Winter 2015 EDEN Newsletter

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In this Issue

From the Chair

Disasters and Human Behavior

Dr. Mike YoderAs educators, EDEN delegates and Cooperative Extension educators are all too familiar of the “human factor” in the educational process.  Put three people in a room give them fifteen minutes of information, and chances are that no two individuals will leave the room with exactly the same message. Understanding how people receive and process information has changed the way educators teach.

Listening to one of the great presentations offered at the 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, this past October, this thought struck me.  There are so many agencies and organizations involved in disaster preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery, each with its own message, that inundation and any inconsistencies in the messages may result in apathy, a dangerous condition in a real emergency.  As a boy, I was often reminded about what happened to the little boy who cried wolf.  Constantly sounding the alarm may result in the warning no longer eliciting the same desired response.  People become conditioned to the alarm and when the warning is sounded too often, with no real disaster to follow, they may become apathetic or at the very least, careless.

On the other hand, practice makes perfect.  First responders constantly conduct exercises to perfect technique and hone the response process until it becomes second nature.  Over the past two years, the EDEN Exercise Committee, developed and conducted two response exercises, to determine EDEN’s ability to quickly disseminate information to our varied audiences.  It turns out that most of our participants are very efficient and effective in getting information to the masses quickly.  With a little more practice we could probably improve further.  However, disseminating information quickly does not guarantee that the recipient of that information will respond in the desired manner.  We need to find that fine line.

Practice is important but so is message content.  No one who has ever experienced a tornado, hurricane, flood or fire will ever ignore a future alarm.  But the millions of Americans who have never experienced a true disaster must be reminded that response capacity can decrease but not eliminate the impact of a disaster.  Just as all disasters are local, individuals must understand that preparedness is a personal responsibility.  The recovery process is often long and aid, if available, may be slow in coming.  Relying on government agencies or any other organization to step in and save the day, should not be anyone’s plan “A” for disaster recovery.

Educating our citizens about disaster preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery is about the message.  What we say and how we say it will go a long way in determining how the recipients of that message apply it to their own situations.

That thought was driven home by speaker after speaker at the EDEN Annual Meeting.  Get the message out, get the right message out and do so in a timely manner.  I thought the meeting this year was outstanding, with excellent presentations, great networking opportunities and a keynote presentation on unmanned aircraft systems that kept us all up in the air.  Thank you to Virginia Morgan White, her colleagues and volunteers for being such terrific hosts.   I hope you will consider joining us for the 2015 EDEN Annual Meeting, October 6-9, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. — Mike Yoder, EDEN Chair and POC, North Carolina State University

Oso Strong: The Role of Extension in Community Recovery after a Natural Disaster

On March 22, 2014, a landslide devastated a residential neighborhood near the tiny rural western Washington State community of Oso, killing 43 people. The multi-agency post-disaster response cost the state an estimated $7.7 million to date. After the rescue and search/recovery phases of response ended, members in communities affected by the slide needed long-term assistance determining and achieving the future direction they envisioned for their towns.

Washington State University (WSU) President Elson Floyd tasked Snohomish County

WSU students, Snohomish County Extension Director and WSU President
WSU President Floyd and Snohomish County Extension Director Moulton with student interns. Photo by Mike Gaffney

Extension with coordinating the University’s post-disaster outreach to Oso and the neighboring communities of Darrington (upstream) and Arlington (downstream). WSU EDEN delegates, faculty colleagues, and community leaders formed a task force that designed and delivered outreach to the affected communities. Efforts included student internships, summer youth programming, fundraising, community work days, economic development, and community meals. The task force continues to have bi-weekly meetings to review progress and determine the nature of future outreach.

WSU extended one-year tuition waivers to students from the affected area and identified more than $200,000 for support of community outreach and recovery assistance. Twelve student interns spent the summer of 2014 working on projects such as area water source mapping, web site development, assisting city administration, conducting youth programming, and much more. A benefit banquet and silent auction held on the Pullman campus contributed to the funds available to support engagement, including a WSU student work weekend in Darrington.

Although WSU Extension’s services were not needed during the acute rescue and search/recovery phases of the disaster response, no other entity was better situated to offer the depth and range of post-disaster community outreach in this rural area. Community residents especially appreciated that programs were held in their community instead of requiring them to go elsewhere; they credited this aspect of programming with helping them—especially children—develop a sense of normalcy.

Many of the 12 student interns who served in the area in the months after the mudslide shared what a life-changing experience their internships were. Some even changed career plans as a result of the experience. WSU plans to continue targeted outreach to the affected area as determined by need and available funding.

For in-depth information on the mudslide and related stories, visit WSU and the Seattle Times. —  Article by Susan Kerr (Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist and EDEN delegate) and Michael J. Gaffney (Director, Division of Governmental Studies and Services and Emergency Management Coordinator and EDEN Point of Contact) , Washington State University

EDEN 2014 National Communication Exercise

466850679Every disaster and emergency incident draws attention to the need to have a reliable and efficient means of providing information to the affected public, whether in the form of warnings, notifications, or response and recovery information.  The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) is perfectly situated to communicate critical disaster information to the public and target audiences. Why EDEN? Because it has a mission to reduce the impact of disasters through education, and Extension is long-time disaster education partner.  EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort by Extension Services across the country that is the premier provider of disaster education resources delivered through the Land Grant University system and works to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters.

The Exercise

As a way to demonstrate EDEN’s capacity as an information mechanism in times of emergency a national EDEN communication exercise was conducted in 2014. This exercise highlights EDEN as a significant communication conduit for transmission of important information in times of crisis, emergency or disaster.  The project was designed to see how many individuals could be reached with disaster-related information through the EDEN system and to quantify the time necessary to transmit a message from the EDEN central office to contacts maintained by state level delegates across the country.   The exercise involved actual distribution of a test disaster message to EDEN state contacts.  Those contacts simulated activating their networks to distribute the message within their states.  To capture the reach within those networks, a survey was administered via a web-based questionnaire accessed through a link on the EDEN website. The successful survey-based assessment of EDEN communication confirms the important capacity represented by EDEN.

Exercise Reach

The exercise reach was extremely high. Conservatively estimating, the simulation confirmed that an actual message could reach several million direct and indirect contacts, proving that a full activation of the EDEN network would provide massive reach for the dissemination of critical information.  The success was measured by assessing the types of communication mechanisms available and the number of contacts which could be achieved through each mechanism.  The number of EDEN representatives totaled more than 300 in 25 states.  The representatives using each communication mechanism and the cumulative number of estimated contacts are listed in the following chart.  NOTE, not all respondents specified a number reached.

Communication Mechanism Number Reporting Use (n=318) People Predicted to be reached
E-mail 249 >195,000
Website 174 >660,000
Social Media 192 >306,000
Phone Tree 97 >448,500
Radio 93 >2,555,000
Flyer/Mailing 76 >290,000
Public TV 48 >3,740,000
TOTAL >8,195,000

Article by Christina Sanders (Associate Director, Division of Governmental Studies and Services and EDEN delegate), Michael J. Gaffney (Director, Division of Governmental Studies and Services and Emergency Management Coordinator and EDEN Point of Contact) , Season Hoard (Research Coordinator, Division of Governmental Studies and Services), and Ben Doran (Graduate Student)  Washington State University, and Steve Cain (EDEN Homeland Security Project Director) Indiana.

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