Transcript of Get Ready Report podcast Episode 19: “It takes more than duct tape to prepare for emergencies: Preparedness tips from the Maine Public Health Association"

Tina Pettingill, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association, provides preparedness tips and details on Maine’s GetMEReady campaign.

Narrator: This is the American Public Health Association’s Get Ready Report coming to you from Washington, D.C. Today’s episode “It takes more than duct tape to prepare for emergencies: Preparedness tips from the Maine Public Health Association" interviews Tina Pettingill executive director of the Maine Public Health Association.

Today we’re chatting with Tina Pettingill, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association, which has launched an exciting new preparedness campaign called GetMEReady. Tina, can you tell us a little bit about the campaign and why the Maine Public Health Association thought it was important to launch something like this?

The purpose of GetMEReady was to engage individuals and families in their own emergency preparedness. We did an assessment over a year ago of Mainers and we found that though many of our systems, such as towns, schools, hospitals, etc., have really done a lot for emergency preparedness and are truly prepared for emergencies, most individuals and families are not. We wanted to change that by educating folks on how to be prepared.

Let’s talk about the campaign itself. What are the key highlights and features?

The initiative was mostly an electronic messaging campaign that focused on a variety of ways to reach the general public. We hosted all kinds of different venues and avenues to reaching people, from radio to public library information, to PSAs on TV and working with businesses to get information out through their newsletters. So we had many, many different ways to reach folks through avenues that appeal to them and they were accessing anyway. So we feel like we had a very far reaching campaign.

What kinds of tools does GetMEReady provide?

We provide a great website, which is GetMEReady.org, lots of valuable resources such as an emergency preparedness check-off list and really basic information. What we don’t want to do is overwhelm people any more than they are already overwhelmed; so we really narrow down the scope of preparedness to the three basic messages of “build a kit, make a plan, be informed.” These are messages that all major emergency preparedness organizations give, but we tried to simplify those even further by breaking them down and then giving people a check-off list to download and take to the grocery store and the hardware store so they can really see that this shouldn’t evoke as much fear as people sometimes feel like it does. We don’t want people to get overwhelmed. So again we tried to simplify the message and the tools as much as possible.

How has it been received? Are people excited about it?

It’s a little hard to tell how excited the general public is, especially through electronic messaging. We know how many people we’ve reached. We’ve reached over half the population of the state of Maine. The next phase in our efforts would be trying to do some more evaluation of those efforts and finding out exactly how many people moved from the kind of contemplation stage to the actual preparedness stage of making a kit. But in terms of public health professionals, the campaign has been extremely popular and folks have been very receptive to the GetMEReady campaign. We had a great committee consisting of pretty much all the major players in emergency preparedness work in Maine as well as a host of other people willing to donate their time and energy to our efforts. For example if you go to our website, GetMEReady.org, you can see a PSA that features our Maine Centers for Disease Control director as well as two radio PSAs, one we featured a veterinarian and in another one featured a local pediatrician. We just thought it’s really fabulous when a topic such as emergency preparedness can pull so many varied professionals together for that cause.

How ready are Mainers for disasters and emergencies? Maine can seem far removed from earthquakes and tsunamis, for example, but it’s not immune to other unexpected weather and health events.

True, we certainly have our share of disasters in Maine, such as ice storms that trap people inside for days at a time, even weeks. Power outages, flooding and of course health events and epidemics that any other state would encounter. We feel like through the limited amount of research and data that we have, we feel like Maine does seem to fare a bit better than other states because of kind of our motto in Maine and some of the things we point to in the campaign that in Maine we like to be independent but we also work together to help our neighbors in need. But that said, we also know we have a lot of work to do to ensure that our very rural population is ready for anything, as our campaign slogan points to.

So what are a few of the simple steps we can all take to help our children, our pets and older adults we care for be safe during emergencies?

I would bring you back to the three major components of most emergency preparedness campaigns and it really can be very simple: Build a kit, make a plan and be informed. You always want to consider those three things when you are figuring out how to help your family, your pets and your neighbors. Getting ready by creating a kit of basic supplies, making a plan for how you and your family will handle the emergency, and staying informed of the best ways to respond to potential illness and emergencies. So those three things: a kit, a plan and be informed. And you can go to GetMEReady.org to download a kit checklist and try to make it as simple as possible.

Your campaign’s theme is extremely catchy: “It takes more than duct tape.” Can you tell us why you chose the duct tape theme?

Same reason. We thought it was very catchy too. The slogan of “It takes more than duct tape. Mainers are known for being ready for anything.” Let’s make sure we are. It kind of came out of a brainstorming session with the Get Ready committee and our communications consultant. We were actually joking around a little bit about how duct tape solves all of our problems and we realized we’d stumbled upon a great slogan. As soon as we realized we had a slogan, and it also conjures up images in your head of your dad out there trying to duct tape the carburetor under the hood of the car, things like that, we knew that this was the perfect image for Maine and for the type of independence Mainers show.

That’s great. Thank you, Tina. And for more information people should go to GetMEReady.org, correct?

Yes, thank you

Narrator: Thank you for tuning into today’s podcast. To learn more about the American Public Association’s Get Ready campaign, visit www.aphagetready.org.

Interview conducted March 2011 by Teddi Johnson, The Nation’s Health, APHA

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