New Podcast: Wildfire: From Little Embers to Big Flames

With more than $40 billion in insured losses due to wildfire in just the past three years, understanding wildfire threats to homes and families is vital. This episode offers an in-depth conversation about the continuing toll of wildfire losses across the United States, making it clear that there is STILL more to do. You can do your part by participating in the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, this Saturday, May 1.

Thanks to the generous support from National Wildfire Preparedness Day sponsor State Farm, 150 communities received project funding awards to support activities aimed at reducing potential loss of life, property, and natural resources to wildfire.

Michele Steinberg

Please join me and my guest Michele Steinberg, Wildfire Division Director with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). We discuss the new Outthink Wildfire Initiative, wildfire mitigation, defensible space, and the importance of wildfire prevention.

Topics:

  • Vis-a-vis Nature: How and where to build before paying for development and disasters (3:20)
  • Firewise: Dependent on Forest Service grants, now partners for preparedness campaign (5:20)
  • Typical Wildfires: What does and doesn’t make wildfire a risk? (7:09)
  • Embers Ignite: Dry leaves that accumulate and pile up in corners and gutters do damage (9:10)
  • Wildfire Mitigation: Protect your home before because nobody will be there with a hose (10:50)
  • Effective Measures: Make sure home envelope and exterior is ignition resistant (12:25)
  • What’s fuel?: Pine needles, leaves, trees, and homes – no fuel means no fire (16:46)
  • First Saturday in May: Wildfire Community Prep Day to spread awareness, reduce risk (22:46)
  • Outthink Wildfire Initiative: Wildfires are going to happen and will not be extinguished (24:51)
  • Mitigate Risk/Retrofit: Use and enforce sensible building codes and land use standards (29:37)
  • House/Structure Fire vs. Wildfire: 37% of fire responders are trained, only ⅔ have PPE (34:17)

I hope you enjoy this podcast episode and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. Don’t miss these helpful resources and links too:

Michele Steinberg on LinkedIn

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA Firewise Program

Wildfire Community Prep Day

Outthink Wildfire Initiative

Healthy Forest Restoration Act

FEMA

Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety

Leslie Chapman-Henderson

Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)

FLASH Videos

National Disaster Resilience Conference

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida
  6. Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow feat. Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations for USAA
  7. Dr. Anne Cope on Science That Makes Us #HurricaneStrong feat. Anne Cope, Ph.D., PE, Chief Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)
  8. Ready, Set, ShakeOut! Feat. Mark Benthien, Director of Communication, Education, and Outreach at the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)
  9. Ending the Season #HurricaneStrong, a Conversation with Dr. Rick Knabb, On-Air Hurricane Expert and Tropical Program Manager for The Weather Channel
  10. Building Codes Save Study with FEMA’s Ed LaatschDirector – Safety, Planning, and Building Science Division of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA), Risk Management Directorate – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  11. Top Ten Tips for Disaster Safety in 2021 feat. Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and CEO, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)
  12. FEMA’s Amanda Siok on How Building Codes and Planning Can Create a Resilient Alaska, feat. Amanda Siok, Earthquake, Tsunami, and Volcano Program Manager for FEMA Region X in Seattle
  13. WX Apps, Space Gadgets, and Tech Talk, feat. Mark Taylor, Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, MyRadar 
  14. #TornadoStrong-How One Decision Saved a Family, feat. Kevin & Sarabeth Harrison FLASH Leadership Partners & Tornado Survivors

New Podcast: FEMA’s Amanda Siok on How Building Codes and Planning Can Create a Resilient Alaska

Amanda Siok

This episode offers a dive into Alaska’s earthquake history, building code progress, resilience strategies, and much more with self-described rock nerd, Amanda Siok. Amanda is the Earthquake, Tsunami, and Volcano Program Manager for FEMA Region X in Seattle. Her perspectives on disaster safety through strong buildings and best practices offer a fresh take on our shared goals to create disaster-resilient communities.

