COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT LAUNCHES STATEWIDE EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS INFORMATION CAMPAIGN

What If? Colorado” combines creative programs with community outreach and business partnerships to empower Coloradans to safeguard their families from emergencies

DENVER (July 19, 2007) – The Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response (OEPR) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced today the launch of a new statewide campaign designed to empower Colorado residents to take the preparatory steps necessary to safeguard themselves and their families from emergencies.

The statewide, six-month campaign – titled “What If? Colorado” – asks Coloradans to consider how well they are prepared for a sudden emergency, such as a severe snowstorm or power outage, as well as more long-term emergencies such as an outbreak of pandemic influenza. In addition, the campaign prescribes specific actions residents can take to better prepare themselves for such inevitable conditions.

Specific objectives of the campaign include:

  • Partnering with the Colorado Influenza and Pneumococcal Alert Coalition (CIPAC) to increase the number of Colorado citizens who receive seasonal influenza vaccinations
  • Increasing the number of Colorado citizens who develop emergency kits for their homes, offices and automobiles
  • Empowering Colorado citizens on measures they can take to prepare for emergencies and prevent the spread of illness during an influenza pandemic
  • Informing Colorado citizens about pandemic influenza and how it differs from seasonal influenza

“At the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response it’s our job to ask ‘what if’ questions all the time,” said Chris Lindley, director for the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response. “But the plans we make will find much greater success if we can empower Colorado citizens to take just a few simple steps to prepare themselves and their families for emergency situations. Our public information campaign isn’t just about asking ‘what if?’ – it’s about helping people respond to those questions with concrete answers.”

Questions the campaign was developed to address include:

  • “What if a blizzard leaves me stranded?”
  • “What if a communicable illness struck a large part of the population where I live?”
  • “What if I had to survive for days at my home?”

As many Coloradans experienced this past winter, disasters – and the accompanying need to be prepared for any inevitability – can materialize as quickly as a December blizzard. Following the blizzard of December 20, 2006, residents of the Front Range and across large parts of Colorado learned a harsh lesson in emergency preparation: Within three days of the storm, grocery stores, gas stations and other retail establishments began reporting shortages or the unavailability of key merchandise. Many citizens were unable to leave their homes for days – and key roads and highways became impassable.

What If? Colorado” will work to inform Colorado residents on steps they should take to prepare themselves for conditions such as last year’s blizzards – and will inform citizens on the less frequent but very real threat of other emergencies such as a pandemic influenza outbreak. Components of the campaign include:

  • The “What If? Colorado” reality competition: Colorado residents over the age of 18 will be encouraged to submit video “auditions” for consideration to be included in the “What If? Colorado” House, where residents will live together for a three-day event and face a variety of challenges designed to engage and inform them on emergency preparedness and influenza issues. Auditions will be accepted online, at special events organized by local public health agencies statewide and through standard U.S. mail submissions. A specially designated URL (www.WhatIfColorado.com) will direct residents to the OEPR campaign Web site, where they can view posted audition videos and learn about emergency preparedness and influenza prevention. Through a generous donation from HealthONE, a total of 10 prizes will be awarded in the competition – an Apple 30 gigabyte iPod to each of the nine regional finalists and one grand prize of $2,500 cash to the overall What If? Colorado reality competition winner.
  • Local events statewide: During the campaign, local public health agency partners will conduct or participate in special events in their communities to inform residents about pandemic influenza, emergency preparedness and to solicit and accept auditions for the “What If? Colorado” House.
  • Eldorado Natural Spring Water partnership: As a partner in the “What If? Colorado” campaign, Colorado-based Eldorado Natural Spring Water and OEPR will team up to create special “What If? Colorado”-branded bottles of water that will be distributed free of charge at events throughout the state by OEPR local public health agency partners.
  • King Soopers/City Market partnership: As an exclusive retail partner of “What If? Colorado,” King Soopers and City Market will conduct an ongoing promotion during the campaign, highlighting items throughout their 140 Colorado stores where residents can purchase advertised items to complete their home, office and/or automobile emergency preparedness kits.
  • November mass vaccination exercise: In order to test the state’s ability to mobilize and conduct mass immunizations in the event of a pandemic influenza outbreak, OEPR will conduct a statewide “mass vaccination” exercise in targeted Colorado communities, including participation by local celebrities and government officials.

“We believe the combination of engagement of the general public, the business community, and local and state-level public health workers and government officials will result in a significant increase in awareness of this issue among Colorado citizens,” Lindley said. “We’re looking forward to having a constructive, eight-month-long conversation with Colorado on how we can all become better prepared to face any emergency.”

Surveys both in Colorado and nationally demonstrate that the vast majority of citizens have not created an emergency kit for their homes, automobiles or offices – and many citizens avoid influenza immunizations for reasons that simply aren’t justifiable. In fact, a recent survey of 929 Colorado residents over the age of 18 demonstrated that:

  • 73 percent of respondents said they do not possess an emergency preparedness kit
  • Yet, 66 percent of respondents believe they are prepared for an emergency lasting three days – and 56 percent believe they are prepared for an extended two-week emergency
  • Finally, 57 percent of Coloradans believe it is “somewhat” or “very” likely that they will face an emergency in the next three years

Defined as a widespread outbreak of disease, a pandemic could cost Colorado $11.7 billion and result in an estimated 30,000 deaths and 1.4 million illnesses throughout the state, according to a recent report by the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. In addition, state and local resources required to aid citizens during an emergency or disaster – such as severe weather, disease outbreak or terrorist attack – would be significantly depleted unless more citizens take measures to personally prepare for such occurrences.

The “What If? Colorado” campaign is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The overall cost of the campaign is approximately $758,000.

About “What If? Colorado
The Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has developed a new statewide eight-month campaign titled “What If? Colorado” to inform citizens, increase the number of Coloradans who receive influenza immunizations and encourage residents to assemble an emergency preparedness kit for their homes. For further information, please visit www.WhatIfColorado.com or call the Colorado Help Line: 1-877-462-2911.

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NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS COMPETITION. This competition is subject in all respects to the complete Official Rules available online at www.WhatIfColorado.com, or by sending a S.A.S.E. to "What If? Colorado Competition - Rules Request," P.O. Box 13919, Denver, Colorado, 80201.