Having Solved All Other Problems, FEMA Announces New Icon.

Today on the newswire I saw a story announcing that FEMA is adopting a new symbol for emergency management “to call on America not to become complacent about preparedness.†(I’m sure many Americans would like to turn around and tell FEMA exactly the same thing.) The symbol is meant to replace the old “civil defense†triangle-in-a-circle icon that appeared on fallout supplies in the 50s and 60s.

Anybody else think there are some skewed priorities here?

The announcement suffers some unfortunate timing, without a doubt. It comes the same day news outlets picked up on a federal judge’s ruling that FEMA unconstitutionally stopped payment to Katrina victims in February without stated cause.

I’m not saying a new icon is useless. The press release states that “not since these cold war relics (the civil defense symbols) has there been any universal visual associated with the field that is so critical to life, safety and security.†They’re right. Everyone knew the civil defense symbol. Everybody knew what it meant. But it was also bolstered by a massive PR campaign of ads, radio announcements and now notorious grade-school filmstrips.

People were afraid of the unpredictable then, and they trusted the government to show them what to do when the unpredictable happened. People are afraid of the unpredictable now. Period.

The slogan that appears under the new icon is “Public Safety, Public Trust.â€

Note to FEMA: Make sure you have the goods before you start advertising them. 


NB: Thanks to Fark.com for making my headline writing easy.