National Preparedness Campaign with Atlanta Roots Enters Fourth Year
Atlanta Non-profit’s ‘BE Safe America’ Effort Garners Support from UPS, Others
Atlanta, June 19, 2012 – The Atlanta-based Safe America Foundation will announce at a Congressional Briefing on June 19th its plans this fall for a national ‘drill season’ to involve more than 2 million people. Under the name “BE Safe America,” the Foundation plans to orchestrate a three-pronged effort that emphasizes (1) heightened training, (2) local practice ‘drills’ and (3) ongoing citizen education.
Be Safe America was begun as a national ‘exercise’ in 2009 and is designed to encourage every American to practice how they would deal with a major disaster. It invites companies both large and small to ‘plug-and-play’ their own preparedness programming into a BE Safe drill season, which extends from Sept. 1 to Oct. 30.
At the Capitol Hill Briefing, Safe America will announce plans to work with a coalition of NGOs and Governmental entities on a late summer outreach effort to encourage public, private, and civil sectors – and everyday American families – to conduct their own practice drills during this 60-day season.
Exercises such as mass employee evacuations or shelter-in-place exercises will be encouraged, along with a simple 60-second ‘text drill’ that the Foundation has developed for families’ use. It includes a ‘safety shorthand’ to help families recognize that they can simply send out a 4-digit ‘R U OK’ message and get a quick ‘I M OK’ reply – which takes less bandwidth than a 1-minute phone call. Safe America’s work with the University of Missouri has proven that you can put 800 such text messages of the ‘air space’ of a single voice call – allowing a small community to reconnect immediate after a disaster rather than be isolated, not knowing the status of loved ones and co-workers.
Working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Homeland Security Task Force, Safe America will begin the process with a survey of Fortune 500 firms to see whether they will ‘pledge-to-prepare’ and then drill. This activity – to be conducted in collaboration with UPS, Federal Signal other partners (both corporate and non-profits) – hopes to set a benchmark from which future annual drills can be measured.
The program will include a “BE Safe America Drill Day,” planned for October 18th. It is planned to coincide with the ‘Great California Shakeout,’ a West Coast-based earthquake drill that last year engaged over 8 million Americans from California, Washington State, Oregon and other earthquake-prone areas.
Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta is the Honorary Chairman of the program. Along with former Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Joxel Garcia, (Chairman of the Safe America Foundation) and Federal Signal President Joe Wilson, the program leadership includes Dr. Doug Himberger (NORC at the University of Chicago); Dennis Rubin, former Fire Chief for the District of Columbia; and UPS Executive Jack McKlveen.
A national steering committee is composed of representatives from Disaster Recovery International (DRI), the University of Missouri, Motorola Solutions, and over 20 non-profit and governmental organizations, including:
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- The Medical Reserve Corps
- The International Association of Emergency Managers
- Points of Light
- National PTA
- The National Emergency Managers Association
- The National Foundation for Women Legislators
- The All Hazards Consortium
- The American Logistics Aid Network
- The Northeast Disaster Exchange (NEDRIX)
- The National Association of Government Communicators
- The National Association of State EMS Officers
- The National Association of Secretaries of State
- The African American Coalition for Drug Prevention Policy
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) will appear at the Congressional briefing along with Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ). Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who hosted the Safe America briefing in 2011, will be honored for her work at engaging ‘average citizens’ in disaster readiness. Also honored will be current First Spouses Luce Vela (of Puerto Rico) and Diane Bentley (of Alabama) along with former First Spouse Gayle Manchin (of West Virginia). The three women – along with Mary Pat Christie of New Jersey – helped spearhead the involvement of gubernatorial spouses from coast-to-coast, including the filming of television messages that have been run on local television stations.
“We’re living in a time when Katrinas, Joplins and Tuscaloosas are annual events,” said Foundation President & CEO Len Pagano. “We’re 100% sure that there will be more significant disasters. The question is, can we minimize their impact by practicing how we’d respond afterwards? It’s obvious that, just like in other endeavors that require pre-meditated forethought and role-playing, a disaster drill can help make our response better, sharper and less spontaneous – which means we can lessen the chance that people will be left behind…or not react and remain in the path of destruction.”
A new survey – conducted by Zogby Interactive for Federal Signal – will be released at the Congressional Briefing. It shows that Americans are confident they are ‘aware’ of the community alert systems in place; yet, in reality, they do not know what these sirens are designed to tell people to do.
Another aspect of the BE Safe program will be honoring the ‘Top 20’ organizations who commit the most individuals and/or collective effort to exercising their readiness. Communities, individuals, and NGOs will also be recognized for their efforts at a planned post-event celebration in the 4th Quarter (hosted by UPS at its Corporate Headquarters in Atlanta).“At UPS we're constantly thinking about our company's global crisis prevention, preparedness and response processes and how these will impact not just our business, but also our employees, customers and communities,” said Jack McKlveen, United Parcel Service Communications Director and Safe America Foundation Board Member. “Having plans for what you will do when a disaster strikes is not just something that large organizations like UPS need to do though , it's also something families and individuals need to be thinking about. This concern for making our nation safer is why UPS is a proud supporter of BE Safe America. “
“We’ll be working with elected women officials across the country to make a simple texting drill to family members as common a fall activity as replacing your summer wardrobe with your fall clothes,” said National Foundation of Women Legislators (NFWL) CEO Robin Read. “It’s not enough to have first responders know what they would do – we all need to recognize that in many emergency situations, for the first 48-72 hours, YOU are your OWN first responder.”