Topics Include:

  • About Amanda (00:35)
  • Geology: Science behind what creates and collapses beautiful areas and structures (1:31)
  • Natural Hazards: Work with communities, tribes, and governments to understand vulnerability (3:10)
  • Conditions: Logistical access issues in Alaska make it challenging to adapt, meet needs (4:53)
  • Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes: Natural disasters/hazards shaped Alaska’s history (8:10)
  • 1964 vs. 2018 Alaskan Earthquakes: Differences in magnitude, duration, and destruction (9:49)
  • Building Codes: Recipe for resilient construction, visual evidence to build it right the first time (13:30)
  • BRIC: FEMA encourages jurisdictions to adopt, implement, and enforce building codes (17:42)
  • Public/Private Partnerships: Communities come together to advance disaster resilience (22:06)

I hope you enjoy this podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. Don’t miss these helpful resources and links too:

FEMA Region X

Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant Program

Shaking of Atwood Building, M7.0 November 30, 2018 (Anchorage Earthquake)

Structural Engineering Association of Alaska (SEAAK)

Ready Business – QuakeSmart Toolkit 

Alaska Professional Design Council (APDC)

Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission

Geotechnical Advisory Commission

Leslie Chapman-Henderson

Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida
  6. Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow feat. Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations for USAA
  7. Dr. Anne Cope on Science That Makes Us #HurricaneStrong feat. Anne Cope, Ph.D., PE, Chief Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)
  8. Ready, Set, ShakeOut! Feat. Mark Benthien, Director of Communication, Education, and Outreach at the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)
  9. Ending the Season #HurricaneStrong, a Conversation with Dr. Rick Knabb, On-Air Hurricane Expert and Tropical Program Manager for The Weather Channel
  10. Building Codes Save Study with FEMA’s Ed Laatsch, Director – Safety, Planning, and Building Science Division of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA), Risk Management Directorate – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  11. Top Ten Tips for Disaster Safety in 2021 feat. Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and CEO, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)

New Podcast: Top Ten Tips for Disaster Safety in 2021

For our latest podcast, we turned the tables. John Zarrella, JZ Media, former CNN Correspondent, and one of our valued board advisors hosted me to talk about our top ten affordable, simple, do-it-yourself (DIY) ways to strengthen your home as the new year begins. I hope you find these useful and be on the lookout as John will be back with us to guest host again soon.

Topics Include:

  • About Leslie (1:53)
  • Know your risk (usually flooding) by identifying disaster history in your community (8:24)
  • Earthquake: Fire following shaking, turn on/off gas valve by buying affordable wrench (9:45)
  • Flood: Wherever it rains, it can flood; buying flood insurance policy early is essential (12:39)
  • Hurricane: Make soffit covers tight, well-installed, and reinforced using caulking/sealant (16:32)
  • Tornado: Build or buy an affordable safe room or shelter for near-absolute protection (22:05)
  • Wildfire: Create defensible space around your home by clearing out/getting rid of debris (25:06)
  • Wildfire/Flood: Clean gutters to move water using safe, easy to use, affordable tools (28:44)
  • Fire: Create, document, digitally store, and update home inventory to file an insurance claim (31:05)
  • Blizzard: Use inexpensive foam, dome, and drip insulation to prevent pipes from freezing (29:23)
  • Building Code Data: Identify building codes to know how your home will perform in perils (34:26)

I hope you enjoy this podcast episode and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. Don’t miss these helpful resources and links too:

Top Ten Tips for Disaster Safety in 2021
The National Flood Insurance Program: FloodSmart
Strengthen Your Soffits
No Code. No Confidence. – Insepct2Protect.org
Leslie Chapman-Henderson
Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)
#HurricaneStrong 
FLASH Videos

