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Frequent ads from FEMA and Ad Council on US internet radio encouraging peopel to prepare for disaster

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  • Sat, Jan 03, 2015 - 11:21pm



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    Frequent ads from FEMA and Ad Council on US internet radio encouraging peopel to prepare for disaster

I have been spending hours in my friend’s retail store and they play internet radio. They have been playing a few American stations, today it was classic rock from New York. In almost every ad break there is a message from FEMA and the Ad Council to prepare your disaster survival kits. It seems excessive. Is this typical for down in the US, or is it the authorities trying to get everyone prepared for what’s coming? If so then that could be a clue that things will unravel soon. We don’t have these kinds of ads in Canada, almost never. Just curious what Americans think, if this is out of the ordinary.

  • Sun, Jan 04, 2015 - 07:31pm



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    Various Possibilities

I can't speak to the regularity of this type of messaging because I don't listen to internet radio. However, I can give you some of my insights on this type of commercial/message.

I spent 6 years in the Army doing something called Psychological Operations, which, is essentially a cross between marketing and propaganda. I haven't heard this commercial nor do I listen to internet radio, but I could probably draw a lot more information out of the commercial if I had heard it. Anyway, I'll go through my thinking when I hear stuff that I consider to be out of the ordinary or just a bit 'strange'.

The first thing to consider when creating a line of messaging to change behavior is called a target audience analysis. So, let us start with that.

Who is the target audience for this message and what behavior do they want to change?

When you say New York, I'll assume it's a broadcast out of NYC. I know it's not that cut and dry because it's internet radio, so the audience isn't limited to NYC, but let's just go with that. NYC has an estimated population of around 8.5 million and New York state, approximately 19.5 million. We could even go a step further than this if we wanted to. For example, if we were privy to the information, we could take a look at the demographics of people who subscribe to or shop in places that play internet radio. Who might that be? Would they have the disposable income to purchase emergency supplies? Some people, no matter how much you beat it into their head, will not prioritize preparing for an emergency. Others simply claim to not have the money to prepare. I don't mean to trivialize their situation, but if it's a priority, you will find a way to do it. If I were spending the money to advertise, I'd want to focus my message on those who have the means to prepare, or at least those who have the will to do so.

Obviously the behavior they want to change is to encourage people who are not prepared for an emergency to take steps to become prepared. It's that easy.

The next thing we should consider is what 'susceptibilities' these people have. By this, I mean why would these people find the 'prepare' message attractive. Without a 'susceptibility', there is little reason to think that people would actually change their behavior, which unfortunately is what I think will happen.

Some people around NJ/NY may have been effected by Hurricane Sandy (I refuse it call it a 'superstorm' because it was literally a Cat II hurricane. At 1 point it was a Cat III storm, but by the time it reached the NE it was a Cat II. I wonder what NJ would have thought of a Cat IV storm like Katrina? I'm willing to bet a big fat ZERO percent of the population of NJ/NY are prepared for that scenario.). This could be a susceptibility. Do they have other experiences that this message may resonate with? Honestly, I don't think much of the population can relate to the preparedness message. At most, people may have experienced a brief power outage, and maybe it was long enough for them to lose all of the food in their fridge. MAYBE. Anyone who has lived through a true disaster is already prepared for the next one, I'm confident of that.

I've read articles written by emergency managers that of their peers, only about 25-30% are prepared for a disaster. That's among emergency managers for Christ sake. If we take half of that, and I feel like I'm being generous here, and apply that percentage to the general population of NYC, that means only about 1.275 million are prepared for a disaster. That sounds like a lot, but that leaves 7.2 MILLION people in a densely populated urban area utterly unprepared for a disaster. This would be a colossal nightmare. Consider a simple task such as descending 10 flights of stairs in a dark stairwell during a power outage. You couldn't do it unless you were carrying nothing or had very good balance/general proprioception. Without a simple flashlight, you could literally be stuck in your apartment. You would be f-ed with a capital F. And this is a minor task. Think about something more complicated like getting to a grocery store or hospital. It would be impossible.

I feel like it is totally reasonable for FEMA to be playing these types of commercials, especially given the enormous loss of life/disaster a 3 to 7 day blackout in NYC would be. Is there something more sinister to the messaging, we'll never know until something happens. I do know that the USG has seemingly 'unlimited' amounts of money that they spend on some enormously unproductive stuff. Take for example the f-35. $400 billion, a decade of work, and now we hear the USAF version won't be able to shoot it's gun until 2019! Great investment of taxpayer money.



  • Sun, Jan 04, 2015 - 09:58pm



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    Purpose of Ads Urging “Preparation”

I'll hit this question from a different angle from lambertad above:

Obviously the behavior they want to change is to encourage people who are not prepared for an emergency to take steps to become prepared. It's that easy.

Probably most people here have the sense that the Great Tetris Game (switching metaphors from the Great Geopolitical Chess Game) is speeding up.

Thinking very broadly there could be other intentions:

1.  To have people begin to anticipate the potential for disaster and know that FEMA was one step ahead of the curve (the opposite of nobody saw it coming)

2.  To establish that FEMA is concerned about them and wants to help.

3.  To lay the foundation for public acceptance for the time when FEMA is "required" to come in under heavy military escort to re-establish order and provide food and shelter.

We saw it coming, we tried to warn you but you didn't do it right, but don't worry, we will take care of you now (by force).  Kind of like "the curfew is for your own protection."

–guesses based on my understanding of the way the game seems to be played.


  • Mon, Jan 05, 2015 - 01:43am



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    good will

I'm inclined to think that there are people of genuinely good will in the government who have sincerely been trying to get people to do the minimal in preparation for years, with little success.  Maybe they've finally written off the masses and are targeting the audience that is likely to be most receptive and most likely to be able to survive.

John G

  • Fri, Jan 16, 2015 - 11:01pm



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    Maybe in response to France?

With all the recent and ongoing jihadi activity targeting western nations, I wonder if it just an acknowledgment (or possibly some specific intel) that NYC would be the most likely target again for either a physical or cyber attack.

  • Wed, Jan 21, 2015 - 10:47am



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    May be a way to reduce cost?

More prepared people = less to help = less money to spend = simpler task ?

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