2.2 Research and Data-Driven Approaches to Motivate Preparedness Behavior

Monday, 8 January 2018: 2:15 PM
Ballroom E (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Jacqueline Snelling, FEMA, Washington, DC

Achieving resilience requires a two-pronged approach: Developing the capabilities needed to address all threats and hazards in tandem with reducing risk to and impact from disasters. FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) meets these challenges by connecting science-based research to communications, education, and tools that empower communities to prepare for, protect against, respond to, and recover from a disaster.

The science supporting FEMA’s individual and community preparedness programming includes the National Household Survey (NHS) and protective actions guidance. The NHS, implemented annually since 2013, provides insight into people’s preparedness attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and actions. Findings from the NHS are helping to refine and improve the Agency’s engagement and capacity building strategies for individuals and communities. According to the 2015 survey, less than half of the people surveyed (43%) have developed an emergency plan and discussed it with their families in the last year. Only 41% thought that preparing could be of significant help. Further, analysis of recent surveys indicates that even in locations that have a history of flooding, residents are largely unprepared for these disasters. For example, findings from the 2015 NHS indicated that only 34% those surveyed who were living in historical flood areas had read, seen, or heard information on how to prepare during the past six months. Only about half thought a flood could happen where they live.

In order to positively influence these preparedness attitudes and beliefs, ICPD also conducts research to validate protective action guidance for action and decision-making before, during, and after a disaster. In fall 2015, FEMA completed an assessment of more than 380 protective actions based on 275 research studies and articles by dozens of subject-matter experts covering 12 natural hazards. The draft report contains findings, recommended changes in public guidance and messaging, and recommendations for future research topics. Protective actions guidance aims to provide the Nation with current, research-validated guidance for the public in how to protect themselves from threats and hazards, and ultimately save lives. Some examples of validated guidance include “Drop, Cover and Hold On” for earthquakes; and “Turn Arond, Don't Drown" for flooding. This research enables FEMA to better understand effective preparedness actions and successful methods to motivate the public into taking action. FEMA is conducting new research to understand how historically underserved communities receive critical preparedness information. Results from this effort can help to improve how preparedness messaging is communicated to specific populations, potentially saving lives in communities disproportionately affected by disasters.

Research indicates that the essential elements necessary to move the public to action can all be introduced through communication in the context of daily weather prediction. As such, members of the weather enterprise who provide public weather services are uniquely positioned to motivate preparedness behaviors by communicating hazard information and protective actions in the context of every-day weather events. Understanding and addressing the basic requirements for behavior change in pre-crisis communication about weather can provide the public with both the knowledge and motivation to take action in advance. Then, when there is a crisis warning, the public will then be ready and willing to act. Messaging from members of the weather enterprise combined with emergency preparedness programing will build the capability of individuals and families to know the hazards they face and take action to prepare.

Americans must be empowered to become active participants in the resilience of their community. This session will review the current National Household Survey findings on national preparedness attitudes and behaviors for several weather hazards, identify research-based communications strategies, and discuss how members of the weather enterprise can use their role and expertise to help reach the public and motivate actions that will improve preparedness and resilience.

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