaign. Each campaign takes a different approach to helping the public understand their risk and encouraging them to act. But each clearly employs foundational risk communication principles: a trusted source providing actionable steps the public can use to mitigate their risk.
But I wonder if more attention ought to be spent on understanding risk. In Florida, studies have shown that those at the highest risk underestimate their hazard, while those at low risk are more likely to overestimate the danger they face from hurricanes. Countless times, I have tried to explain to my parents that they live in a coastal area and ought to consider flood insurance. Every time they tell me that they can’t see the water from their house—it could never reach them. So if they have no incentive to prepare…are all these campaigns white noise to them? How do we educate people on risk, in order to get them to prepare?
Two questions remain. Do you know your risk? Are you prepared for hurricane season?