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Storm Preparedness: Another Take on the Power of Community

Last week I had the pleasure of joining the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) for their annual conference in Orlando, FL.  Little did they know when the conference was scheduled, a huge opportunity for national communications about storm preparedness would be headed to the Gulf Coast just as the conference would be taking place. I was very impressed with FLASH’s surround sound approach to the influences on whether or not a community is prepared when a storm hits.  Included on the speaking docket were:

  • TV meteorologists and severe weather experts who largely control how the mass media carries messages about weather and preparedness
  • local officials who most directly deal with the aftermath when communities are not prepared for a storm
  • insurance executives who can encourage preparedness through discounts for those who “harden” their homes
  • contractors who can influence their clients electing storm safe materials instead of chosing minimum building code standards
  • legislators who want to encourage private markets to solve the preparedness problem so it does not become public debt
  • home inspectors who can be trained to identify building weaknesses that would be vilnerable in the case of a storm
  • a Disney Imagineer who encouraged us to think differently because, in a world where Al Gore can win an Oscar for a Powerpoint presentation, preparedness could be made cool too.  He has put his money where his mouth is by guiding FLASH’s creation of an Epcot experience illustrating the difference that fortifying a home can make called StormStruck.

If you are anything like me, you are probably thinking that I, with zero storm experience, was not qualified to join the above cast of characters.  Technically, you’re right.  It was, however, a great opportunity to discuss the role that social media can play in promoting preparedness.  If a parrot dancing to the Backstreet Boys can “go viral”, why can’t the concept that your neighbor’s backyard junk can become a missile of airborne debris headed straight for your windows in a storm? Preparedness is not an every-man-for-himself game.  There is power in communities and neighborhoods preparing together- be it a storm, a terrorist attack or a viral epidemic.  But what role could social media play?  Some starter ideas:

  • Empower communities with wikis that will indicate what homes have been fortified for storms and visualize the % to goal on a neighborhood basis.  This type of accountability could add some positive social norm pressure to the goal of building strong homes.
  • Allow for those in hurricane prone regions to share referrals on contractors who are certified to build new or to bring existing home up to fortified “Code Plus” standards.  Customers should be able to include their personal experiences with hose contractors.
  • Before a storm strikes, encourage your local community to get organized via mobile so that you know how to get updates on the status of your immediate neighborhood even while you are evacuated.
  • Identify and organize a single day (before hurricane season) around which to discuss Storm Preparedness that could be recognized on an annual basis.  Create widgets that include instructions on assembling an on hand storm kit and the steps to fortifying your home.  These could be distributed through the websites of local TV stations and then added to social networking profiles or blogs of those who care about preparing their community.

Other thoughts on new idea or best practices?  How do you think social media could power storm or any other type of preparedness?

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