Be Prepared: the new way to beat an Australian Natural Disaster

Natural Disasters are a huge part of the Australian story.

In our work it is clear that the 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. 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?

In the past couple of years I’ve seen some excellent messaging 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 even know is dangerous. For example, are you a little bit scared of the sun?

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, safe.

Last summer I worked on a campaign that aims to the change the way people think and act during a heatwave. I’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 major health issue, we just think it is a part of our story.

I 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 I worked I was constantly reminded that we all could act to prevent heat related illness. Some things seem more obvious than others, let’s just say, I’ve drunk a lot of water while I worked…

Here’s what we came up with…

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 I know. But neither is slip slop slap.

Stay cool people.

To read more about the project itself, go here: http://www.hccrems.com.au/climate/

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