EMForum Presentation — December 11, 2013
[Welcome / Introduction]
Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to
EMForum.org and our last program for 2013. I am Amy Sebring and will
serve as your Host and Moderator today and we are very glad you could
Our topic today is the national preparedness campaign from the Safe
America Foundation. Today we will learn about their ongoing
efforts and some exciting initiatives on the horizon. Today’s
recordings and a copy of the slides will be available from our site
later this afternoon. A transcript will be available early next
Now it is my pleasure to introduce Safe America founder and CEO, Len
Pagano. Through Len’s leadership, the Safe America Foundation has
developed educational and practical safety and preparedness programs for
businesses and communities. He currently leads a staff of 18 from Safe
America’s suburban Atlanta headquarters where he is joining us today.
Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical details and
links to several related resources.
Welcome Len and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us
today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.
Len Pagano: Thank you, Amy. I want to thank you for this
opportunity to share our program and give everybody online a chance to
look at ways they may want to collaborate or partner with us in
2014. That is one of the hopeful conclusions that I would hope any
of you on the phone today will make.
I would like to add that my wife Mary Lou Pagano, who is our executive
vice president for programs and has helped with development of this
campaign over the past five years, is also here today.
Mary Lou Pagano: Hi, Amy and hi to everyone online.
Len Pagano: As you are looking at the title slide right
now, “Protecting America”—I think the whole idea of this program is to
do that. We are really committed to the idea that being prepared
will keep you from being as affected by any kind of event whether it is a
weather related storm, active shooter, terrorist or any kind of
We are focused on preparedness because we believe mitigation is not only
the key to saving lives but also to reducing the financial burden of an
event. We all have heard plenty of stories about how companies
who aren’t prepared or organizations or individuals who aren’t prepared
suffer greater both psychologically and financially. This
conversation is on how you can be prepared and how you can use our
program to help get you there.
One of the major events in the past year was Sandy. In the last
fifteen months a lot has been said and written about Sandy. I
would point out that what we learned from the event was that responding
to natural disasters continues to be a challenge. Jurisdictions
overlap so when you have federal, state and local governments all trying
to work their own agendas there is no question we have a challenge.
We have had several meetings in New York in the past six or seven weeks
and as we heard from different points of view there is the reality—it is
sort of like a keystone cops scene where people go to the same site and
find out something has already been handled. So it is important to
develop some kind of coordination.
One leader pointed out that we do not have institutional stability and
that is one of the factors that happens—a constant change in
administrations both at local and federal levels—it means solutions
aren’t fully implemented before a new administration starts. There
is always the chance that someone comes into office or into a position
of authority and they start to go in another direction. That is one of
It was interesting that we can say there was certainly significance
about Sandy that causes it to be still looked at and will be looked at
for some years to come. It was the second most costliest hurricane
in U.S. history with damage estimates exceeding sixty-eight billion
dollars. I didn’t realize as many people were hurt or killed until
I did this research—286 people were killed in seven counties. You
can see 24 states were impacted.
The key is that Sandy is a catalyst for improving the situation.
That is what we were discussing when we were having a meeting on October
29 at Bank of America with a group of leaders from the Association of
Contingency Planners. In our conversation with them and other city
leaders we learned what is shared on this slide—we have to improve the
way we communicate the threat and the risk.
What struck me is the National Hurricane Center in Miami has taken steps
to revamp how it shared critical information with the public. An
example is that scientific terms are being now replaced with direct
statements about the potential danger of a storm and cities have
expanded their evacuation zones.
Those are two positive things that have come out of Sandy. The
challenge going forward will be broader when you look at the whole U.S.
and not just people on the east coast. The fact is we still have a
mindset that national security risks or terrorism is the dominant
worry. Certainly for other parts of the country other than New
York, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. weather predominates their
The challenge going forward is how to incorporate a heightened sense of awareness with disasters at the same time.
We prioritize the use of money and resources which are obviously in
shorter and shorter supply. Everyone wants to fix problems but who
is going to pay for it? That is an ongoing issue we are going to
face for the next five or ten years.
