Watch out would-be brides and grooms, the CDC says this could happen to you.
Earlier this week, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released CDC’s Wedding Survival Guide on their Public Health Matters Blog. To tie it into emergency preparedness, the angle of the article was that Mother Nature could wreak havoc at any time, therefore one should be prepared for a natural disaster to occur during a huge event such as a wedding.
At first, the article has an authoritative tone, cautioning that “as you gather your nearest and dearest to celebrate what should be a joyful time, Mother Nature, clashing personalities, and unexpected situations could easily thwart even the best laid plans.”
Yet in the next paragraph, the article takes a sillier tone, describing potential emergencies as bandaging up a clumsy flower girl or reviving a “passed out” reception guest.
Letting your guests drink too many samples of “punch” also qualifies as a CDC disaster now.
This story has been making the rounds throughout various media news outlets this week. The overall sentiment from the media is “why?” as in “why did the CDC spend time writing this?” Taxpayers everywhere are questioning whether the CDC has anything better to do.
Why? Maybe there are a few Dr. Zoidbergs at the CDC?
I’m still on the fence on how I feel about the CDC’s attempt at humor to draw attention on disaster planning. On one hand, they have effectively drawn more traffic to their website this week which would indicate that they accomplished their goal of raising awareness of emergency preparedness. Yet at the same time, they used the same clipart picture of an exit sign that I used in my post Fire Evacuation.
At least the CDC doesn’t spend money on clipart.
I really don’t have an issue with stock clip art. Back to the point of this blog post.
This isn’t the first time the CDC has posted a satirical article about emergency preparedness. Last May, the CDC gave us tips on how to survive a zombie apocalypse. Though it sounds foolish, each tip on surviving a zombie invasion, such as having an emergency kit handy and drawing up a family emergency plan before an emergency strikes, also happen to be the same tips you’d follow for most any other emergency. It is arguably a creative way to make people think more seriously about emergency preparedness rather than just publishing a very matter of fact article.
Potential Zombie Invasion? The CDC has us covered.
Whereas the Zombie Nation campaign overall has been viewed in a positive manner by the public, this latest post about wedding tips does not appear to be going over quite as well. Why? Well, reading through the zombie article, it simply did a better job highlighting emergency preparedness and the jokes weren’t as superficial compared to the wedding survival guide.
Zombie preparedness = Emergency preparedness? Makes sense, right?
For example, in the excerpt from CDC’s Wedding Survival Guide, the author goes back and forth between discussing a cosmetic emergency kit (the bridal kit) and a real emergency kit:
You’ve put in a lot of work leading up to this event, so the idea of a back-up emergency kit shouldn’t be too far-fetched. The bridal kit should include extra safety pins, makeup for touchups, maybe a few sedatives. It also wouldn’t hurt to have the essentials from a home emergency kit or “go-bag” by your side. You never know when you might need to bandage up a clumsy flower girl, revive a passed out reception guest, or even evacuate. A first aid kit, bottles of water, snacks, medications, extra cash, and important documents are just a few of the more practical items to have handy. If you’re the bride, add this to the list of things you need your maid of honor or someone in the bridal party to put together for you. For a more extensive emergency kit list, visit FEMA’s Ready.gov
Emergency Wedding Survival Kit, according to Ms. Shockey at the CDC. To me, this looks more like a PSA from SAMHSA.
The emphasize on what essentials one should have handy for an emergency become secondary to what otherwise could pass for a Cosmo or Ladies’ Home Journal article on wedding day tips. Contrast this to Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse:
The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder “How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?”
Well, we’re here to answer that question for you, and hopefully share a few tips about preparing for real emergencies too!…So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of anatural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored). Below are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page.
Actual Emergency Kit
The zombie article seems to stay on point that the article is all about preparing for disaster scenarios, be it a flood, tornado or yes, even a zombie invasion. It’s much easier to relate a fake yet relevant public health threat to real emergencies than drawing parallels between a joyous occasion like a wedding to natural disaster planning. NPR’s Scott Hensley communicates this point best:
Leave it to the public health gurus to turn a day that’s supposed to be one of the happiest in people’s lives into a lesson in preparing for a real-life nightmare.
Scott has a point. Thinking about this on your wedding day is a real bummer.
In my previous career working for my state’s health department, it’s hard for me to believe that the same agency that employed one Roberta who used to chew out my office for placing last year’s previous personnel expenditures on line 15a. instead of line 15b. on our grant application and is therefore placing our application on hold until this is rectified is the same agency peddling snarky articles on surviving one’s wedding day and zombies.
I bet Roberta from the CDC never had to actually submit a grant through Grants.gov.
Whereas I once saw the CDC as a no-nonsense authority on keeping the public safe, these articles have me questioning the CDC as a leader in helping us get through sudden life-threatening situations. It’s all in perception, and an article like CDC’s Wedding Survival Guide doesn’t exactly scream “I’m serious about keeping you alive in a disaster”.
Besides, don’t we already have a go-to source for oddball disasters?
If the CDC continues to churn out more articles like Wedding Day Survival Guide, will the public continue to see the CDC as experts in disaster planning or will it hurt the CDC’s credibility? Should the CDC quit while they are ahead with the zombie campaign or would you prefer to see a future article entitled Tips for Surviving your Zombie Wedding?
Because I had to tie it all together.
Hensley, Scott. “CDC Now Has Tips for Surviving a Wedding,” Shots, NPR’s Health Blog, July 10, 2012, http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/07/10/156548902/cdc-now-has-tips-for-surviving-a-wedding?ps=sh_sthdl
Khan, Ali S. “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” Public Health Matters Blog, May 16, 2011, http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse/
Pritchett, Lloyd. “Zombie wedding is ‘dream come true’ for Seattle couple,” Komonews.com, Oct 31, 2010, http://www.komonews.com/news/local/106409059.html
Shockey, Caitlyn. “CDC Wedding Day Survival Guide,’ Public Health Matters Blog, July 9, 2012, http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2012/07/cdcs_weddingday_survival_guide/