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July 9, 2010 > Santa Clara County's novel approach to influence residents to sign-up for emergency alert notices

Santa Clara County's novel approach to influence residents to sign-up for emergency alert notices

Submitted By Gwen Mitchell and Laurel Anderson

Santa Clara County is using a novel approach to encourage people who live or work in the county to sign up at AlertSCC.com to receive emergency alert messages. Patterning its newest public awareness campaign tool after social networking web sites, the County's AlertSCC site is now a place where people can go to share a photo along with an invitation to friends and loved ones to sign-up their mobile devices. They might be featured in an AlertSCC ad campaign.

"We take seriously the responsibility for making sure people are prepared for disasters," said Santa Clara County Board President Ken Yeager, who championed bringing the AlertSCC system to the county. "Just because it's a serious matter doesn't mean residents can't have a little fun encouraging the people they know to sign up for alerts."

The "little fun" is the "I Love You. Please Sign Up." campaign and its new social networking tool to tell a friend. The campaign was launched this fall and included television, radio, Internet and bus ads. The interactive make-your-own ad site, reachable from AlertSCC.com, is the newest element designed to engage the public in a fun and inventive way.

"You may have seen AlertSCC ads on the television or on buses recently. We're now expanding our outreach to include social networking because so many people use it as their primary way to keep in touch and share experiences," said San Jose Vice Mayor Judy Chirco. "I encourage all county residents, especially those who live in San Jose, to sign up at AlertSCC.com. Click on the "I Love You. Please Sign Up" link. Upload a photo and send an AlertSCC greeting card message to family members and friends."

Research shows that observing others you know taking a specific action can be a strong motivator for you to do likewise. This is a premise behind the wildly successful social networking phenomena. The "I Love You. Please Sign Up." television and radio commercials, and now the new interactive make-your-own-ad site are meant to be catalysts to start those conversations. Signing up for AlertSCC and telling friends means they're more likely to sign up.

Silicon Valley has a reputation of being forward thinking and solution-oriented. In the public sector, coordination of emergency response and mutual aid is one example of this. It is appropriate that Santa Clara County now has an emergency alert system and that residents can use a social networking tool to get the word out.

"We can make the best plans for disaster mitigation, response and recovery," said Yeager. "But to really be effective, we must be able to get those messages to people who might be affected. We don't want to rely only on landlines because the disaster might strike when you are out to dinner or on vacation. Signing up mobile devices is the best way to ensure you'll get these messages in a timely manner."

By law, local governments are responsible for disaster response and the recovery of their communities. Cities throughout the county are participating in AlertSCC so that both the County and its cities can send emergency notifications. At the same time, the County and cities are drilling employees on how to step up in a disaster to help with response and recovery such as mass care and shelter.

"These are things about which people don't like to think. They like to imagine that they will never be affected by a natural disaster," said Chirco. "We're sure many of the people affected by Southern California wild fires, the earthquake in Haiti or the recent flooding in the Midwest thought it would never happen to them."

Signing up at AlertSCC.com for emergency and disaster notifications is free, easy and confidential. To follow AlertSCC on Facebook and YouTube, go to AlertSCC.com and click on the widgets.

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