EMForum Presentation — December 11, 2013

Safe America Prepared
An Initiative of the Safe America Foundation

Len Pagano
Founder, CEO
Safe America Foundation

Amy Sebring
EMForum Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/SafeAmerica/SafeAmericaOverview.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm131211.wmv
MP3 format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm131211.mp3 or in MP4format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm131211.mp4

[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 join us.

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 week.

[Slide 1]

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 incident.

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.

[Slide 2]

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 the challenges.

[Slide 3]

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.

[Slide 4]

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 worries.

The challenge going forward is how to incorporate a heightened sense of awareness with disasters at the same time.

[Slide 5]

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.

[Slide 6]

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.

[Slide 7]

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.

[Slide 8]

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.

[Slide 9]

This may be in there repetitively.  We’ll skip over that slide.

[Slide 10]

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 helpful.

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 everyone.

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.

[Slide 11]

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 America.

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.

[Slide 12]

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.  

[Slide 13]

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 boon.

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 len.pagano@safeamerica.org  or marylou.pagano@safeamerica.org .

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 funeral?

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 download.

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 Americans.

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 911.  

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 emergencies.

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).  Thank you.

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 or something.

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 not to.  

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 recommendations.

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 situations.

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.