Friday, October 12, 2007

Colorado reality competition spotlights preparedness

Colorado public health officials recently took advantage of America's fascination with reality television by producing and airing their own real-life competition.

In September, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment pitted nine state residents against one another in an online competition focused on preparedness. The competition, held Sept. 20–23 in Denver, was part of the state's "What If? Colorado" campaign, which encourages residents to become prepared.

During the competition, competitors lived and were filmed as they reacted to sudden emergencies such as a severe snowstorm or power outage as well as more long-term emergencies such as an influenza pandemic. Contestants learned how to survive for a night without power and participated in a demonstration illustrating how quickly an infectious virus can spread, among other exercises. One challenged featured teams racing to kiddy pools filled with Styrofoam packing materials to find color-coded clues, writing the clues on a readiness profile and compiling a family communication plan.

The reality competition was important, state officials said, because a majority of residents are not prepared for emergencies. A survey of almost 1,000 state residents found that 73 percent do not have an emergency preparedness kit.

Episodes of the reality competition are online now and can be viewed on the What If? Colorado Web site.

Photo courtesy What If? Colorado campaign

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