You Can't Prevent the Weather But You Can Prevent the Damage
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

You Can't Prevent the Weather But You Can Prevent the Damage

Due to overwhelming need to reduce the damage caused by natural disasters, FEMA initiated Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities, a community-based program to educate Americans about disaster prevention.

Paul Holmes


Over the past 10 years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent $20 billion to help communities repair and rebuild after natural disasters.  Due to overwhelming need to reduce the damage caused by natural disasters, FEMA initiated Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communitiesa community-based program to educate Americans about disaster prevention.

FEMA asked Ketchum to help them achieve their ultimate goal – to institutionalize Project Impact.  Together, we created a public service announcement aimed to inform Americans about the steps they can take to limit natural disaster damage and to encourage them to ask what their community is doing to become disaster resistant.


Unfortunately, a large number of Americans inaccurately believe they are not at risk of a natural disaster and aren't aware that they can take action which could prevent disaster damage.  FEMA, working with several independent research groups, conducted surveys that illustrate the misunderstandings surrounding disasters and damage prevention measures.  Sample results included:
228 adults surveyed in 15 tornado prone states showed that 44 percent of those questioned didn't know that actions could be taken before a disaster to prevent tornado damage.
1,200 residents of coastal states surveyed on their knowledge of storm safety and damage prevention revealed that 76 percent of respondents in northern states and 58 percent in southern states had not taken any prevention measures. 



[1] Inform the public that disaster prevention measures do exist.

[2] Initiate a dialogue between citizens and community leaders about disaster prevention.


[1] General public; [2] Community leaders


The Project Impact PSA demonstrates the impact natural disasters can have on communities and asks – what is your community doing to become disaster resistant?   The PSA, which was endorsed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), was distributed in a specially designed box that markets the ideals of the initiative. The PSA includes 30-, 15- and 10-second versions that can be customized by local stations if desired.  The localization of the PSA went a step further when local representatives were given an opportunity to tape a brief message regarding the importance of disaster prevention to their community.  Those messages were edited onto the PSA and distributed to TV stations in the representative’s community. 

Capitalizing on Project Impact’s relationship with NAB, FEMA and Ketchum launched the PSA at the NAB Service to America Summit on June 12, 2000 in Washington, DC.  NAB uplinked the PSA to all its member stations, and Ketchum contracted News Broadcast Network to feed and pitch it to stations around the country.  In conjunction with the satellite uplink, FEMA encouraged the Project Impact communities to pitch the PSA to local television stations, while Ketchum pitched the PSA to the networks and cable outlets.


The audience impressions for the Project Impact PSA reached 14.7 million in the first six months and continue to grow by half-a-million impressions a week.  The PSA has been played in 27 states around the country including a high concentration of viewings in Texas and Florida – both high disaster threat areas.  Communities have found the PSA to be crucial in developing relationships with local media outlets and spreading prevention messages to their community.  FEMA Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) was so impressed by the PSA exposure in the region, they sought out additional media outreach and guidance for their Project Impact communities including media partner recruitment, event support and targeted media pitching. 
The success of the “You Can’t Prevent the Weather, but… You Can Prevent the Damage” PSA campaign has led Project Impact to be accepted as an upcoming Ad Council campaign.  In addition, over the past year, 64 additional Project Impact communities have joined the effort to spread the disaster prevention message and in the coming year, FEMA hopes to raise the total number of communities to 1,000.  

View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus