How to Foster a Culture of Preparedness

It's 3 a.m. and the tornado siren goes off in your community. How do you react? How do your neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens react? Do they immediately know, without hesitation, what to do and where to go? Do they know the location of the nearest shelter? Do they know how to access local emergency information? 

Such individual awareness and collective preparedness can only be achieved when community leaders spend the time and effort needed to create a culture that values emergency preparedness. Whether your community is at risk oftornadoes, hurricanes, floods,earthquakes, or extreme snow and cold, it is the responsibility of civic leaders to proactively provide citizens with the resources and information they need to stay safe during a local emergency event.

The Mindset of Preparedness
Emergency preparedness isn’t something you can put in a kit. It’s a mindset and the knowledge that you have the information needed to be ready for anything. What citizens need the most from their local government to be prepared to act in the event of a local emergency, is actionable, educational information, such as:

  • Where are the closest cold or hot weather shelters located?
  • What is the community's dedicated hurricane evacuation route?
  • What does the local tornado siren sound like?
  • In the event of an active shooter, where can I find a reliable description of the suspect and who do I reach out to if I believe I've seen him/her?

When an emergency is already in progress, it may be too late to get this information to your citizens. What citizens need, is to learn the answers to these and other important questions before an emergency strikes.

Civic Tip: Click here to learn how to set up a community emergency response team

Urban vs. Rural Preparedness
If you live in a rural community, your citizens may be more open to adapting to a culture of preparedness. Studies have found that rural areas are much better prepared than city dwellers to deal with community emergencies, since they more frequently confront inconvenience. The power goes out more often in rural areas, water supplies may not be as reliable, and emergency assistance isn’t always 5–7 minutes away.

Urban citizens are more used to the convenience of being able to call for nearby assistance or reach out to immediate neigbors if they're in need. The probelm with such convenient access to resources is that it can dull citizens' motivation to prepare in advance for the most severe types of crisis events. 

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Cultivating Preparedness
Whether your community is rural or urban and your citizens are open to a culture of preparedness, or less motivated to plan for crisis, what follows are tips for a local government communication plan that can impart on your citizens the importance of preparedness.

Begin with conversations. When preparedness becomes a topic that's supported locally by government leaders and active citizens, others will be more likely to join-in.

Build relationships. Preparedness is more than brochures, checklists, and slogans on your local government website. It’s about personal relationships. Talk to citizens at safety fairs and community events, get kids involved to help motivate adults, and reach out to community businesses for support. You can develop a culture of preparedness by helping individual citizens to see the value of being proactive.

Reinforce preparedness when emergency events are top of mind. When a local emergency does occur in your community, citizens are most open to learning about preparedness strategies. After an emergency event occurs in your community, and you have your citizens' attention, reinforce to them how to prepared for future emergency events.

Utilize technology to amplify preparedness messages. Don't wait to reach your citizens until after a dangerous event has already occured. Leverage automation tools to send emergency preparedness reminders in advance of a potentially dangerous event. A government emergency notification system can help you distribute automated alerts via multiple channels, reaching as many people as possible with the information they need to stay informed and safe.

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Jessica Marabella

Jessica Marabella

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Rochester, and a Master of Arts degree in Advertising from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has over ten years of experience in communications with a focus on writing in the digital marketing space.