a gallon bottle of water and canisters of rice and other staples

Are You Ready?

By Rod Graham

Images of Hurricane Katrina's 2005 devastation still sear the nation's collective memory, yet most Americans don't have emergency supplies at home to deal with a disaster or a pandemic. Why?

It could be we just don't know where to start.

Enter the School's Center for Communication Programs (CCP). As part of a mass-media campaign called Ready? Set? Good, CCP has produced print and television materials that explain how to assemble home emergency supplies to help residents through the first 72 hours of an emergency.

In creating the campaign, the CCP team talked to first responders who suggested that people start by stockpiling three basic items—a portable radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, and one gallon of water per person per day for three days. This helps relieve the burden on first responders, allowing them to focus their resources on the most urgent situations.

"We're also hoping," says James R. Williams, CCP associate director, "that if people collect these three basic items, then perhaps they'll start gathering some of the other items they'll need, such as non-perishable food, medications, pet supplies and so on." 

Funding for the campaign came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security via the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, which serves Baltimore City and its five surrounding counties.

CCP found that among people in the Baltimore region who had never prepared an emergency kit about one-third of area residents are essentially prepared, one-third think they are but aren't, and another third are ambivalent about the subject, says Williams. 

A post-campaign survey found that CCP's mass-media blitz had increased a sense of responsibility in respondents and had prompted nearly a quarter of those exposed to the campaign to take preparatory action.

CCP is now sharing its findings and recommendations with local jurisdictions, which are helping to disseminate the information. Below, for example, is a preparedness list from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council that builds on the Ready? Set? Good program.