Thursday, February 23, 2017

Communicating in An Urban Disaster


PSYOP/MISO are often called upon to help out in Disaster Recovery by communicating information to those affected by the disaster.

San Jose is the 10th largest city in America with over 1 million people. The Coyote Creek runs north from Morgan Hill, CA. It is feed by Lake Anderson, a lake behind an earthen dam – Anderson Dam. For years the dam has needed seismic retrofitting and was supposed to be kept at 68%. Due to the recent rains here the dam was at 100%. A spillway is used to drain the water. The spillway flows into the creek which meanders through San Jose. If you Google “Rock Springs, San Jose” you’ll get a nice map.
At one point 14,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders. These were ‘delivered’ block by block. There was also wide spread TV and other media coverage.

. This week my wife and I are working for the Red Cross in support of the San Jose (CA) Coyote Creek Floods. My role is that of Lead Public Affairs Officer.
Government and community organizations needed to get information out to the affected people and the general public. The Red Cross opened two shelters to support those impacted by the disaster. Given this as background, here’s what I’ve learned so far this week.

1.     Almost everyone is glued to his or her cell phone.
2.     Charging stations and WiFi are more important than washers and dryers.
3.     Language skills are always useful. They are helpful in working the and of course, those impacted by the disaster.
4.     No matter how urbanized an area may be, you will need low-tech communication media. There is no substitute for face-to-face communications or flyers. Merely putting something on-line is not enough.
5.     As in war, no plan survives contact. The dynamics of a disaster and the effects on the population are always unpredictable.
6.     Once the disaster subsides, politicians will scramble to pin the blame elsewhere.
7.     Broadcast media channels are competitors. They are each scrambling to find the best images.
8.     Reporters and politicians say what they think their viewers/listeners or constituents are most likely to want to hear and not consider the big picture of what actions people should take or not take to lessen the suffering.

Reader input invited as always.

Photo Source: The Author

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