The next slide talks about our work this year. We are completing year
five of our program “Be Safe America”. It was our best year ever
in mobilizing Americans to do drills. This fall we had close to
two million people involved. Some of the partners were the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Contingency Planners, Shake Out,
which is a large earthquake drill that has been growing to be a global
drill out of California.
These are three of the major partners but we had others like the U.S.
Medical Reserve Corps, IAEM, NEMA and a variety of other groups at a
local level. In 2014 what we are looking at expanding this
collaboration feeling there is a need for a major program to fill gaps
left by other agencies. This is why we are delighted to see
today’s conversation because we want to involve as many individuals, as
many companies and communities as possible.
At our meeting in New York Fortune 500 firms were there like Bank of
America, KPMG, the New York Stock Exchange, UPS and Wal-Mart. All
of them indicated there is a value to what Safe America is doing.
One of the things that struck me is that because of sequestration the
federal government’s FEMA division has not been able to do as much to
get around the country as they had in previous years.
An example is IPAWS whose executive director Antwane Johnson met several
times with me and we had several conversations after we did some joint
presentations in New York. He said he very much appreciated what
Safe America is doing—the concept of having a single day where there can
be a drill across the country is valuable.
At IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert Warning System) their growing charge
is to make everyone aware of what your cell phone is doing when it sends
off a beep that relates to an IPAWS alert. He said that a lot of
people don’t know what is happening and what IPAWS is doing. If we
can piggyback on what you are doing with the Safe America drill season,
we would love it.
Our goal in 2014 is to do just that—for our drill to be part of the
agenda but to also to expand the awareness of IPAWS, emergency alerts
and cell phones. So I know, Mary Lou, this is one of those things
the average cell phone user doesn’t know—what an IPAWS alert sounds
like. Even though they have done some work with various groups
around the country like the Ad Council that has produced the TV spot
that has been distributed, it is still not known.
Working with IPAWS and ACP—we want to involve others to make sure
everybody knows they have a role to respond and not just to let an alert
go off on their phone and ignore it. It has happened and cost
lives. It is no good to have a tool and not understand the tool’s
purpose. This is where we still have work to do.
Realistically there are countries like Israel and South Korea that
understand the value of a drill. I don’t know that we get it.
Part of what we are trying to do is focus on message creation.
Mary Lou and I can tell you this is one of our sweet spots. Mary Lou do
you want to speak to some of our work in messaging?
Mary Lou Pagano: One of the things we started the Be Safe
America program with the goal of having Americans shift their thought
process around emergencies. We are talking about individuals not
thinking that if there is a weather disaster or a manmade emergency that
there is going to be someone who is going to be there ready to come and
help them—that they actually have to be their own first responder.
What we have been promoting for the last five years that people pledge
that during National Preparedness Month (September) they will do some
kind of drill with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and
businesses. We got out there with that message—pledge to drill—and
actually conduct a drill as well as have a plan for what supplies you
need in your home and that sort of thing.
The original program under Be Safe America was promoting a
communications tool using cell phones asking people to “Text First, Talk
Second” in a disaster—that frees up the phone lines for real emergency
personnel to get their calls through. Text messages, we learned
through our research with Dr. Rob Duncan at the University of Missouri
that over 800 four letter texts could get through in the span of a one
minute phone call.
This “Text First, Talk Second” program became our banner program for Be
Safe America and we went to First Spouses (governors’ spouses) around
the country and asked them to get behind this. Starting in 2010
the former first lady of West Virginia, Gayle Manchin, really jumped on
board with this program and became a champion for it.
She said the name of the program “text first, talk second” is your
elevator speech. People can understand this is what we want them
to do. We went ahead and promoted this use of a code “r u ok” that
should be texted to family members or co-workers with a response of “I m
ok” or “help”. You are looking at a slide that is showing you
these different messages we have created—be prepared, be safe, text
first, talk second and we have a PSA on the importance of volunteerism
and then we have this PSA running on Wal-Mart check-out TV that starting
November 11 and is running through the end of December.
This particular spot is being aired currently in 600 Wal-Mart
stores around the country and the importance we feel with this message
is to shift the paradigm of people being apathetic about not being
prepared for an emergency. This is saying there is one quick thing
you can do.
