VDEM Lauded for Know Your Zone Hurricane Evacuation Communications Campaign




VDEM Lauded for Know Your ZoneHurricane Evacuation Communications Campaign

~Agency honored for public service messaging by Public Relations Society of America~


RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) was recently recognized for its Know Your Zone campaign with a Commonwealth Award of Merit by the Richmond Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America at its 2018 Virginia Public Relations Awards ceremony. The Know Your Zone effort began in 2017 to educate 1.25 million residents of 23 localities in coastal Virginia about a new tiered evacuation zone program meant to protect lives and speed evacuations in the event of a major tropical storm or hurricane.

“One of VDEM’s key missions is to educate Virginians about how to stay safe and to prepare for the natural and man-made threats that we face in the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Jeff Stern, VDEM’s State Coordinator of Emergency Management. “This means we must be able to reach them with important and lifesaving messages before, during and after a major disaster. Our challenge was that we had to capture citizen’s attention, explain a difficult concept, and get each resident of this area to seek out information onwww.KnowYourZoneVA.org about the zone in which they lived.”

“Reaching citizens who are overwhelmed with information and consumed by their busy lives is difficult for communicating any general preparedness messages,” said Jeff Caldwell, VDEM’s Director of External Affairs. “When the Commonwealth and the 23 participating localities enacted the most significant change in our hurricane evacuation planning in decades, the task of educating citizens about evacuation became even more daunting because the plan was brand new. There is still much work to do to increase awareness of these zones, but it is gratifying to be recognized by public relations professionals for the campaign we developed to achieve that important goal.”

The tiered evacuation plan simplified hundreds of former local emergency evacuation zones that were impossible to concisely communicate across the region as a storm approached. Now, evacuation instructions will focus on four simple zones, A through D. Working with partner localities, VDEM created a multi-faceted public awareness campaign using a website,www.KnowYourZoneVA.org and paid advertising, social media outreach and earned media coverage to inform residents of how they can learn the zone in which they, and then how they will receive important hurricane evacuation information when a storm approaches. Siddall Communications of Richmond assisted in the development of the campaign.

The campaign initially kicked off June 1, 2017, and ran through Nov. 30, 2017. It has been revived for 2018 hurricane season, which began June 1 of this year.

VDEM commissioned the VCU Wilder School Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory to poll citizens to assess the effectiveness of the campaign’s first year. Results were strong:

One-third of respondents were aware of the Know Your Zone campaign

  • 23 percent correctly identified their zone
  • 62 percent of respondents felt that it was important to Know Your Zone
  • 25 percent took direct action after the campaign by sharing the information or visiting the website

Digital analytics also spoke to the campaign success.

Facebook ads generated 10.8 million impressions, 164,175 clicks and an impressive 1.52 percent overall click-through rate – with some individual ads earning a click-through rate of 4.47 percent.

Ads were shared 4,614 times, received 7,058 reactions (97 percent of which were likes or hearts) and led to 3,109 new VDEM Facebook page likes.

KnowYourZoneVA.org had 456,187 pageviews and garnered an average 2:43 time on page

Government agencies actively participated. Some localities downloaded collateral from the digital toolkit, and 70 percent of them requested hundreds of thousands of printed copies of outreach materials VDEM provided. For example, Poquoson, Norfolk and Hampton placed zone stickers on every resident’s trash cans so citizens could identify their zone. The Department of Motor Vehicles hung posters in their customer service centers in the region.

Hurricane Season Is Upon Us, So the Message is Again Vital: Know Your Zone
June 1 was the first day of 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, so VDEM and participating localities have relaunched the Know Your Zone effort to reinforce the message that every resident of Hampton Roads, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and Eastern Shore must Know Your Zone.

The zones are designated A through D and will provide residents with a better understanding of whether they should evacuate in an emergency or shelter at home. It’s all based on their street address and the speed, intensity, track and storm surge potentials for each storm.

Avoiding unnecessary evacuation travel will reduce traffic congestion, promote highway safety, and lessen overcrowding at storm shelters. The new zones enhance the current evacuation plans and routes already designated in coastal Virginia.

When a serious storm is expected to impact Virginia’s coastal region, state and local emergency managers will use social media and will work with local news media outlets to broadcast and publish evacuation directives to the public. These instructions will be issued to residents based upon the zones in which they live.

The new evacuation zones can be viewed at www.KnowYourZoneVA.org. TheKnow Your Zone website displays a detailed, interactive, color-coded map showing the new evacuation zones. People can use the new map to view a big picture of the region or zoom into their neighborhood. Users can enter their address in the search bar to see their designated evacuation zone. Those without Internet access are urged to contact their local emergency managers or call 2-1-1.

Residents of the region whose homes are no located in a designated zone should listen/follow instructions from local and state officials but are not identified as those in immediate danger of storm surge or flooding that would require evacuation.

The threat of hurricanes is not specific to coastal Virginia alone. All Virginians should prepare for these deadly and dangerous storms. For more information about how to prepare your home, business and family for hurricane season, visit www.vaemergency.gov/hurricanes.