Preps Americans for Potential Attacks

NEW YORK Ruder Finn Interactive Wednesday launched, a Web site that will support the Department of Homeland Security’s citizen-preparedness campaign.

The aim of the site is to communicate the federal government’s official guidelines on how to prepare and respond to another potential terrorist attack. “After 9/11, there was a backlash with the amount of information people were given,” said Scott Schneider, director of the interactive arm of Ruder Finn, a New York-based public relations firm. “The goal is to get the word out on how to prepare for attack.”

The site offers tips on assembling an emergency supply kit, devising a family communications plan and how to react during another attack, be it a nuclear blast or chemical, biological or radiation threat.

RFI landed the assignment last September based on its Smokey Bear interactive work over the past two years for the Advertising Council. The Ad Council, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is responsible for the campaign, which also broke today.

The offline effort, done pro bono by The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., includes six 30-second public service announcements and print ads featuring Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Office of Emergency Management staff, and New York firefighters and Port Authority police officers. In the spots, Ridge and others tell Americans to take simple steps like “store water and nonperishable foods for at least three days” or “have a good communications plan for you family.” The tagline: “We can be afraid, or we can be ready.”

The ads direct Americans to visit for more information or call 1-800-BE-READY to request a brochure. Ruder Finn also designed the brochure.

Given that the Web site targets all Americans, it was created to be accessible to all, including the blind and disabled. To ensure that the site was easy to navigate, RFI tapped Sachs Insights, a New York-based qualitative research consultancy, to conduct focus groups and usability testing prior to the launch. RFI used the Nielsen Norman Group, a Freemont, Calif.-based Web design consultancy, to test the site’s accessiblity.

The interactive shop also took steps to insure that the site could handle a huge surge in traffic. “We knew from a public relations standpoint that if the site were to go down, it could be a potential disaster for the Department of Homeland Security. People would say, ‘How can they protect us, if they can’t stop the site from crashing,” said Brad B. McCormick, RFI senior producer. “We were going for a worst case scenario. What if 15-30 million people come to the Web site on a day?”

To combat hackers or cyber terrorism from corrupting the site, the i-shop also hired International Networking Services to build a security infrastructure. That Internet security firm, along with Seven Space, monitors the Web site 24 hours a day.

McCormick said that is still “a work in progress.” RFI plans to add features, such as a database of localized information. Changes may also be made based on user feedback.