(Walmart PSA http://youtu.be/JAL_YJvvxIs)
Len Pagano: We’ll show next the spot about
drilling. We produced this a couple of years ago and show it
annually because some people have no awareness that a drill has a value.
(Importance of Drilling PSA http://youtu.be/9Dmy6eoEV_s)
That was the second spot today but it was the original spot we created. We had a number of First Ladies record a spot.
Mary Lou Pagano: Our First Spouses program currently has
fifteen governors’ spouses around the country participating to get the
message out to text first and talk second. This is our current
chairwoman, Dianne Bentley of Alabama and we’ll see her PSA now.
(First Spouses PSA http://youtu.be/m-du9ZZcl-c)
In each state the spouses determine how they use these PSAs. In
Alabama, Puerto Rico, Delaware and Rhode Island they have taped the PSA
and released it at an important time for their state when they have
weather emergencies that people need to hear this message to remind them
how to communicate.
Len Pagano: The next spot is the original one we had
created by a group of communication students in San Francisco.
This is a message about how texting helps the wireless carriers.
(Text First. Talk Second. PSA http://youtu.be/frD2TyX-o2Y)
As you can see from that spot it was very clever in visually being able
to communicate the idea that when everybody gets on a wireless device at
the same time you have a problem. The wireless network was not
created like the landline network. It is not an unlimited number
of people that can call on any one cell tower.
This is one of the real messages people don’t get. We have been in
a series of meetings with groups in Washington like the FCC where we
have explained these spots and they have said to me that this is great
because this is a message that has not been communicated and gotten out
there.. For those of you listening today we want to make you aware
of these spots but invite you to use them.
If you need a copy or want to put it up on a website we would be happy
to help you do that. The last spot is a little more generic but we
think it is important too because it speaks to the need for every
American to be involved and be a volunteer. This is a spot we
produced with Delta airlines and it was shown on Delta’s domestic
flights across the U.S. for about a month.
(Volunteer (Delta) PSA http://youtu.be/y9ep-jlfhXA)
That is still a sweet spot for Mary Lou and I. It is something we
think is important. We’d be happy for any of you who are
interested as we update these spots and make the 2014 oriented. If
you’d like a copy let us know.
Now we’ll talk about our vision and where we want to go. First
off, if you said if preparedness is an issue that is on everyone’s mind,
I think many of us would say “not really”. If we are
professionals—we are preaching to the choir here today—most of us think
of preparedness every day. Most Americans do not.
Our vision for the Be Safe America campaign in 2014 is to ratchet up the
awareness of preparedness that each individual needs to be interested
in. Building that platform that makes preparedness a top five
issue is a goal. We want to anchor our program in New York City
with major Fortune 500 firms.
We want to create a website that is rich in content and has exclusive
sponsors in categories such as current disasters and research on what
can be done—new technology that is being developed all the time, apps
that are out there, and certainly health issues—these are things we want
to put into a website that would also feature partners’ information and
their resources as well as NGOs, mainline media and what they can bring
to the table.
This may be in there repetitively. We’ll skip over that slide.
The Safety News Network is our vision of how we can accomplish all of
what we just talked about—getting the awareness out there. Let’s
hit the link there to safeamerica.org and SNN and for those of you
looking at that you can see a site we are beginning to populate with
different informational things. https://safeamerica.org/snn
At the top the banner has different pull-down menus. For example
pull the topic menu bar down and you can see some of the topics we are
talking about addressing—disasters, health, transportation, weather,
youth, training, research. All of these areas usually have
something to do with a major event and what we want to do is provide in
one location this kind of content.
Under partner news we have a variety of partners I have mentioned
already—imagine if all their information were available through this
central source. There are programs about Safe America, our CEO
network and Be Safe America plus the program Mary Lou referred to, the
First Spouses Campaign, these are things we want people to know more
about and being able to update them on a regular basis would be very
We can aggregate something that is very much a need that hasn’t been
addressed. A good friend Tom Moran in the Baltimore area has been
running the All Hazards Consortium and he came to me about two years ago
and said that with my background in broadcasting I could do something
that would create an all news channel on disasters.
