P!Npoints: Critical Mass for Critical Messages – By Jessica Alvey

P!Npoints: Critical Mass for Critical Messages – By Jessica Alvey

Experts Aim for Culture of Preparedness Through Spread of Knowledge

Experts agree that the key to minimizing the damage and loss of life caused by disasters is spreading knowledge about appropriate hurricane preparedness. Throughout affected regions, there are numerous programs that spread knowledge on this subject both to the public at large and the organizations that serve the public. These recurring events help create a culture of preparedness that can make long-term planning an aspect of daily life.

One such event, the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service Workshop, is a 15-year-old, annual event, the largest of its kind in the nation. The event, held in June each year, uses an interactive, family-friendly format to educate the public about hurricane preparedness. Radio Disney even joined the cause in 2008 in an effort to get children more interested in their family’s hurricane preparedness plans. Attendance soared to 3,500 attendees in 2010. The Houston/Galveston National Weather Service and event sponsors strive yearly to reach even more residents with preparedness messaging. Their success can be seen in its growing attendance and participation of dozens of Texas emergency management, insurance and energy companies, among others.

When asked how a culture of preparedness could be achieved, Patrick Blood, a meteorologist for the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service said, “One word: education. The way you educate is putting out correct information to the masses. Create a culture of education.”

Blood has found the biggest barrier to preparing the masses for disaster to be miscommunication. He said his organization tries to overcome this obstacle by “getting a consistent message out to the public.” Annual events like this Hurricane Workshop work to inform the public about how to prepare themselves and be proactive about their fate in the face of disaster.

Along the Eastern seaboard in Palm Beach County, Fla., the groups Nonprofits First and the Legal Aid Society have been providing a similar educational event – Nonprofit Hurricane Preparedness Day – since 2004. This event brings 100-120 local nonprofits together each May to learn about the best ways serve their clients in the face of disaster while making the connections that will enable them to rely on each other in those times of need.

“Non-profits serve so much of the public that it is critical that they are able to serve in times of disaster,” said Sharon Passas of Nonprofits First.

While Nonprofits First offers education classes year-round, Nonprofit Hurricane Preparedness Day focuses solely on strategies to better insure continued service in the face of the massive damage that can easily result from a hurricane.

Whether the knowledge is given to the general public or those who selflessly serve the public, hurricane preparedness is a critical message that has been taken up by many in the affected areas. The efforts of these people and organizations striving to spread this knowledge are rewarded with the growing attendance and interest in events such as these. Knowledge leads to action and the knowledge that these programs are striving to disseminate will lead to a culture of preparedness that will save lives the next time a hurricane hits the area.