BullhornLouisiana State University has released a great brochure on best practices for communicating about hurricane risks. It’s short, simple, and it makes sense. Here’s the meat of it, broken down by audience:

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

  • Be Proactive in Educating the Public: Gaining compliance during a hurricane requires year-round efforts. Waiting until the storms hit invites disaster. Having an emergency plan AND a public relations plan in place before hurricane season is paramount for success during an actual crisis.
  • Keep Media in the Loop: Important announcements such as evacuations are more effective when the media has advance warning.
  • Keep Other Parish/County Officials in the Loop: What happens in one region affects other regions—from lodging, gas and supply needs to traffic and police concerns.

SCIENCE COMMUNITY

  • Be Proactive in Communication with Media and Government: Anticipating their needs can help them formulate and convey a consistent message, thus making their jobs easier and saving residents’ lives and property.
  • Have a Backup Plan When Technology Fails: Create a hierarchy of communication channels that anticipates a complete technological failure. Know which channels serve as backups and have people on standby ready to trigger those options.
  • Avoid Jargon: Do not assume all understand the language of your technical expertise. Speak plainly to reduce uncertainty and confirm the audience’s understanding.

MEDIA

  • Identify Your “Point Person” in the Scientific Community before the Storm: Don’t waste time by asking different people in the same agency the same questions, or by having multiple staff in your organization ask the same questions repeatedly.
  • Create a List of Personal Cell Phone Numbers: Getting your contact on the phone can be difficult during a crisis.Be sure you can reach them anytime, anywhere in case of an emergency.
  • Spread the Message: In this age of media choice, use all forms of media at your disposal, including social media.

ALL DECISION-MAKERS

  • Avoid burnout
  • Build trust
  • Create a communication network

You can download the brochure or learn more about this Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium-funded project on the LSU Hurricanes, Institutional Procedures and Information Processing website.

Image: Rex Dart

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