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida
  6. Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow feat. Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations for USAA
  7. Dr. Anne Cope on Science That Makes Us #HurricaneStrong feat. Anne Cope, Ph.D., PE, Chief Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)
  8. Ready, Set, ShakeOut! Feat. Mark Benthien, Director of Communication, Education, and Outreach at the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)
  9. Ending the Season #HurricaneStrong, a Conversation with Dr. Rick Knabb, On-Air Hurricane Expert and Tropical Program Manager for The Weather Channel
  10. Building Codes Save Study with FEMA’s Ed Laatsch, Director – Safety, Planning, and Building Science Division of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA), Risk Management Directorate – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

New Podcast: Dr. Anne Cope on Science That Makes Us #HurricaneStrong

Have you ever heard that closing your doors can limit damage in a windstorm? Do you know how many bathtubs worth of wind-driven water comes through an unprotected roof? Can you explain why something as innocuous as a soffit is relevant to the fate of your home? And, by the way, what exactly is a soffit?

If you want answers to these questions and more, this is the podcast for you.

Anne-Cope

Dr. Anne Cope, Chief Engineer, IBHS

My guest this week for Strong Homes, Safe Families! is Anne Cope, Ph.D., PE, Chief Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). Anne is a member of the FLASH Technical Advisory Council, fellow UF Gator, and a great friend. We cover a lot of topics in this recording from science to policy and policy to practice, and I am sure you will find her engaging style not only enjoyable but insightful too.

This information is part of our effort to demystify the basics of a #HurricaneStrong home, so you and your family are ready when the next threat comes. Check out some topic highlights and timecodes below, but I recommend that you hit play, sit back, and enjoy!

  • How a passion for science created a professional journey. (0:54)
  • The importance of garage doors. (4:16)
  • Surprise! Research shows how shutting doors will limit damage. (5:28)
  • After ten years, what’s on tap at the IBHS lab? (7:41)
  • Ninety-percent of the time, significant house damage begins with garage door failure. (9:52)
  • Soffits: What do we need to know about the roof’s Achilles heel? (13:30)
  • Tech Tools and Toys: Practical use of drones to detect problems. (17:31)
  • Public Policy: Building codes, resilience, and the sealed roof deck. (19:37)
  • Water Intrusion: How much water can a hurricane push through your roof? Hint: we’re talking in terms of bathtubs. (20:15)
  • Natural Disaster Research, Reports, and Risk Communication: Find the findings and shine a light on them. (23:41)

Combined IBHS Lab and Fan Image

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. Don’t miss these helpful resources and links too:

Dr. Anne Cope – Biography (Here)
The IBHS Lab (Here)
Research on value of shutting doors (Here)
Research on garage doors (Here)
Roof Strengthening Checklist (Here)
Soffit Strengthening Checklist (Here)
Protecting Openings – Shutter Types/Cost Checklist (Here)

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida
  6. Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow feat. Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations for USAA

New Podcast: Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow

Hurricane season is here. Are you fully prepared by having the right insurance? Do you have a home inventory to go along with your policy? Did you know that a detailed written, photographic, or video inventory of your belongings is the most effective way to plan for a claim?

Elizabeth Gulick

Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations – USAA

This week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! expert guest is Elizabeth Gulick, Vice President of Claims Operations for USAA and member of the FLASH Board of Directors. Elizabeth shares her experience on the best way to create a home insurance inventory and much more. She highlights consumer protection safeguards to follow as you’re going through the repair and rebuilding process, and many critical steps to ensure you’re ready should it happen ever again.

With Elizabeth’s excellent insights and our newest checklist (click here), you can ensure any future claims run smoothly. When you do, you will be on your way to #HurricaneStrong.

Topics:

  • After thirty-plus years responding to disasters (1:40), what is it like after a catastrophe strikes? (2:55)
  • Recover, Rebuild, Resolve: Understanding USAA’s commitment to resilience (4:25)
  • How does the insurance claim process work? (7:19)
  • What are some tips for choosing a contractor? (9:31)
  • What is a home inventory, and why is it critical? (11:14)
  • What are the five steps to help prepare for a claim? (11:38)
  • Now that the claim is complete, what do I do next? (15:56)

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. You can learn more about insurance and mitigation by downloading A Homeowners Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters or emailing your questions to info@flash.org today.