In essence Tom’s inspiration is evident today. This Safety News
Network (SNN) will be just that. You can see some names of
bloggers who are interested in being part of this. If you go down
you’ll see a variety of faces. These are some of the people—if
those of you on the phone today would like to be a part of this, know
that this has not gone live yet so we would love to involve those of you
who are interested.
The young woman on the far left, Amanda Mason, is the national
spokesperson and she will be creating content so we can tell the story
of how to be safe in ways that are just as entertaining and convincing
as what different organizations do to sell tooth paste. It is
important to make the message digestible for the average person.
It has been too many professionals leading the charge and we have kept
it in our corner as professionals but it needs to be that the average
person in America cares about this like they care about the
environment. If “green” is such a big important issue it didn’t
there because people in the environmental field kept it to
themselves—you know that? That is a critical point. As we
look at our role it is to take it to the next level of involvement by
To that end I think the Safety News Network will help us. We’ll
look forward to any feedback any of you have on the line because we are
looking to build this with a lot of people and partners.
The next slide talks about the relationship we have with the people at
the Clinton Global Initiative and to say they have invited us. The
woman in the middle is Karina Nagin in New York. Mary Lou and I
met with her along with the other gentleman visualized there, Jeff
Bogart, to talk about what we can do to get this agenda out across
Because of our interest in involving women leaders especially the first
spouses of various states, Karina thinks the interest of female
leadership both by Bill Clinton and Hillary will make this program one
they might want to spotlight. They have meetings in New York and
Denver in May that we are hoping to be a part of.
The Denver meeting is the CGI America meeting where they outline
programs they think have value for the country. Karina was very
interested in having us present so we are going to talk to our chairman
elect Hugh Welsh about being there and representing our program.
For those of you interested in being a part of this we are looking to
put a task force together. It will be New York centric but anyone
in the country can participate. Let us know if you are interested.
To that end the next slide talks about building a partnership.
That includes any of you listening in today. We are seeking input
on 2014. We are having a meeting tomorrow at the UPS headquarters
here in Atlanta. The UPS foundation which has been a long-time partner
will be leading this conversation and our goal is to survey others, to
listen, and have conversations to build this program to the point where
it is as visible as any other major non-profit program.
A board member who some of you may know, Dennis Schrader, who used to be
a major part of FEMA and the effort there to help people there for
future disasters—Dennis and I spoke several times over the last couple
of years about how the Susan G. Komen Foundation has grown to become
such a significant force in dealing with breast cancer.
I am always amazed in October when I get on a Delta flight and they
offer pink lemonade. They are doing this to raise funds for the
Susan G. Komen Foundation. Now it doesn’t seem like breast cancer
awareness issue is limited to October. It is a twelve month
deal. Even at Christmas this year I have seen groups promoting
they are going to sell products and wear pink shirts and raise money for
Susan G. Komen.
When I bring up the parallel Dennis used to say, “How long do you think
it took for that organization to get this kind of visibility?” We
did the research and found out it took twenty years. If that is a
parallel for us, we are halfway there. In ten years we should be
making this issue top of mind for everybody.
That is where Mary Lou and I are hoping that those of you listening can
be a part of helping us popularize this because building this into a
partnership where everybody is involved is one of our goals. This
slide talks about utilizing upcoming meetings in 2014 of the Association
of Contingency Planners, the U.S. Chambers Business Civic Leadership
Center, Operation Hope—we’ll be talking with them later this afternoon.
There are lots of groups and whether it is at a private lunch or
breakfast we want to recruit new partners. We are focused on New
York, Washington and Atlanta but we’ll also be looking at Chicago,
Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver and other cities. Our goal in all of
this is to stage a national drill in October of 2014.
We started that this year. We want to ratchet up the
visibility. We want to talk to Major League Baseball about
partnering with us. We have had meetings with them already.
Just imagine if every one of thirty-two major league baseball stadiums
promoted this and the texting idea. This is something Mary Lou and
I believe we can make happen this year and it is really very important.
Back to having women being involved—women are critical to how we not
only run families but communities. It is critical to have more and
more female leadership. That is a message we are going to stress
over the next six to ten months.
