It's been seven long years since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina ravaged the borders of the Gulf Shores. Today, we have another monster — a "Frankenstorm" to be exact — attacking another shore. This one in Jersey. The hurricane is named Sandy. You could ask FEMA what they have learned and response times will probably be the first to come up in conversation. Ask the citizens and they possibly say, "Take the warnings seriously."
Then, there's the seemingly crisis communications mode weather forecasters and even politicians are in — frantic. Just ask the National Weather Service. Apparently, the whole "Jersey Shore" thing was contagious and the attitude showed up.
That was just the third note of warning on the official statement linked above. It seems those in a position to warn others about running to safety are doing so with vigor, determination, and a bit of angst. And why? Katrina. Many didn't heed the advice of the meteorologists...and they paid the price. Evidently, weather forecasters and prognosticators alike are a tinge more serious with the warning. Even politicians are flexing with the crisis communications modality. Check out Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie:
If you are reluctant, think about your loved ones, think about the emergency responders who will be unable to reach you when you make the panicked phone call to be rescued. Think about the rescue and recovery teams who will rescue if you are injured or recover your remains if you do not survive.
Asked if he was worried about thousands of people ignoring his order for coastal areas to evacuate, Christie said he’s “really concerned” about sending rescue personnel into those dangerous areas as the storm picks up. He said there are a handful of towns that have not reached the hoped-for 90 percent evacuation level and it may be hard to get people out as conditions worsen. “They are in harm’s way, and I don’t know if we can get them out,” Christie said in a noontime press briefing. “These decisions are both stupid and selfish.”
If we were media training these politicians and weather forecasters, that is exactly how we would say to respond — precisely because of Katrina. People didn't listen, so make them listen. People watch TV for authority and direction, so give it to them. People need to understand the severity of these reporters, even it means getting pimp slapped to pay attention. If you were a news director, would this anger you? If you were a director of political affairs, would this bother you? Before you answer, think about this: If you were in one of these nasty storms, would you appreciate a little candor?
Now isn't that what PR is supposed to define? To all our friends on the east coast, stay alert and keep alive.