Talking About Disaster: A Guide for Standard Messages
Table of Contents
Introduction and Purpose
What Is in This Guide
Using This Guide
Hazard Messages
Chemical Emergencies
Fires, Residential
Fires, Wildland
Floods and Flash Floods
Hazardous Materials Incidents
Heat (Heat Wave)
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Nuclear Power Plant Incidents
Thunderstorms, Severe
Winter Storms
Special Populations Messages
Talking to Children About Disasters
Preparedness Action Messages
Family Disaster Plan
Disaster Supplies Kit
Emergency Supplies for your Vehicle
First Aid Kit Contents
First Aid Kit for Pets
Stocking and Storing Food and Water
Smoke Alarms
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Fire Extinguishers
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)
Home Fire Sprinkler Systems
Portable Generators
Evacuation, Sheltering, and Post-Disaster Safety Messages
Evacuation, Sheltering, and Post-Disaster Safety
What to do if Evacuation is Necessary Because of a Storm
What to do When There is Flooding
“Wind Safe” Room
How to Shelter-in-Place (Chemical Incidents)
Factors for Protection from Radioactive Fallout
Food and Water Safety During/Post Disaster
Emergency Sanitation
How to Recognize and Treat Heat Emergencies
Frostbite and Hypothermia

Using This Guide
To use this guide, you should first get to know your intended audience. Consider the ages and socioeconomic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds of the audience members. Be sensitive: audience members who are struggling to provide food for their families may be unable to purchase supplies and foreign-born audience members who learned safety actions in their native countries may be wary of information that contradicts what they were previously told.

Also, remember that persons with disabilities may have difficulty hearing, seeing, or understanding warnings and other critical messages. Announcements should be concise, clear, and calm. Open captions of verbal information should be used in emergency telecasts, and scrolling should not be allowed to block captions. Television announcers should provide clear, verbal descriptions of events for persons who are blind or have low vision. It is also important to consider your area's specific hazards and disaster history. The East Coast will not prepare for volcanic eruptions, and the West Coast will not prepare for hurricanes.

When you deliver “what to do” action messages, word them in a positive manner that helps those hearing or reading the message know how to act. For example, in fire education, instead of saying, "Do not panic," you might say, "Remain calm. Get out as quickly and safely as possible.” This allows those hearing or reading the message to focus on what they can and should do in case of fire. For this message, you might next offer submessages on what "safely" means (crawl low under smoke to your exit; feel the doorknob and the space around the door with the back of your hand before opening the door; etc.).

In addition, you can use awareness messages to reinforce the importance of knowing what to do. Awareness messages help people realize that disasters do happen in their communities and that they can take steps to prepare for disaster and lessen its effects.

If you are preparing a presentation, news release, or article about a particular type of disaster, consider selecting three to seven messages from the relevant chapter. Feature your chosen messages and add to them with submessages and supporting information from the guide. If time or space is limited, evaluate your audience and the chosen topic to determine the most important messages. For disasters with little or no warning, what to do during the disaster is generally most important. For disasters with plenty of warning time, preparation may be most important. 

Whatever your message, physical props will help you provide the greatest learning experience. Try to use, for example, photos or drawings for print materials, soundtracks for radio presentations, videos for television, and aids like videos, posters, Disaster Supplies Kit items, and mock-ups to make presentations interactive. Keep in mind that your audience will include persons with disabilities who may have difficulty seeing, hearing, or understanding your messages. 

If you would like further information, brochures, or materials about disaster safety or information about developing community disaster education presentations, you may contact any of the participating agencies or their local counterparts. Keep in mind that the local affiliates of these national agencies may have additional resources and information specific to your audience.

Initial development of this guide was made possible by a grant from the Home Safety Council, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping prevent the nearly 21 million medical visits
that occur on average each year from unintentional injuries in the home. Through national programs and partners across America, the Home Safety Council works to educate and empower families to take actions that help keep them safe in and around their homes. This guide is the product of the hard work and collaboration of many professionals affiliated with the organizations partnering with the American Red Cross, which represents the expertise and commitment of the following organizations:

American Geological InstituteDisability Preparedness CenterHome Safety CouncilThe Humane Society of the United StatesInstitute for Business & Home SafetyInternational Association of Emergency ManagersNational Fire Protection AssociationNational Interagency Fire CouncilNational SafeKids CampaignNational Science FoundationU.S. Consumer Product Safety CommissionU.S. Department of Agriculture -Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service -Extension Disaster Education Network -Food Safety and Inspection ServiceU.S. Department of Commerce - NOAA/National Weather ServiceU.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Food and Drug AdministrationU.S. Department of Homeland Security -Federal Emergency Management Agency -U.S. Fire AdministrationU.S. Department of Interior - U.S. Geological Survey
From: Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Washington, D.C., 2007.

Html Copyright The Disaster Center 2012

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