Emergency Manager Study Finds Challenges Communicating with the Public (10/15/13)
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 | Comments

A new study found that nearly one-third (28 percent) of emergency managers identified the public’s varied communications preferences as the greatest challenge they face. The 2013 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey asked emergency managers about the most significant challenges they face and the measures they are taking to address them.

The communications challenges include effectively reaching a growing, older population with many special language and other needs. For those with hearing and vision impairments, physical limitations and varying debilities, communications preferences may extend beyond traditional landline phone calls and email, to include text messages and social media channels and more.

Now in its fourth year, and conducted again by Zogby, the annual report has traditionally surveyed the public on safety awareness and emergency preparedness attitudes and behaviors.

"Last year's Federal Signal Public Safety Survey showed that complacency and a lack of safety awareness are common public perception when it comes to emergency preparedness and response," said Joe Wilson, president of the Industrial Systems Division, Safety and Security Group at Federal Signal. "This year, we wanted to assess the complexity of the issues emergency managers face and uncover the actions they are taking to find effective solutions."

As communications preferences continue to change and diversify, emergency managers must consider a layered approach that can reach all community members effectively and efficiently. That includes not only enabling new technologies, but also successfully integrating these with traditional communications methods in a way that drives citizens to action.

More than half of respondents (58 percent) trust local and regional government officials to ensure sufficient public-safety standards, communications and planning, according to the 2012 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey.

Nearly one-fourth (22 percent) of emergency managers said that apathetic community members are their greatest challenge, according to the 2013 study. In fact, the study found only 20 percent of emergency managers feel that their community members are aware of existing alerting and notification systems in their area.

As expected, one of the toughest challenges for emergency managers is the cost associated with new tools and equipment. The 2013 survey found that for 75 percent of emergency managers, the greatest deterrent to updating emergency communications systems is their budget.

According to the 2013 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey:

• 81 percent of emergency managers are promoting their activities and programs at community events and meetings

• 72 percent of respondents are communicating with their community directly though email, direct mail and phone calls

• 67 percent are communicating with the public through a community website

About 55 percent of emergency managers use Facebook as part of their alerting and notification system, and three-in-10 currently are not providing educational tools through websites and social media.

"By evaluating modern technology, emergency managers can supplement communications plans with new ways to take a more comprehensive outreach approach and ultimately connect with more community members," said Wilson.

Zogby International was commissioned by Federal Signal to conduct a nationwide, live operator telephone survey of 200 EMS decision makers or emergency managers. All surveys were completed Aug. 1 – 2. For more information on the 2013 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey, visit www.alertnotification.com.

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