Good Communication Matters
I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard how communication matters during a disaster or an emergency; I wish I had $5 every time someone disregarded this advice and fell flat on their face.
We communicate for a variety of reasons. We use communication to share information, to make comments, ask questions, express wants and needs, develop social relationships, social etiquette, etc. Communication within the emergency management and other first responder positions is more than just this though, it is often a matter of life or death. Communicating well matters because if we get it wrong, people may suffer and possibly die. We cannot be misunderstood when directing people out of a burning building or to an emergency shelter. The costs of getting it wrong are too high.
What can we do to do a better job of communicating? While the following is not exhaustive, it’s a starting place. In order to do it better try the following?
Keep Your Messaging consistent. Unless things are changing, I would encourage you to stick to your main points. This consistency also reaches into when you push out your messaging and where it can be found. You should set times to share new information and stick to them.
Be Ready to Change
There are going to be times when you need to change up the way that you are delivering your message. While our mobile phones work well most of the time, what happens if they go down? What is your step, B, C, and even D? During the Boston Marathon bombing, cellular phones were inoperable and the leadership had to go to Satellite phones.
Be Thinking Ahead
My wife calls me a pessimist because I am always highlighting the shortfalls or possible dangers in any situation. This sort of thinking is part of the DNA of an emergency manager and we need to be constantly thinking ahead and anticipating possible dangers that we might face. If you take this approach, the amount of “surprises” you encounter will drop considerably.
You are constantly communicating throughout the day, and while it might seem like I am overplaying its importance in an emergency, I am not. Communication within emergency situations is vital, comes on quick, and is not always easy. We cannot afford to get it wrong, and taking a few minutes to think about it before hand can make all the difference.