As we go to the final slide your opportunity is to help us make this
happen. I hope you will want to be a part of what we call the Safe
America Alliance and our CEO Network. What you can do is start by
recruiting others. Link to our website—link to us and let us help
sell the story. But if you have ideas and your own vision on how
to build the ultimate program, that is why we are here today—we
appreciate this opportunity on the EM Forum today. I want to thank
Amy and Avagene for making this possible.
Mary Lou Pagano: With all of us working together we can
really build a culture of preparedness at a grassroots level for all
Americans. Thank you, Amy for giving us this opportunity.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Len or myself and we’ll look
at how we can partner and collaborate for the 2014 preparedness season.
Amy Sebring: Thank you so much to both of you. You’ve got some really exciting things going on. We will move to the Q&A portion.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Amy Sebring: I get the feeling that in the emergency
management community we have certain expertise but you seem to be
bringing expertise in networking and the campaigns that are really a
Len Pagano: Thank, Amy for your observations and kind
words. I compare it to selling toothpaste. Everybody needs
to be prepared and yet we haven’t gotten that message across. More
and more you see any event and you see people waiting for the first
responder. You’d think we were totally helpless. Most people
can do a lot and don’t need to be sitting on a street corner acting
like they are helpless.
Knowing the burden on first responders, part of this whole campaign is
to help people realize they can be their own first responder especially
in the first 72 hours in a situation when there are serious illnesses or
injuries and any kind of disaster has those who are really affected and
those on the periphery. Those people on the periphery don’t need
to be focused on getting attention and we need to teach them that.
That is what we’re trying to do.
Amy Sebring: Do you have a contact tab on safeamerica.org where folks can find that?
Len Pagano: You’ll find how to reach us there and we’re
happy for you to call us at (770) 973-SAFE or email Mary Lou or I at
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com .
For those in the Atlanta area we are going to have a meeting at UPS
tomorrow. We have a couple of open seats if you are interested in
attending at being a part of our dialog. Just let us know and we
can give you the logistics for the meeting tomorrow afternoon.
Amy Sebring: Mary Lou, how many First Spouses do you have currently signed up and are you looking for more?
Mary Lou Pagano: We have fifteen and yes, our goal is to
involve all the first spouses. If you have a close relationship
with the first spouse in your state, let me know. We are
constantly emailing all of them. We update them regularly even if
they haven’t jumped on board by taping a PSA or issuing a press release
about the text-first-talk-second program which some of them do.
Some issue a proclamation encouraging this kind of personal preparedness
and using the text-first system of codes (I M OK) The spouses
tell us they are supportive and are encouraging. The fifteen are
the actively involved spouses.
Amy Sebring: I would think NEMA, the state directors organization, would be helpful to you in lining up some additional ones.
Mary Lou Pagano: We do work with the emergency managers in
several of the states. They work closely with the first spouse and
we work with them.
Avagene Moore: Len, I have long felt that we as a nation are
not doing enough to be prepared. From your viewpoint, what
would help the most to make individuals aware that they are responsible
for themselves first of all?
Len Pagano: Well this is one of those things that needs a
good PR advertising campaign. Part of the challenge is to make
people see this as a real need. It is like if you said we have to
get people motivated—what is the motivation? A lot of people think
they aren’t going to face a disaster next year so why do
anything? If I’m not going to die next year, why worry about a
It is some simple logic we all employ. We have to find a way to
make something about the exercise process, the drill, valuable.
Let me tell you why we focused on texting. A lot of people text
but then a lot of people don’t know how to text. A lot of people
who don’t know how to text are older people—people over fifty or
sixty. It is a helpful tool, not just a disaster tool.
In helping people learn how to text we are helping people to communicate
in a new way. There have been any number of people who have told
us they are delighted to know how to text and be in touch with
kids. It tends to be the younger generation that likes to text
over voice calls. So now if you know how to text you can reach
eighteen or twenty year olds in their dorm room where they might not
have called you and you get a response on whether or not they are coming
home for Christmas.