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida

New Podcast: #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money

Strengthening our homes for hurricane season to ensure damage prevention is more important than ever this year due to COVID-19 and the potential need for social distancing.

This week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast, checklists (click here), and feature video (click here) provide information about affordable ways to get your home #HurricaneStrong, so you and your family are ready for the already-busy season.

6-6-20 Soffits Fan Graphic Twitter V2

My guest expert for this podcast discussion is Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina. This 15-minute discussion will get you well on your way.

 

Bill Ferimer

Bill Ferimer, Store Manager – Lowe’s

Topics Include:

  • Resilience: How to remain #HurricaneStrong, and bounce back from natural disasters
  • Damage Prevention – Steps to weather the wind and water:
    • Roof: Use caulking inside the attic for added strength
    • Soffits: Use caulking to ensure that soffits stay in place when it matters most
    • Openings: Use hurricane shutters to protect doors and windows
  • Timing: Prepare for hurricanes now and take strengthening your home seriously
  • #HurricaneStrong Survey: Increased intent to prepare
  • Projectiles: Around the yard, remove or anchor items such as swing sets to prevent damage
  • Gutters and Downspouts: Clean, clear, and functioning properly to direct water flow
  • Prep Kits: Must-haves include gutter tools, tarps, nails, hammers, ladders, buckets, chainsaws, and necessary accessories
  • Sandbags: Redirect stormwater and debris away from your home

How to Clean Gutters Image

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes.

New Podcast: The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters

Capture

Before Mother Nature heads your way, are you prepared for hurricane season? My guest for Episode Two on Strong Homes, Safe Families! is Tim Robinson, managing partner of Global Protection Products and president of the International Hurricane Protection Association. In this interview Tim tells us everything you need to know to choose the right hurricane shutters for your home.

Topics Include:

  • About Tim: Firefighter, businessman, and philanthropist
  • Opening Protection: Windows, glass doors, and older openings
  • Code/Testing Requirements: Change is inevitable when building impact-rated products
  • Two Test Types: Wind cycle and impact resistance to approve products
  • Options: What are they? How are they mounted? How much do they cost?
  • Galvanized steel vs. aluminum panel
  • Clear or polycarbonate storm panel
  • Fabric panel
  • Accordion shutter
  • Roll-up shutter
  • Hinged-colonial or Bahama shutter
  • ROI: Insurance savings and discounts
  • Lessons Learned: No matter what shutter system is selected, maintain it regularly

Please click here to listen to this week’s episode and don’t miss our new Hurricane Shutter Comparison Checklist (click here).

Tim RobinsonTim Robinson, Managing Partner – Global Protection Products 

As East Coast Marks Five-Year Earthquake Anniversary, Experts Across the U.S. Advance the Cause

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Today is the five-year anniversary of the 5.8M earthquake near Mineral, Virginia—the most widely felt quake in U.S. history, with shaking from New England to Chicago. The temblor damaged heritage buildings including the National Cathedral and Washington Monument, and shook up public perceptions of earthquake geography at the same time.

Since then, leaders have advanced policies that reflect their understanding that seismic risk is a national problem, not just a West Coast concern. One shining example is the new seismic standard for federal buildings showcased by the White House during a resilience summit in February of this year. The Executive Order creating the new standard effectively decreed that government should “walk the talk” with respect to stronger building codes by ensuring that public structures reflect current codes too.

While logical, this was not an easy task, and we applaud those that led the charge.

Also encouraging, there is now progress in the development of a U.S.-based Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system as well. This is essential as just five to seven seconds of notice before an earthquake could prevent trains from derailing. The EEW system can trigger automatic closure of elevator doors, prevent fire station doors from jamming (trapping needed response vehicles), and it can lower crossing gates for bridges too.

