Aug 29, 2017
Conducting Wildfire Evacuation Outreach? Project Wildfire Takes the Video Series Approach
By: FAC Network Participant
Deschutes County is familiar with wildfire evacuation. Typically there is at least one neighborhood on evacuation notice each year. Even with seasoned residents, the influx of visitors and new residents creates the need for more specific evacuation outreach. Many new residents are not aware of wildfire when they move to central Oregon. With inspiration from the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition’s 2015 Make-a-Kit-Monday campaign, Project Wildfire recently embarked on a six-week digital campaign to focus on different facets of wildfire evacuation. With the help of our local partners in central Oregon, we created our own Make-a-Plan Monday series that highlighted what citizens should do to prepare for evacuation.
The series kicked off on April 17 with evacuation basics, and aired new videos each Monday throughout the following five weeks. Each week, we focused on a new topic for followers to act on: building go-kits, aiding children, assisting vulnerable populations, preparing businesses, and arranging for pet evacuation. The videos ran on Project Wildfire’s website, YouTube channel and social media outlets, as well as local radio stations.
We designed a digital promotional blitz, with web banners, wallpapers and videos, allowing for it to be archived on our website after the campaign was done. As for reach, we had over 1,000 visitors to the web page and over 43,000 people engaged on our social media platforms during the campaign.
After the campaign was complete, a longer video was produced to summarize the individual ones. We will continue to use and share the shorter videos, as well as the summary video, to empower residents to prepare for local emergencies. All the videos produced have been shared with the local news outlets for evacuation pieces they may produce during fire season. These outlets play an integral part in telling our story.
Among the topics integrated into the series was business evacuation preparedness. Central Oregon is home to a vibrant tourism-based business community that relies heavily on the surrounding forest. Our local businesses need to be part of the conversation, especially when discussing evacuation. For future uses, the business preparation video will continue to be a stand-alone piece, as its audience (business owners) is more specific compared to the other videos.
What It Took
Project Wildfire relied on both long-standing and new partnerships to create the videos for this campaign. For each topic area, we showcased a different partner who had community recognition as being an expert in that field. Our partners included the Deschutes County sheriff, the Deschutes County emergency manager, the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Humane Society.
Project Wildfire started planning and seeking a professional filmmaker in the fall of 2016. The idea behind the video was to focus on building an evacuation kit, but our project morphed into a broader focus on evacuation. We developed the topics after multiple meetings with the Sheriff’s Office and the American Red Cross.
What I Learned
With wildfire evacuation as common as it is in Deschutes County, messaging around evacuation is always being pushed in the months leading up to and during fire season. The campaign coincided with FireFree, our annual complimentary fuels disposal event. The two programs were competing with one another at times. When we do another evacuation outreach campaign, we may stagger it around FireFree. Another option is to funnel the message through a partner, as to present a united front on evacuation.
If you are thinking of implementing your own outreach video, build those partnerships now with the speakers who you want to participate. Many of our speakers have been supporters and partners of Project Wildfire for years, but we now have new partnerships thanks to this project. Also, we highly recommend working with a videographer on a project like this. Having an objective, professional filmmaker responsible for filming, editing and scheduling the product was a lifesaver. Overall, the series was a successful new take on an old topic.
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