These things are non-emergency related. We are using it as a tool
and incentive for people to be active. In doing a national texting
campaign what we are doing is saying to do something real simple—have
everybody in your family text to each other at the same time. One
of the things we have on our site is a free app to download so you can
do multiple texts. You can text four or five family members the
same message at the same time.
Imagine the value of that for everyday occurrences if you had a car
issue of who is going to pick you up—you could send five members of your
family a text saying you had a flat tire near perimeter center—who can
pick me up? That is a practical use of a texting app for free
Part of the reason we came up with it is because it had a lot of value
in everyday life. It is not just for occasions of disasters.
Another thing we haven’t talked about that I would bring up—Avagene’s
question prompted me to remember—we are dealing with the next generation
that needs to be a part of the equation.
We are working with Boys & Girls Clubs nationally. One of the
programs we have called Safe Tomorrows emphasizes teaching kids they
have different issues they face. Texting can be handled in a
positive or negative way, for example sexting (showing something you
shouldn’t show on the internet), bullying kids, or texting and
driving. These are all negative implications.
We have focused in Safe Tomorrows on curriculum building that gets the
individual from ten to fifteen years of age to say they don’t need to do
these things—I need to be able to take care of myself and I need to
know what is proper and only do things that are safe. This
includes what I put out on the internet. I don’t go to Facebook pages
and do things that are provocative and then find myself in trouble
because someone stalks me or some forty-two year old man comes after me
thinking I’m really cool.
There are implications to preparedness for young people in everyday
life. This whole area—we get into the knock-down game where people
are getting punched and knocked out in random acts of violence—there
are ways to deal with some of these things through our preparedness
campaign and making young people alert.
The awareness of how to protect yourself and being ready for any
incident is very important and has everyday implications. Tools
like texting and the apps on our website are valuable to everyday
How we make preparedness more relevant is making value of
preparedness. Like what is the value of losing weight? You
can live longer. Preparedness can translate into the same kind of
situation. What is the value of preparedness? In an
emergency your house withstands a hurricane. You all know where to
rendezvous. Somebody’s car breaks down and you know how to get
some help because you can text.
These are all practical things beyond preparedness and it is something we are trying to stress.
Mary Lou Pagano: To Len’s point reaching the younger
generation will help with this issue. If we can get them on board
they are the ones who have to do fire evacuation plans for a classroom
project in elementary school. In having a Safe Tomorrows program
we are trying to actively engage the young people in being responsible
for their own safety.
Mickey Lewandowski: In my community we are relatively disaster
benign and my experience is that the average person feels no urgency to
get prepared. So engaging them in a quick and convenient text drill with
practical use is a smart idea.
Amy Sebring: You mentioned some research that was informing this. Can you speak a little about this?
Len Pagano: We worked on this with Rob Duncan with the
University of Missouri who is Vice Chancellor for Research there.
We found out several things. First of all there is a limit to the
wireless cell towers and how many phone calls they can transmit even in a
good situation. We wanted to help quantify this because the
average person has no concept of this.
We asked Rob how many 4-digit text messages—something as simple as “R U
OK” can be transmitted in one minute. He said over a digital
network you can send out 800 text messages in one minute. At the
same time we know that a one minute digital call can connect only two
people—one person on one end of a phone line and one on the other.
We came up with the slogan of 800 to one—you have 800 better odds of
being connected in an emergency using a text over a single voice call.
As we did more research with Rob we found out increasingly this is an
issue for first responders that phone lines can be tied up and obviously
emergency signals or communications can’t get through.
There has been growing support from public safety officials to our
campaign. We are looking at doing more research because there is
more we can find out. One thing that is a short-term relative
emerging issue is that everyone who can text also could be texting to
In terms of a lot of communities around the country are planning to
implement texting to 911 over the next two to four years—so it is going
to be interesting as this becomes a common language for emergencies for
people to text and say, “I’m in need of help. I’ve had a car wreck
or somebody has broken into my house”.
If people start texting to 911 centers—they’ve already been doing
it. The problem is in many states where they don’t have the
equipment the text message goes unanswered or unseen by the 911
center. This is changing. States like New Hampshire are now
equipped to handle text messaging and so are certain communities.
