Be prepared: beating a natural disaster in Australia

Natural disasters are a huge part of the Australian story.

In our work it is clear that the natural disaster story is switching focus from recovery to preparation. For our planning clients, it makes sense – think, plan and then act to prevent or minimise disaster impacts. However when it comes to the behaviour of individuals, being prepared also saves lives.

Communicating for natural disaster

From a communication perspective it has its challenges.

  • How do you get people to act like a disaster is imminent, when it just doesn’t feel like it?
  • How do you get people to do something that just might save their life when the danger isn’t ‘real’ yet?

We’ve seen some excellent messaging recently, like:

  • ‘If it’s flooded, forget it.’
  • ‘If you could see the danger, you’d stop yourself – Pick up a phone, never a fallen power line.’

But what about the slow, creeping kind of danger, the kind of thing you don’t think of as dangerous, or a natural disaster? For example, are you a little bit scared of the sun?

Slip, slop, stop the burn

When I was a kid, sunburn was considered typical Aussie kid stuff. My brother, sister and I would sit in circle and peel the skin off each others’ back and that was considered normal!

But sometime between the early 80s and now, that changed.

Do you slip, slop, slap?

Are you sun safe?

We are now so much more aware and a little bit scared of the sun. And thanks to some clever campaigns we know how to act to keep us, and our families, safer.

Communicating to change the way people think and act about natural disaster

Recently we worked on a campaign that aims to the change the way people think and act during an event we don’t often think about as a natural disaster: a heatwave.

We’ve learned that more Australians are hospitalised or die as a result of a heatwave than any other natural disaster. The problem is, as Australians we simply don’t think about heat as a major health issue. We think it is just a part of our story.

We developed a 5-year communication framework and the first year’s materials for a NSW region where they are working to build community resilience to heatwave.

As we worked we were constantly reminded that we all could act to prevent heat-related illness. Some things seem more obvious than others. Let’s just say, we drank a lot of water while we worked…

The end result

Beat the Heat this summer – Drink more, Do less, Cool Down and Check up

Drink more water

Do less during the hottest part of the day

Cool down and have a plan so when it heats up, you know how to stay cool

Check up on family and friends, especially the elderly.

In the end, our regional client needed to completely align with the statewide messages of:

  1. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks
  2. Keep Cool – do less and avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day
  3. Check on elderly friends, neighbours and relatives, especially if they live alone
  4. Have a Plan for how to stay cool when it heats up

None of it is very sexy. But neither cleaning up after a natural disaster. And nor is slip slop slap.

Stay cool people.

Read more about the project here.