My Top 3 Takeaways on How I used Facebook to Encourage My Friends to Prepare During Sandy

Two of the four walls in the apartment in DC that I live in with my wife and our old arthritic dog in are made of glass. We call it the Tree House.

During Hurricane Sandy, our tree house had me worried the windows would blow in and the three of of us would need to shelter-in-place in the one closet large enough for us to cram into if need be. The good news is that our power stayed on, we had water, and the windows did not blow in.

Given that we had power and were safe and sound, I decided to use my time to help others and test out some of my hypothesis on how to use facebook to help others prepare and recover.

The following is summary of what I unscientifically tested and found:


  1. My posts would influence people to prepare and they would share my tips
  2. Relating protective actions to things my friends cared about or found funny/cool would influence them
  3. Something cool and unexpected would happen as it always does when I experiment


My posts would influence people to prepare and share tips = True.

Here is what my friends said:

  • Stephen L. – Very helpful, thanks!
  • Emily G. – You’re like the facebook dad i never had! lol thanks for all the preparedness. 🙂
  • Angela B. –  You are seriously more accurate and more informed than the local news station.
  • K.C. H.  – Great tips! Extremely helpful.
  • Stacy C. – Nice touches on making preparedness relevant: Cash on hand for beer, for example.
  • Jennifer W. – i froze bottled water. That way if we did loose power (which I didn’t) they would help keep the freezer/fridge colder longer and I could also use them to drink when they thawed. And some of them were helpful, just depended on where you were in relation to the storm.
  • Patti P.  – I filled my jacuzzi tub with water in case we lost water for flushing etc. somthing I wouldn’t have thought about.
  • Balázs B. Joseph, the updates and info were fantastic. I hope there are not similar emergencies in the future, but I was sharing your posts with friends of mine who are on the East Coast. Unless it’s enabled already, would you consider allowing non-friended subscribers to follow your updates, at least during emergencies?

Relating protective actions to things my friends cared about or found funny/cool would influence them = True.

  • I posted: If the power goes out and you don’t have any cash (and ATMs are not working) how are you going to buy a beer? Prepare now for goodness sake! One of my friends responded and I think this is key, “I’m glad you put these things into terms I can understand.” We need to make our messages relevant.
  • I posted: GLOW STICKS are not just for ravers. If the power goes out, you can give them to kids (big and small) as a fun way to light up the dark and feel safer. This post, on average had more likes and comments than other posts. Again, we need to make our messages relatable.


Something cool and unexpected would happen as it always does when I experiment = True.

  • My friends starting posting tips to my wall for others – I became a tip clearing house and my reach extended to my friends of friends and beyond.
  • My friends starting asking me questions so they could help others. People will help each other out.
  • I posted: We are out of Doritos. #PreparednessFail – my friend Jesse responded with an awesome picture of himself eating doritos. Humor works.


Here are my top 3 three takeaways:

  1. Ask people to share and make sharing easy. FEMA did an awesome job of this on their page.
  2. Give people pictures that make your messages relatable. Don’t just say make a kit – show people what a kit looks like.
  3. Help people digest your primary messages by using indirect references – the glow sticks and having money to buy beer.

Let’s discuss:

How have you made it easier for people to share your messages?

How have you used humor and indirect references to get people to take protective actions?

What you can do right now to prepare for the next disaster or emergency


I feel so fortunate and grateful for the work I get to do every day. People used to ask me why I do what I do. I still respond, because I want to and I can!

Last year I was presented with an awesome opportunity to bring my neighbor-centric approach to how the Federal Government engages and empowers citizens. Thanks GovDelivery!

One my major projects involves developing the engagement, outreach, and community management strategy for FEMA’s National Preparedness Coalition Online Community –

Today, It’s my privilege to invite you to join and challenge you to use your networks to help others prepare for man made and natural disasters. Pledge to prepare now by joining The National Preparedness Coalition now!

The National Preparedness Coalition Online Community is where people connect and collaborate on emergency preparedness. Use it to empower yourself to prepare and to coordinate preparedness activities with your family, neighbors, co-workers, and those with whom you may study or worship.

On the community you:

  • Get access to useful information to help you prepare
  • Get support and share best practices with over 20,000 members
  • Connect with FEMA personnel and others near you in the regional forums
  • Help others prepare and increase our resilience

Join the National Preparedness Coalition now.