Durham, North Carolina is one I went to and studied the system being
implemented there by Verizon. As this is getting to be a system
that all carriers—AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile—they are all going to be
able to have it so if you text to a 911 center, once the system is set
up in each community it will be the same as all of us learning to dial
one and area code and long distance.
For those of you who don’t know there was a time when that wasn’t
doable. Bottom line is we have all gotten accustomed to dialing
internationally or domestically long distance and that is what will
happen with texting. It will become a common feature to 911 call
centers. All of these things translate into everyday life so back
to the point of those communities that are benign when it comes to
disasters—we all still have fire stations and we all still have
Weather related emergencies seem to be on the uptick so what we are
talking about will have value to anybody in any weather emergency.
Michael Farinacci: I think your efforts are noble considering
cuts in budgets from National to Local government. In our area, I do not
see a lot of movement with the CERT, which would go a long way for
people taking on volunteer roles in their community and being prepared
for themselves and helping others. Have you had any feedback from
IAEM and/or State agencies? Have you met with any criticism,
constructive or otherwise, concerning redundancy (Prepare.gov).
Len Pagano: We met with IAEM. In fact they are one
of our coalition partners. We are proud to have IAEM and NEMA and
other groups that are part of this campaign. I think your point of
redundancy is one we haven’t seen. We are trying to be somewhat
unique. I think the idea of having a single national day when
there is a national drill has been very intriguing.
I will tell you one of the wireless carriers in particular was a little
worried their network couldn’t handle the volume of text messages in one
single day they forecast so they did research to see if we could shut
their network down with this Be Safe America text drill. They came
back and said, “We are really excited. Our network said you can’t
shut our network down”.
To me that was an accomplishment. Had we not suggested this idea
they never would have figured out if they were vulnerable or not to a
single texting day. Part of what we are talking about is some of
this is in the area of behavior and some of it in the psychology of the
issues. We deal with a lot of people in advertising, public
relation shops, and broadcasters (I’m an ex broadcaster).
We are talking about social engineering. It is not looking for a
law. It is back to your suggestion of CERT. It is getting
people to want to take that kind of training. We are working with
FEMA. We are delighted that Russ Webster in Region I and Jim
Duncan in Region V and a host of others in Washington, D.C. that we work
with at FEMA.
They have seen the value increasingly in what Safe America is doing and
we are pleased that a lot of people voluntarily get behind it. We
are hoping today that all of you on the call or who hear it later—we
want you to be a part of our national team. It is something we do
need more funding. If you haven’t given money yet this holiday
season and you would like to make a tax deductible donation or you know
someone who can, this is something we would welcome.
We need people, money and energy. If you have any of those we are loving to have you involved.
Isabel McCurdy: I'm gathering you are changing the way we are
using communications in an emergency. I was taught not to use the phone.
So now this seems to be confusing. Use the phone, not use the phone.
Len Pagano: The premise of using the phone for texting is
a good point we can speak to for a moment. What we are dealing
with the most important thing other than surviving a disaster.
That is job one—surviving. Job two is to talk to somebody and
reconnect. It starts with your employer, family and
neighbors. The only way to do most of that is to pick up a phone
The idea of using a text is to keep the number of actual interactions at
their highest level so we can all text at the same time. It is
more doable than all of us using a wireless device at the same
time. A lot of households no longer have a landline. We are
one of those that don’t. Although Mary Lou would love to have a
landline again I say it is redundant and we don’t really need it.
We have six cell phones in our family. We have six people.
We have four adult children and most of them live in our immediate
area. When we want to get in touch with our children, we either
text or use the cell phone—in an emergency being able to teach them up
front a four digit code.
Remember in the movie “Titanic” was talking about SOS and using the
Morse code—a lot of people who weren’t around in the sixties to see the
original movie “Titanic” or even care about the history of Morse code
might not know that SOS which we think of as a term that is shorthand
for emergency, came from Titanic—Save Our Ship.
We are trying to develop a new Morse code called our safety
shorthand. Our digits “R U OK” can be responded to “I M OK” or
“HELP”. It is a simple code you can practice any day of the week
or month of the year but to do this in October or September, which is
traditionally preparedness month, this would be a great thing if
millions of people did this in a stadium.