These actions could mean the difference between life and death for thousands in a seismic event.

Equally important, sustained efforts are ongoing to remind those in regions like Western Tennessee, part of the greater New Madrid Seismic Zone, that earthquakes pose a real danger. Credible experts believe that catastrophic loss of life and property in Memphis would most certainly be compounded by global business interruption when the ground there rumbles once again.

I’ve written in this blog before about Memphis, and in our commentary series as well. Thirty percent of all U.S. goods flow through there each year. It is the location of the world’s second busiest cargo airport, and center of the FedEx Express global headquarters. Imagine the worldwide commerce disruption when the movement of packages and shipments stops, even for a day.

So as you can see, we’ve made real progress on earthquake safety and resilience during the past five years, but we have much more to do.

With that in mind, our organization led an elite array of partners and sponsors this May to present the quadrennial 2016 National Earthquake Conference (NEC) and address this question, What’s New, What’s Next, What’s Your Role in Building a National Strategy?

Together, we drew more than 350 global experts on the scientific and practical challenges wrought by earthquakes, tsunamis, and catastrophic risk in general. And the response from the gathered academics, analysts, businesses, communicators, elected officials, emergency managers, engineers, experts, insurers, journalists, modelers, product manufacturers, psychologists, responders, scientists, and volunteers was tremendous. These individuals participated because they share our dread of what will happen when the next “big one” hits.

You can feel the sense of urgency in this brief video.

The NEC drew an impressive array of journalists and news organizations as well, including the BBC, Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine and many more. As they took their seats, our first keynote speaker, Dr. Tom Jordan of USC Southern California Earthquake Center (global headquarters of the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill) answered the question, What’s New? with a presentation of new science showing how the South San Andreas fault is “locked, loaded, and ready to roll.”

He explained through vivid maps and visuals how we are not just due, but overdue, for a major earthquake there.

We anticipated news media interest in the conference, and Dr. Jordan’s presentation ensured it. After award-winning Los Angeles Times Reporter Ron Lin posted this riveting article about Dr. Jordan’s briefing, an explosion of national and international news headlines followed. “Locked, loaded, and ready to roll” dominated the national news dialogue for days and weeks to come.

Mr. Lin’s article sharpened audience attention (in-person and virtual) as the rest of us went on to highlight best practices and challenges in building codes, communication, emergency management, outreach, policy, product innovation, research, and science.

Ten days later, the Los Angeles Times reported that Governor Jerry Brown planned to infuse the EEW system with $10 million in state dollars. This was a departure from the California governor’s previous position. Next, Congressman Adam Schiff voiced his intention to rekindle his effort to get Oregon and Washington state leaders to support the EEW system.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, congressional leaders signaled active support for National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) reauthorization. This is critical as NEHRP is the foundation for essential research that can advance breakthroughs like EEW systems, as well as seismic safety and resilience overall.

The 2016 NEC generated productive policy momentum that complements decades of work by the earthquake community, and experts like Dr. Lucy Jones. Today, as we recall the earthquake that emanated from rural Virginia five years ago, we must accept that earthquakes could happen nearly anywhere and, we must be ready when they do.

(Editor’s note: The preliminary media impact report from the 2016 National Earthquake Conference is available here. The full report and edited videos of program will be available later this year.)

A Futurist’s Take on Weather Safety Communication

By Joe Tankersley, Futurist & Storyteller/Unique Visions, Inc.

This month marks the 8th anniversary of StormStruck: A Tale of Two Homes® at Epcot® at the Walt Disney World Resort. FLASH’s groundbreaking experiment in social change communication represents the first time entertainment and story-telling were fully employed to inform and inspire the public to take action to be better prepared for extreme weather. At the time it was considered a big step and, for many, a slightly crazy idea.

