We concluded that people felt preparing evacuation kits was tedious and time-consuming. To change negative attitudes about preparing evacuation kits, we devised a method of disaster preparation that we felt people could enjoy as a family. First, we decided to limit the number of emergency essentials to what could fit on a two-page newspaper spread. Then, we printed the outlines of each item on an actual spread. The goal was to suggest that preparing an emergency kit was like completing a treasure hunt.
We designed the two-page spread so it would appeal to men, women, and children. Each item was represented only by an outline so as to appeal to the human urge to fill compartmentalized spaces. Explanations for each item’s inclusion were also printed on the spread to help families visualize themselves actually using the items in an evacuation center. We also allotted a “Free Space” where families could place one item of their own choosing—an element designed to give families yet another opportunity to talk about disaster preparation. The spread was published in the morning edition of the Kobe Shimbun newspaper and later promoted on the newspaper’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
Newspapers containing the two-page spread were delivered to 510,000 households, of which 23,000 participated in the project. Eventually, even nonsubscribers learned about the spread thanks to widespread propagation by Facebook and Twitter users. Among all people who viewed the spread, 91% said they were now better informed about disaster preparation. After the project received praise from the governor of Hyogo Prefecture and an elementary school principal, schools and NPOs began to use the spread to teach disaster preparation. In the long run, we hope to further develop the content of this spread into an educational program for raising awareness about disaster preparation among the Japanese.
At the most basic level, a newspaper is a medium that prints information about events that have already happened. However, the purpose of a newspaper should be to put this information into a context that also helps inform readers about the future. This idea is what motivated us at the Kobe Shimbun—whose reporters were on the scene during and after the destructive 1997 Kobe Earthquake—to create a spread designed to help prepare our readers for the next big earthquake.
Insights, Strategy and the Idea:
We needed a medium that was accessible to family members of all generations, promised a wide reach, and was likely to be properly archived. This is how we arrived at a newspaper. We introduced the feature by saying that the items had been chosen by a couple and their elementary school-aged child—a tactic used to implant the idea of disaster preparation being a family activity in adults who may have been previously disinclined to prepare an evacuation kit. By presenting disaster preparation as a type of treasure hunt, we hoped families would be more inclined to complete a kit, in the process creating an opportunity for parents to hand down their knowledge of disaster preparation to their children.