CRESA turns preparing for disaster into a game

Compiling emergency checklist big fun with 30-day social media contest

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
photoCheryl Bledsoe created the social media game 30 Days 30 Ways in 2010. The emergency preparedness game engages users via Tubmlr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and has grown in popularity, reaching more than 4,500 people across the world last year.

(/The Columbian)

How to play 30 Days 30 Ways

Each day in September, a task is posted to the game’s website, www.30days30ways.com, and sent out via Twitter, @30Days_30Ways, and on Facebook, https://www.faceb... .

Game participants can submit answers on Tumblr, http://30daysprep..., or by commenting on the game’s Facebook post. Responses via Twitter and Instagram should include the hashtag #30days30ways.

For more information, including game rules and how to get prizes, visit www.30days30ways....

A photo of "Game of Thrones" character Ned Stark encouraging you to wash your hands. A homemade video of a family practicing CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. A link to an article that lists 11 ways a condom is a useful addition to a survival kit.

These are all entries in a month-long social media game put on by Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency designed to make the "boring" idea of preparing for a disaster fun.

"It's a challenge to catch people's interest, to get people talking and not over

whelm them," said Cheryl Bledsoe, who started the game.

Called 30 Days 30 Ways, the game gives social media users a challenge every day of September, which is National Preparedness Month.

Bledsoe had the idea for the game on the eve of the preparedness month, Aug. 31, 2010. Bledsoe, the Division Manager of Emergency Management for CRESA, sat down to write a press release to remind people to get ready for the worst. While writing it, she became frustrated.

"It wasn't quite enough for us. ... We want people to be involved and engaged," she said. "Telling someone to get ready is not that exciting."

So instead, she and her team of emergency managers came up with 38 tasks, one for each day of the month and some bonus tasks. They posted them on CRESA's blog.

"We were hoping just one person would actually do something," she said.

The response, however, was much bigger.

More than 600 people around the country played the game in 2010. The number of participants shocked the group, but the number has steadily risen over the years, with 4,515 people playing in 2012. Bledsoe said 60 to 70 percent of participants are local, but the popular game has stretched across the globe -- the farthest response originating from the Republic of Malta.

"It's a huge win," she said. Part of why it works, Bledsoe said, is because "every task is pretty short, sweet and simple."

The task for Day Two of the game was to find and share a pop culture reference of emergencies or a disaster. Day Nine included a call to submit a creative hand-washing encouragement. Friday's task was to share a way to store water or a plan to access water in an emergency.

The responses are submitted via Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. CRESA hands out prizes for each day's tasks by rating the entries on their creativity, relativity to the topic and how viral the entry goes -- meaning, if it is re-tweeted or receives "likes" on Facebook.

"The cool thing is, we don't spend any money playing the game," Bledsoe said, because all of the prizes were donated. She said her staff does spend time coming up with the tasks and deciding on winners, but that it is time well spent.

"This year, our Facebook page reached 18 different countries and has been translated into eight languages," she said. "The win for us is that people are talking about it."

Annette Lessmann, 58, of Salmon Creek said she did a few of the tasks in previous years but this year is planning on playing every day.

"I just have a blast with it," she said. "It's really a way to learn a skill set that we all need to know."

Lessman has previously worked as a backpacking tour guide, so she is very knowledgeable about survival techniques.

The game, she said, allows her to share her knowledge with other people while also learning new things from what others post.

"I like to know things, and this game teaches me so much," she said. "We all need to know how to take care of ourselves."

Watch a video about CRESA's game here.

Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; emily.gillespie@columbian.com