A communication failure can be a disaster in itself, cutting off vital activities. (FEMA 2010)
It’s human nature to love triumph-over-tragedy stories. We know that the more devastating the event, the more media coverage it gets. The public sees a community that is broken, a near future that is challenging.
Well thought out media coverage sends a message of hope. The media coverage offers opportunities for a community or a state to provide the type of information that is needed to resolve a problem.
- Establish relationships with the media long before an event occurs. Arborists will benefit from learning how to interface with the media.
- Reduce chaos from storm events by reporting information about the storm event.
- Bring together and brief all concerned staff.
- Plan with other departments – especially public information.
- Establish a set of checklists and communication tools to quickly share relevant information, discuss options and strategies, assign responsibilities, and prepare for the storm event.
- Communicate with the emergency management department to ensure trees are included in their processes.
1. Internal communications
- Take care of the family first.
- Make plans for communicating with employees’ families in an emergency.
- Define how to communicate should families be separated or injured.
- Arrange for an out-of-town contact for family members to call.
- Designate a place to meet family members if they cannot get home.
- 1.2 Communicate with crews. Know where your crews are.
- Establish procedures for warning personnel of an emergency.
- Place emergency contact information near each telephone, on employee bulletin boards and in other prominent locations.
- Maintain an updated list of addresses and telephone and cell phone numbers of key emergency response personnel (from within and outside the facility).
- Establish procedures to report an emergency.
- Inform employees of procedures.
- Develop check-in and check-out procedures.
- Write down crew names, trucks assigned, and where they are sent.
- Use GPS trackers on trucks.
- At the end of a shift use the list to ensure everyone checks back in.
After the storm people want to know:
- What types of assistance will be offered?
- What are the hazards?
- What programs are in place to respond to fallen trees/limbs, etc.?
- What does a homeowner do with vegetative debris?
- What will be picked up by the city or municipality?
- When will vegetative debris be picked up?
- Who should they call?
2. External Communications
- Communicate with the Public.
- Ensure the use of multi-lingual communications and communication tools for persons with disabilities.
- Provide specific instructions. You will be 50% more efficient by offering clear instructions.
- Describe how and when the public will be notified.
- Utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Advise the community of areas to avoid after a storm event.
- Describe the likely types of problems that will be created as a result of the downed power lines, blocked roads, etc.
3. Build Positive Media Relations
Oregon Department of Forestry, recommends:
- When providing information to the media use the “Front Page” test. Think about how your words would look on the front page of a newspaper or sound in an isolated quote or “sound bite”.
- Never repeat a negative question.
- Make sure statements are concise.
- Be prompt and meet deadlines.
- Stay on message. Determine three key points to emphasize.
- Be pleasant, firm and patient.
4. The purpose of the message is to explain and persuade
Risk Communication Strategies, Media Survival Group recommends:
- Be first – if information is yours.
- Be right – even if incremental.
- Be credible – tell the truth.
- Express empathy.
- Promote action – offer things to do.
- Understand your audience.
FEMA 141 (2010) Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry Retrieved on https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/3412 .
Gulick, J. (2011, June 16). Davey Resource Group. Storm response interview.
Hayes, R. and Malone, T., Tips for Effective Emergency Communication: Planning for the Worst. Security Products, March 2004.
Health Canada, Crisis/Emergency Communications Guidelines, September 2003.
Terrill, K., Media Survival Tips. Media Survival Group www.mediasurvivalgroup.com
Oregon Department of Forestry. (2009, November). Building Positive Media Relations, A Handbook for Oregon Department of Forestry Staff. Adopted from the Oregon Employment Department with revisions by Rod Nichols and Cynthia Orlando, ODF Agency Affairs. January 2012.
Orlando, C. Oregon Division of Forestry. (2011 June 9). Storm response interview.
Orr, J. (2011 June 23) Asplundh. Storm response interview.
Rapp, T. (2011 July 7). City of Aiken, SC. Storm response interview.
Shores, B. (2011 July 12) Tree Control. Storm response interview.
Urban Forest Strike Team Communicating Disaster Response Retrieved on July 8, 2012 from http://www.ufst.org/resources/collections/communicating-disaster-response/