PR for Emergency Preparedness


Getting press coverage has a dual purpose.

Of course, it’s always gratifying to find yourself in the news – as long as the story is a positive one, of course. But when it comes to pulling together a neighborhood team, there’s a lot more to getting an article than simply a “feel-good” moment.

News article about fire rescue

Article about fire rescue

Your main objective is to inspire others to form their own neighborhood CERT program. Why is this so important? Simple. The more people in your community are prepared and organized for survival, the less pressure on your community’s First Responders and the less danger to you personally.

Remember the fire?

I wrote about the fire that happened here in our own neighborhood several months ago. The older woman living in the home was pulled to safety by the mail carrier, but the house burned to the ground. It was dramatic and scary for all concerned. We got a photo in the news that time, too . . .

Four months later, more news

Last week I was invited to attend a special breakfast held at the local post office. It was to recognize the mail carrier’s quick action in saving our neighbor’s life. Once again, an article appeared in the newspaper. Definitely a “feel good” article that was a change from the negative news that seems to proliferate.

But there was a lot more to the event. Before the presentation, I had the occasion to talk to the local fire authority, in the person of the Division Chief. Here are some highlights of that conversation:

  • I talked to him about the fast action of his people, but more importantly, he and I had the chance to confirm a number of fire safety issues that apply specifically to the people who live in older homes.
  • The Chief reiterated that the 5-minute response time to the fire was in part possible because of the actions of our local Emergency Response Team. (We have just under 100 Members.) Not only did several of them call 911, but team members jumped into action at the site of the fire, pushing curious by-standers away from the home and clearing the streets so the fire engines could access the fire without delay. The real key is that, because of our training, everyone knew what to do without dithering around! One team member’s nearby home became not only a refuge for the lady whose home burned, but also a headquarters of sorts for the incident.
  • The Chief had heard about our Emergency Response Team before, but was very interested when I mentioned that we were holding a training meeting in February to discuss the high-pressure gas line that runs near our community. In fact, he immediately invited himself to attend.

What’s the value of all this to our organizing efforts?

First, our entire team and their work have been validated! They were mentioned in the Chief’s remarks to a large gathering of community leaders, and briefly mentioned in the newspaper article. (We have heard from readers across the state who saw the article!)

Second, having the Chief attend our upcoming meeting will reinforce the sense of cooperation and coordination with authorities that we work so hard to build. Not only will the fire department be represented, but our invited “experts” are from the local police department and the city’s emergency preparedness division. We will all become more knowledgeable about the risks posed by this particular pipeline.

Our future requests for resources – whether for guest speakers, or exhibits, or for invitations to local or county-wide Red Cross and/or FEMA trainings – are much more likely to be welcomed by these official First Responder organizations.

Finally, are we serving as a role model for other neighborhoods?  YES!  That is the real bottom line.

Our local neighborhood is adding a distinct layer of safety and security to our wider community. It is gratifying and encouraging that this effort be acknowledged and appreciated.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. What press coverage has your group received? Any suggestions for the rest of us?



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