Whether a crisis or disaster is natural or man-made, effective communication strategies are needed no matter where it occurs. A great deal was learned about communication issues in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After this disaster, thousands of residents in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana were without roads, electricity, or cell phone towers. Because of this, creative means of communication, both inside and outside the region, were needed. Agencies with satellite phones had no difficulty, but for most survivors this was not a possibility—it was difficult to make phone calls both outside and inside the region. One means of communicating, however, was successful for many—text messaging. But, of course, this required a digital phone with texting capability, which not all had access to. In order to reach survivors who did not have this capability, four-wheel drive vehicles or trucks were necessary because roads and bridges were destroyed. Transportation became a significant element for communication.
Other less intense crises present communication issues as well. All crises involve an organizational plan that outlines how to communicate decisions and how to respond to the crisis. Media is almost always present, and they require communication that is rapid and accurate. Coombs (Crandall, Parnell, and Spillan, 2010) identifies uses of communication strategies for the various stages and types of disasters.
Note: Hurricane Katrina is referenced many times in this course because so much was learned from mistakes made during and after that crisis. Crisis responders and those in charge of planning for crises learn from each and every incidence. For example, being sure to look out for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, is now a priority because 13,000 died during an extreme heat wave in France in August 2003. Every crisis and/or disaster offers an opportunity to reevaluate what worked and what needs improvement for the next incidence.
To prepare for this assignment:
- Review Chapters 7 and 8 in your course text, Crisis Management in the New Strategy Landscape, paying particular attention to the different considerations that should be taken during the beginning, middle, and end of a crisis. Also focus on the methods of establishing communications with various populations during a crisis.
- Review Chapter 6 in your course text, Crisis Intervention Strategies, and focus on how the telephone and the internet can be utilized as alternative forms of communication during a crisis.
- Review the article, “The Northridge Earthquake: Community-Based Approaches to Unmet Recovery Needs.” Focus on populations whose needs were not met and think about how various communication strategies and community organizations might have resolved those unmet needs.
- Review the article, “Natural Disasters that Reveal Cracks in Our Social Foundation,” and pay particular attention to suggestions and considerations for crisis planning.
- Review the article, “Crisis Management in Real Time: How to Successfully Plan for and Respond to a Crisis,” and think about the role of crisis communication plans and crisis management teams in the management of a crisis.
The assignment: (2–3 pages)
- Briefly describe alternative systems of and strategies for communication that might be used during a crisis when normal lines of communication are unavailable.
- Then evaluate which systems and/or strategies might be most effective and explain why.
- Briefly describe the vulnerable populations that may need to be reached during a crisis. Then explain potential strategies for reaching and communicating with these populations.