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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Keep Both Hands on the Football

We three public information officers at the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) manage a service with which you might be familiar called the Arizona Emergency Information Network or AzEIN. is advertised as a “the state’s online source for real-time emergency updates [and] preparedness and hazard information.” 

We think AzEIN lives up to this standard pretty well. Part and parcel of this pledge to provide Arizonans with breaking crisis and emergency risk communication is being available to receive emails, answer phone calls and return voice mails 24/7/365.

“On call” duties are shared by Judy, Greg and myself on a two-week rotating schedule that we call “passing the football” with the term football referring to the cumulative responsibility of 1) responding to the chime of your smartphone day or night, 2) updating as necessary and 3) taking a laptop and accessories with you wherever you go.

Until recently, I thought our use of the word “football to describe our on-call duties and devices unique in a clever but unexceptional kind of way. But did you know that POTUS has a nuclear football? 

In popular culture and to the action heroes of the silver screen it’s often referred to as “the button.” A 2005 USA Today article explains that the contents of the briefcase, which started with Dwight Eisenhower and is carried by a military aide, enable the Commander in Chief to initiate a nuclear action from wherever he might be. The real contents of briefcase are know to a select few people.

The AzEIN football is admittedly less impressive but the reason for it and the POTUS’ version are the same: emergency preparedness. By the same logic, your “go kit” replete with the Five P’s of food and water for the people and pets in your family; prescriptions; important papers; irreplaceable photographs; and files from your personal computer is a football too.  And as any fan of the sport of football will tell you, protecting the football is vital to success.

Turnovers on the gridiron undermine even the best laid game plans. Similarly, time spent searching for the Five P’s during an evacuation is time lost for evacuating. When the order goes out to evacuate because of a wildfire or zombies or a molasses flood, it is not the time to drop and drag computer files to a thumb drive. It’s time to head for the exit … not later but now.

Take the initiative and create an evacuation football containing all the essentials, and—just as important--keep it in ready, working order. For more information on the sorts of items to put in a kit visit  

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