Let’s talk about stadium safety for a moment. Sports stadiums are
one of the more vulnerable environments we all have that we recognize
from films could become targets in the future. There is a major
sports group we work with NCS4 that is worried about stadium
safety. Most of the security forces employed use texting to
communicate in stadiums.
They don’t pick up a phone and talk to each other—they text. I’m
bringing this up because doing texting drills like the one we did at the
University of West Virginia in the Marshall West Virginia football game
two and a half years ago. It was a great example of what should
happen. Hundreds of people can text at the same time in a stadium
and those are going to be connected. Thousands could, actually.
What we are looking at in this whole idea of getting people to know when
to text and when not to text is pretty important. We work in
transportation safety as well so we have a campaign against texting and
driving. We put these elements together in a brochure called
“Textiquette”. The idea is that there are times to text and times
If you are going to be in an emergency you want to know how to get back
in touch with someone else. As has been proven in a number of
emergencies in the last five years—if you put a text in, even if it
doesn’t get communicated right away it probably will stay in the queue
and get delivered. People in Haiti found that to be true, New
Orleans, after 9/11, Joplin, Missouri—people found a text message will
be delivered even when you can’t make a phone call or get connected with
a wireless device..
There are certain needs that people still want to communicate. If
we get people used to texting at least they will have the satisfaction
of knowing the person at the other end is safe and responding if they
respond with a text.
Kayline Barnhart: Is there any guidance on how to construct a
reply if you are not OK? Responding by texting HELP is just a start.
Just wondering if your experts have given that aspect any
Mary Lou Pagano: On our website there is a “Text First, Talk Second” FAQ
and what we say is if someone has texted you “HELP” what you should do
is contact the state patrol closest to them. Try to get law enforcement
involved closest to the location of the person in need of help.
That is currently what our advice is.
Len Pagano: I mentioned the app that was developed by a Motorola engineer on our website. I would encourage you to download
it because it has a feature that also gives the GPS location of where
people are you want to be connected to and there is an upgrade for one
dollar ninety-nine cents that allows you to see them in real time if
they are moving.
Part of what we need to do is take advantage of these kinds of apps so
that if somebody—and this is increasingly the case—is in an emergency
and you say “HELP” you won’t have to say too much because your GPS
coordinates can be shared with public safety. We have been in
conversations and have talked to wireless carriers and manufacturers and
I think this is going to be the case that a person who needs help won’t
need to say too much.
Take a look at the app on our website on our homepage. I forget
where it is exactly. I think it is a pull-down bar you can get
this and load it in five minutes or less. We found it to be
helpful. It is free. If we can get more people to look at
apps today there are so many good ones out there—we are trying to
promote some and we are looking at one now that will help people dealing
with an active shooter situation to protect yourself in those
The bottom line is to take advantage of the tools that are out
there. We at Safe America are going to try over the next year to
be an information channel so you’ll be able to learn more through us if
you want to be a part of our extended family. We certainly would
love to have any of you listening to be part of our membership or a task
force. Let us know if you want to be involved.
Amy Sebring: When do you anticipate the launch date for SNN?
Len Pagano: We are trying to finalize it now. To be
honest with you, at some time during the first six months—I’m saying
that to be a little comical. We are trying to put together some
resources. We are talking to some organizations that may be able
to add content. We’d like to have it up before April.
It is really ready to go live and we could start in January but we may
wait just a little longer to get a few bells and whistles in
place. If you are interesting in it, we are looking at how we can
have stringer reporters. I think professionals who know a lot
about the topic we are dealing with could be involved in communicating
or sharing information.
It is like how CNN has gotten people used to the idea of sending
information in. We are going to be looking at how to incent people
to be our eyes and ears for SNN.
Amy Sebring: Excellent. I was just going to wrap up by
encouraging folks who have good ideas and would like to contribute to
get in touch with you.
Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our
participants, thank you very much Len and Mary Lou for being with us
today and sharing this information with us. We wish you every
success as you move forward with your efforts.
Thanks to everyone for participating today and our very best wishes to
you and yours for a safe and happy holiday season! Have a Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year. We are adjourned.