Two weeks ago, Salt Lake City’s KUED premiered its documentary “Preparing for Disaster: Starting Now“ as part of a community engagement project examining the region’s natural-disaster preparedness. Nearly 80 percent of Utah residents live along the Wasatch Fault – a 240-mile earthquake fault that stretches along the western edge of the Wasatch Mountains and through the cities of Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo — which makes disaster preparedness a critical discussion.
KUED has built a query asking people about the steps they have taken to prepare for disaster. The responses they’ve received have helped shape programming on the topic, and have also allowed the newsroom to gain a better understanding of the questions people in the community still have about this important topic. It’s helped the newsroom recognize how KUED can better inform its community.
Mary Dickson, a host at KUED, answered a few of our questions about the project.
What’s your role in this project?
I am the creative services director at KUED and oversaw the outreach, promotion and branding for the project — as well as the publication of a companion disaster preparedness booklet. In addition, I co-hosted a follow-up program and worked alongside the producer.
Where did the idea for this topic come from?
The idea came from a producer at the station. The project started out with a focus on earthquake preparedness, but after Hurricane Sandy and local wildfires, we decided to expand it to disaster preparedness in general.
KUED has served our community through public service programs and projects for more than 50 years. In a time of crisis, no other media in Utah can reach every person and every corner of our state as quickly and efficiently as we can. As such, and in light of recent national and local events, we decided to produce the one-hour documentary “Preparing for Disaster: Starting Now” that aired April 16.
We were able to give Utah viewers a firsthand look at lessons learned from natural disasters, including earthquakes, fires and floods. We decided we could have impact far beyond broadcast if we produced a follow-up program during which we could offer the companion booklet – Utah emergency preparedness guides – giving our viewers practical tips for preparing for emergencies.
Our PIN grant gave us an opportunity to do an informal survey of viewers to see how prepared they are and to find out what motivated them. If they weren’t prepared, we could learn more about why they weren’t. This helped us shape the questions for our follow-up program.
What communities or groups were you focused on engaging with? Why?
We were focused on engaging with families, schools, government leaders, businesses and the general public to help them become more aware of the possibility for disaster — and how they can begin preparing for emergencies now.
How are you planning to engage with your audience on this topic? What do you think they’ll find compelling about these stories?
We engaged with our audience in a follow-up program that offered free Utah emergency preparedness guides. We also asked for their expertise in our survey.
We interacted with various community groups, including the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the University of Utah’s Risk Management office and the American Red Cross Utah Region.
We will engage with more of the public during the Natural History Museum of Utah’s upcomming “Nature Unleashed” exhibit on disasters. We are offering them booklets to distribute, and we will hold screenings of our program at the museum to further engage Utahns. We also plan to distribute booklets at the University of Utah’s Be Well Fair.
What the audience will find compelling about the stories in our documentary is how real and personal they are. We interviewed survivors of the 2011 Christchurch, New Zealand, earthquake, the Herriman, Utah, wildfires and Hurricane Sandy.
Personal stories are always the most compelling. They talked about their experience, how some were prepared. Others talked about what they wish they had done to be prepared.
The lessons learned from their experiences are invaluable. They brought up issues that most people don’t think of — such as hygiene.
What are you hoping the impact of this project will be?
We hope this project will get people thinking about the possibility for disaster — and how they and their families can best be prepared. We know we reached people, offering them important and practical resources.
During the follow-up show, we received more than 800 calls requesting guides. By the next day, we were up to more than 1,000. We distributed 2,500 booklets and are now reprinting another 2,500. We sent copies of these to each of our legislators as well.
We also had requests for DVDs of the program from Community Emergency Response Team leaders and others who do training in their neighborhoods and townships. This project will have a lasting impact in Utah.
The Public Insight Network awarded engagement funding to 17 public media newsrooms across the country. We’ll continue to track the work of those newsrooms and others in our Partner Notes blog series.