KUED assesses its community’s disaster preparedness

Annie Anderson
Engagement and Inclusion Manager
Public Insight Network

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting the work being done in partner newsrooms that have received Public Insight Network engagement funding|  Follow the progress of our coverage as we go.

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, KUED

Mary Dickson is the creative services director at KUED. (Photo by Rachelle Anderson | KUED)

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.

We also worked with members of the Emergency Management Association statewide, through Zions Banks statewide, through the Utah Disaster Preparedness Expo and the Utah Health Association Meeting.

How are you planning to engage with your audience on this topic? What do you think they’ll find compelling about these stories?

Taking order for preparedness booklets

Volunteers from the community take orders for disaster preparedness booklets during a show following up on KUED’s documentary on disaster preparedness in Utah. (Photo by Rachelle Anderson | KUED)

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.


Annie Anderson Engagement and Inclusion Manager
Public Insight Network

Annie Anderson has the privilege of working with PIN partners around the country, providing training, coaching and support. In the last two years she has focused on diversifying and growing the Network. She specializes in community engagement opportunities and counseling.

While earning a master’s in public policy from the Humphrey School, she yearned for journalism by the people that could inform and respond to policy. Enter PIN: journalistic civic agency at its finest. She deeply believes that everyone is an expert and knows their own experience better than anyone else.