Risk Communication and Emergency Alerting

Disaster is unpredictable, seasonal and unmerciful. In order to ensure that proper risk management techniques are employed. It is important to have in place proper public communication programs, processes, systems, efforts and plans for the purposes of public education to proper risk strategies. The strategies employed should be effective. The effectiveness of the risk management strategies employed should be measurable in order to improve on future methods. The level of effectiveness of each strategy employed should be verifiable and valid. Measures of effectiveness are important in public communication because they help identify the gaps existing in present strategies. In other words, the programs, processes, systems or efforts implemented are made risk-proof by constant evaluation. The steps taken for risk communication and emergency alerting to ensure community preparedness should be simple, clear, concise and consistent.

            National, local and remote disasters are effectively communicated in the modern day due to rapid technological advancement. However, the technological mediums used determine the total effectiveness and exposure levels. An example of a disaster is the infamous 9/11 tragedy. In many ways, the disaster ensured that many risk management strategies were implemented and redundant procedures were avoided, even in the future.  Current risk communication strategies employed include: fast building of strength and broken trust; educating and informing people about risk; collective agreement on appropriate actions to employ; raising awareness and releasing information on any protective action to take (Covello et al., 2010). These strategies are simple highlights of the process of risk management and alerting. Available media such as television and radio are the most effective forms in sending information rapidly and to the most number of members of the public.    

            Crisis information plans are an effective way to measure the methods employed in public communication and risk alert efforts. In order to enable an extent to measure the risk communication and emergency alert process is divided into categories. The first is the Pre-Crisis phase where all necessary arrangements and risk simulations are conducted. Second is the Initial phase—it can be described as the phase characterized by random media coverage and a lot of information passing through to the public. The third phase is the Maintenance phase where information and instructions are conveyed to both the public and responsible response bodies. The fourth phase is the Resolution phase where an appropriate solution to the impending risk and emergency has been reached. Evaluation is the final and first step as well since it takes the process implemented and the efforts used back to the initial phase in preparation for impending risk (DHS, 2008).

            The above division of risk into categories enables the correct evaluation of each step and its relation to the adjacent steps. Initial phases can be effectively measured by checking the levels of preparedness from previous attempts. More success in an initial phase ensures that risk is distributed and mitigated in other steps. Thus, pre-crisis planning phase planning involves coming up with preparedness strategies, setting up strong alliances and testing and proofing the strategies. In turn, the initial phase is the real test and communication strategies are given in the following ways: 1) the risk and emergency is acknowledged with empathy. 2) the public is informed in the most simple terms available. 3) Commitment to continued communication and lastly is to provide emergency instructions to be followed (Milleti, Kano et al., 2011).  These communication strategies ensure an effective process and also predict the reaction of the public. Next is the maintenance phase which ensures that the public clearly understand the risks and any background information available about the risk. Evaluation is the last step as mentioned above because it ensures that the process is refined. Thus, it can be concluded that existing efforts are significantly effective.

            Efforts implemented in public communication processes have gaps that obstruct full effectiveness of the strategies. One gap is the lack of an effective emergency exclusive communication channel. This channel would be available to all homes owning radios and television sets. In other words, the exclusive channel gap ensures that information reaches the public in a way that prepares their minds for protective instinct and ready to follow set procedures. Since humans are creatures of habit, the habit of expecting and exclusive emergency channel ensures that ignorable breaking news is taken with the serious intensity it deserves. Another implementation strategy would be to as much as possible maintain the credibility of the spokesman (Becker, 2007). In other words, the people selected to brief the public on risks should be highly credible even through-out the disaster, that is, ensuring that the person providing instructions does not get compromised by any other medium. Most communication persons and spokespeople end up contradicting most of the information that is passed to the public. In this way, the public receives different information and any strategies employed in the field are compromised. Consequently, the most conspicuous gaps in public communication process appear to be lack of an exclusive risk and emergency communication channel; and contradictions on the credibility of information and spokespersons conveying the information to the public.

            Effectiveness of existing programs as mentioned above can be measured by determining definite but related instances in the process of risk communication to the public. The measures can be done in terms of efficiency percentages before and after the disaster. Other measures are taken using variables and presenting them in bar graphs that show likely to least likely risk factors and emergency situations (Coombs, 2007). These can be determined by taking the frequency of their occurrences. For instance, in cases where IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and terrorist attacks are experienced, it is known that the measures of most casualties are taken and the public informed about impending dangers and environments to avoid during risk communication.

            Communities should be properly equipped with vital information, tools and resources to use during disasters. Some of the steps to ensure community preparedness are: Ensuring effective communication to the public. When the public is armed with information about potential risks and emergencies, it is more likely to respond effectively if it has familiarized itself with such instances. This method should include the use of different drills to practice different disaster cases. Drills are effective in the school system where every child passing through the education systems understands ways to deal with varied risks and emergencies. Methods such as teaching first aid and protective skills to the public ensure that collateral damage is reduced as much as possible.

            In conclusion, training people on wireless and modern forms of risk communication and perception is necessary. Training on modern technology ensures that most measures needed during public communication effectiveness planning are in line with modern facilities and security protocols. Technological resources are the most effective in collective data and should be utilized in evaluation of other processes.

References

Becker. S.M. (2007). Communicating risk to the public during radiological incidents, British

Medical Journal 335(7630):1106-7.

Covello. V. et Al. (2010). Effective communication for the counter improvised explosive devices

threat: Communication guidance for local leaders responding to threat posed by IED and terrorism. Vol 1. Department of Homeland Security: Burlington.

Coombs. W. T. (2007). Protecting and organization reputations during a crisis: the development

and application of situational crisis communication theory. Corporate Reputation Review, 10, 163-167.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security DHS. (2008). Training Data Sets of Risk

Communication and perception: Task Final Report: DHS Science and Technology.

Wood. M.M. Miletti. D. Kano M. et al. (2011). Communicating actionable risk for terrorism and

            other hazards. Risk Analysis 32(4):601.15.

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