Counties launch pilot campaign to improve disaster preparedness

Published On: May 02 2012 03:31:19 PM HST   Updated On: May 02 2012 02:29:00 PM HST



It's a perfect day to prepare for the unexpected.  That describes the theme of a pilot education campaign to encourage Hawaii residents to fully prepare for large-scale emergencies and disasters, before they happen.

The pilot launched Wednesday following Tsunami Preparedness Month in April.

Hawaii’s four county mayors, each with emergency management stories to tell, are rallying to kick off and support the campaign. They agree that the price of an unprepared Hawaii is too high.

Project research confirms that Hawaii residents are no strangers to disaster.

Eighty-nine percent of residents say they have experienced a large-scale disaster, but only 25 percent say they are very prepared. Eighty-two percent of residents also believe that government and community organizations are primarily responsible for their preparedness. Many residents said they were too busy or that they never thought about preparing. Others even admitted to being lazy or resigned to wait until the need arises.

"Many people are not as prepared as they think are. Many others would wait until it is too late to prepare. We’ve seen lines at gas stations and grocery stores when storms head our way," said Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, "The goal of this campaign is to determine the best ways to get individuals, families and businesses ready for disasters—before they come."

Carlisle added, "We need to educate our community about what it means to be fully prepared: emergency kits that are complete and sufficient for seven days; a plan that describes what each family member or employee can do during an emergency; and staying informed about emergency situations, including knowing evacuation routes and shelter locations."

Counties, under the leadership of their emergency management programs, work together every day to help residents plan and prepare for catastrophic events such as natural disasters and human-caused disasters, including terrorism.  The City and County of Honolulu is leading this project for the counties under the FEMA Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program.  Oahu is the site for the pilot campaign to determine what messages and methods of communication are most likely to improve disaster preparedness.

“Hawaii has island-specific disaster preparedness challenges affected by a combination of economic, language and cultural factors. But the state is also blessed with committed organizations that serve vulnerable populations and help in outreach," said Melvin N. Kaku, Honolulu's Director of Emergency Management.  “There is no better time than now to prepare.”

The campaign includes public service announcements that include a TV spot, several radio spots, print advertising, environmental advertising, point-of-purchase displays at retail locations and a significant online and social media presence.

The pilot campaign is supported by significant in-kind donations from media outlets and retailers, and is supported by Retail Merchants of Hawaii.  Throughout the month of May, retailers will promote disaster preparedness through in-store education and product displays that highlight both disaster preparedness supplies and information about what it means to be fully prepared.

For more information about the pilot campaign, or to download a complete media kit, visit

Market research, using a statewide telephone survey of more than 1,000 residents is supporting this pilot campaign and the overall project.  It measured respondent knowledge and awareness about disaster issues, plans and preparedness.  The goal of the research is to help determine the messages and methods of communication that will best increase disaster preparedness.


  • Ward Research Inc. conducted a statewide phone survey on disaster preparedness in December 2011, polling 1,087 residents, including 418 on Oahu and about 200 each on Maui, the Big Island and Kauai.  The data assessed residents' level of understanding about preparing for large-scale emergencies.
  • Variables such as age, ethnicity and income were weighted to more accurately reflect the 2010 Census.  The survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.9%.

Disaster Perceptions and Experiences

  • Hurricanes are the most common disaster Hawaii residents have experienced (62%), followed by tsunamis and earthquakes (31% each).  Eighty-nine percent of residents say they have experienced a large-scale disaster in their lifetime.
  • Loss of property is the top concern when it comes to disasters (24%).  Only 2% say they are not concerned at all.
  • Residents are most confident about the government handling natural disasters like flooding and fires and least confident about the handling of public health disasters.

Disaster Preparedness

  • TV is the most common source of disaster preparedness information.  More than half of Hawaii residents currently use radio and TV for disaster updates and information on where to go and what to do (64% and 61% respectively).
  • Those who are between the ages of 18-34, and lower income residents (<$35,000 household income per year) are less likely to have received preparedness information via traditional media like TV and radio.
  • Work/school workshops and the Internet are likely to be effective avenues for 18-34-yr-olds regarding disaster preparedness.
  • Most residents (91%) say they are likely to prepare for disasters based on guidelines, but they expect government and community organizations to help them prepare.  Only 25% of Hawaii residents say they are "very prepared" for disasters now and 54% say they are "somewhat prepared."  Lack of urgency appears to be a common reason for not stocking-up.
  • Preparedness generally improves with age -- and experience.  For example, kauai residents rate higher in preparedness than folks on Oahu and the Big Island.  Still, 3 out of 10 residents say they do not have food/water to last 7 days.
  • Lack of urgency is a common reason for not taking action.  People say they "didn't think of it," or "plan to stock up when the need arises."
  • In relation to stocking up on canned goods, 6% say they do not have the money; 13% do not have the storage space.


People want to be prepared and tend to be less prepared than they think.  Many believe that the government is largely responsible for preparing people for disasters.  Those who have heard or seen simple, instructive messages are more likely to be prepared.  Two population groups should be targeted specifically: those under 35 year of age and those with lower incomes because mainstream media is not as effective with younger adults or economically disadvantaged populations.

The intended outcome of the campaign is to increase public awareness of what it means to be fully prepared for disasters, and to foster greater individual responsibility for emergency preparedness.


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