The Emergency Management Division considers public disaster education to be one of its highest priorities, and encourages participation in disaster education programs throughout the state. Their vision, in accordance with these beliefs, is to have the best-prepared public in the nation.
The principal goal of the Public Education Program is to encourage, support and empower local governments, state agencies, volunteer organizations, businesses and other privately sponsored groups who desire to increase their level of preparedness or engage in preparedness programs. The ultimate goal is individual self-sufficiency for at least three days (72 hours) following a disaster.
The focus is all-hazard disaster preparedness. This is accomplished through presentations; by assisting schools, businesses, and government agencies; conducting train-the-trainer classes; facilitating neighborhood preparedness courses; development of awareness and preparedness materials; outreach to multicultural and special needs groups; coalition building and public-private partnerships. Each of these tasks is focused upon assisting citizens in preparing for emergencies and disasters, thereby saving lives, minimizing property damage and reducing the impact on the environment and the economy.
Launching of the Annual Preparedness Program
Each year, the governor proclaims April to be “Disaster Preparedness Month.” The announcement provides program officials with an opportunity to bring widespread awareness to the yearlong campaign, which begins wit the launching of the April All-Hazard Disaster Preparedness Campaign.
An extensive yet highly effective packet of preparedness materials is created for distribution during this period, and available throughout the year in both paper and online versions (which are accessed directly from the Program’s web site. Additionally, previous years’ campaign materials are available on this website as well.)
The campaign is maintained throughout the year, with planned activities and announcements occurring during all twelve months. In addition to the principal information packet described above, supplemental materials related to seasonal disasters are created and distributed in accordance with activities specific to those disasters or other subjects.
A Roadmap To Citizen Preparedness
The Preparedness Program’s educational materials are the key to the program’s success. Each year, in fact, the Preparedness Program receives various awards for both the design and the achievement of these educational materials (the most significant of these awards being those received over several consecutive years from the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).) One of their most visual resources is the “Roadmap to preparedness in Washington State”.
Within this single, colorful poster, placed upon the back side of a Washington State highway map, Washington State residents and visitors are able to learn about both the individual disasters from which they are at greatest risk, and the various practices they can adopt to protect themselves and their families (this poster is offered as a sidebar to the chapter, and can be found online by accessing http://emd.wa.gov/5-prep/trng/pubed/04-campaign/EMD%20Preparedness%20Roadmap.pdf.) Like a traditional roadmap, which guides readers on their journey across various highways and roads, the “Roadmap of Emergency Preparedness for Washington Residents and Travelers” gives readers the directions they need to ensure that they are prepared should a disaster occur, without spelling out the step-by-step actions they must take. The more detailed instructions are provided through the various events, publications, and classes that occur continuously throughout the year as part of the greater overall educational program.
In addition to providing recommendations on personal actions that can be taken in accordance with the five color-coded alert levels of the Homeland Security Alert System, the roadmap provides ‘Home Safety Action Step’ advice describing the following recommended actions:
- Create a Home Safety Plan
- Assemble Disaster Supply Kits
- Learn First Aid and CPR
- Search for Home Hazards
- Reduce/Eliminate Home Hazards
- Identify Your Resources
- Learn Basic Search and Rescue
- Put Your Plan Into Action
- Practice Your Safety Plan
The hazards detailed on this ‘roadmap’, presented in an historical context specific to Washington State, are:
- Winter Weather
- Wildland Fires
- Hazardous Materials
The Preparedness Campaign and the Information Packet
In addition to the Roadmap, a packet full of preparedness materials is distributed each April with the launching of Disaster Preparedness Month. Following the April events, each month of the year includes a feature emphasizing an individual part of the emergency planning process. By the end of the year, therefore, any citizen who participates in the campaign should have a complete disaster preparedness plan, and be ready to face any disaster that might occur in Washington State.
Guiding each year’s activities is a Disaster Planning Calendar, which runs from April to the following April (in accordance with the schedule of the campaign). To supplement this calendar are various materials, expanding upon the information in the calendar and the roadmap, which help citizens make their disaster planning easier and more meaningful. Even the folder within which the campaign materials are delivered helps citizens to become more prepared, as 911 emergency information and materials for adults and children are contained in the folder’s left pocket.
The following section describes the contents of this folder, which makes up the heart of the Preparedness Campaign.
The Emergency Preparedness Planning Calendar
This document has been designed in the format of an open-paneled calendar (traditional wall calendar format). On the top panel of each month is information about an action that can be taken to reduce hazards, information about a specific natural or technological hazard, and specific preparedness measures for the hazard described. On the bottom panel is the actual calendar. For each month, in the page title, is a specific goal to be accomplished, such as “Creating Your Home Safety Plan,” or “Preparing Disaster Supply Kits.” In the right-hand margin of each of these pages is a checklist that corresponds to the specific actions that must be taken to accomplish the monthly goal.
In using the format of a calendar, EMD has created a tool that is likely to be used by residents as it is a dual-use solution (provides the date and provides preparedness information.) Each upper-face ‘lesson’ is viewed for a full month, increasing the chances that the information will be retained. Readers are also given an easily accomplished checklist of activities, presented in a 12-month timeframe to realistically address most peoples’ busy schedules, such that preparedness does not feel ‘overwhelming.’ For any of the activities that are more complex or require information beyond what is provided, the supplementary material is at hand.