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What to Include in a Successful Disaster Management Communication Plan

fireman pointing in front of a pile of rubble

The following blog post is by a guest blogger, Regan Hipp. Regan writes about business, finance & risk management at www.homeinsurance.org. 

Disasters are by definition impossible to foresee. An inefficient communication plan may even provoke more damage than an act of God.
 
When a disaster happens, an emergency response team must place a public information officer and hand them a communication strategy, so that they know how to handle the flow of key information among both the general public and public safety agencies. 
 
If you're new to the field, here's what you need to know. 

The importance of communication

Disasters are generally followed by chaos. Effectively, both confusion and rumours start to emerge from everywhere, which can ultimately lead to uncontrollable panic.
 
Casualties of disasters need to be provided with consistent, plain, precise, and timely information in order to find assistance and resources, avert dangers, and reduce as much as possible the risk of sustaining additional injuries.
 
According to the National Incident Management system, a precise and successful communication plan has the ability to save the lives and the property of many individuals. It can also help preserve both credibility and public trust.
 

Organization

In order to respond rapidly, an emergency communication strategy must be put in place. This communication strategy ought to include the designation of a centre for crisis operations that will need to be equipped with telephone line as well as with other necessary equipment tools. Such necessary equipment tools encompass a television & radio, a laptop computer, some office supplies, an agency letterhead, an alternate power source, a fax machine, a camera, and some press release templates.
 

Public information officer

The emergency response team ought to designate one lead public information officer who will directly interact with the incident commander. The public information officer is a key individual in situations of crisis because they are the principal point of contact for both the general public and media.
 
When planning a communication strategy for crisis emergencies, individuals need to make sure that the public information officer can be reached both at nights and days. In addition to that, all team members should also supply the emergency operation centre with their contact information including the fax number, the telephone number, and even the email address. 
 

Techniques

There are a variety of ways to reach out to victims of disasters. One of the most commonly used methods is to organize a press conference for the mass media. But there are other methods through which the audience can be reached more directly. These include sending text messages, using e-mail updates, audio conferencing, old fashioned press kits, CD-ROMs, webcasts, and blogs.
 
Both the workers of any entity and the members of all communities should be included in the list of individuals to reach as well. Among the community members that must be included in the communication strategy designed in the case of a crisis emergency are people who speak other languages than English, individuals who have very special needs, seniors, and individuals who have disabilities.
 

Measure of performance

When the crisis starts to settle, there must be a review of the communication efforts that were made and an identification of the areas that need to be ameliorated. Any goal that was sought and that was fulfilled ought to be noted. Other metrics such as the number of hits to the web site of the organization that successfully handled the crisis, telephone surveys, and feedback from focus groups should be taken into account and analyzed thoroughly.
 
The implementation of all these measures will enable an organization to successfully manage a situation of crisis. These must all be incorporated in a communication strategy for disaster management in order to minimize both the risks and the injuries that happen when floods and earthquakes strike.
 

ClearRisk's Claims, Incident, and Risk Management System can also help you prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies. Want more information?

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Topics: disaster management communication plan disaster management crisis management plan