Today, more than 5.5 million people have visited StormStruck since it opened. That number alone is a testament to its importance in the evolution of the weather mitigation movement. For those of us who had the privilege to be part of the project, the real measure of success was reported in a recent study conducted by behavioral science researchers from Carnegie Mellon University.

“This study included a pre-and post-exhibit survey and a 12-month follow-up survey with attendees at the Disney experience, StormStruck: A Tale of Two Homes. The purpose of the study was to measure individuals’ change in knowledge, perceptions of risk, feelings of preparedness, ability to name concrete precautionary actions, and subsequent behavior as a result of going through the StormStruck experience.”

The study found that a majority of the participants “gained critical action knowledge” and “retained that knowledge for 12 months.” Critically, “over 50% took some weather mitigation action.”  The results were so impressive that one of the researchers commented that “we just don’t see this kind of numbers in social change communication.”

Not surprising to those of us who worked on the project, the study concluded that empowerment was a motivational key prompting participants to take preparatory action against severe natural events. “Specifically, our data show that greater feelings of empowerment after visiting StormStruck lead to stronger participant intentions to pursue critical preparatory action upon return home.”

Since helping bring StormStruck to life, I have worked with a number of organizations to help them envision new ways to use the latest communication technologies to create powerful behavior change messages. From these experiences I have compiled a short list of strategies for what comes next.

Social messaging will become increasingly experiential. In the future, a fully immersive social change experience like StormStruck will be the expected, not the exception.

This will be driven in part by the coming explosion in virtual and augmented reality technologies. The number of consumers experiencing virtual reality will grow from just over two million worldwide today to 24 million by 2018. Augmented reality, thinkPokémon GO, will grow even faster, reaching a billion users worldwide in the next four years.

Storytelling of all sorts will become increasingly mobile. Users will expect access anywhere, anytime, and for any amount of time – from a 30-second video break on Facebook (ok, I know those still turn into hours lost) to a weekend spent binge watching the latest Netflix release, consumption habits will become personalized. The era of the PSA will effectively be over.

Authenticity will replace authority. We are seeing an increasing shift from top-down change communication to bottom up – driven by interested individuals and “amateurs.” Just take a few minutes to browse the 300 plus hours of new videos uploaded to YouTube every second and you realize that not all of them feature funny cats or performances by amazingly talented 2-year olds. Individuals are coming together to co-create change messages on topics they care about personally. These “handcrafted” messages are increasingly being favored by audiences over the standard “expert” communications.

One thing that will remain the same with all these new technologies; social change communication will be effective only when we give audiences/participants the tools to make themselves the heroes of their own stories. No matter what technology you use or how you engage your audience to help create your future social change messages, the key findings of that Carnegie Mellon study will remain true. “Greater feelings of empowerment” will lead to actual changes in behavior. Ultimately, that will be the longest lasting impact of that crazy idea FLASH introduced to the world eight years ago.

Weather Channel’s “WX Geeks” Feature FLASH

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As you might imagine, the first question we often get when we encounter new contacts in our movement is, “What exactly is the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes or FLASH Partnership, and how does it work?” Because achieving disaster resilience requires integration of many different areas of expertise, our partners include academics, architects, builders, code experts, corporations, emergency managers, engineers, first responders, floodplain managers, insurers, leaders, manufacturers, meteorologists, modelers, researchers, scientists, and many more.

We are a diverse coalition with the conviction that good science should lead to good building practices, and, ultimately, safe families and strong communities that can both resist and bounce back from natural disasters. With this “road to resilience” in mind, we lead—through collaboration, communication, and innovation.

I recently sat down with Dr. Marshall Shepherd, host of The Weather Channel’s clever Sunday show, WX Geeks to talk about the FLASH Partnership and highlight our new national hurricane resilience initiative, #HurricaneStrong. Thanks to his expert interview skills, a great producing team, and a national news channel that lives its commitment to disaster resilience, we had a stellar opportunity to tell our story.

Enjoy.