Simplify, localize disaster communication, says Smart official

March 24, 2012 1:42 am 

MANILA, March 23 – A private telecommunications official is recommending strategies for effective disaster communication which he believes is essential in protecting life, limb and property before, during and after hazards strike.

"I think all disaster agencies need to speak in plain language," Smart Communications Inc. public affairs chief Ramon Isberto said during a forum the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hosted in Metro Manila Friday to celebrate the 62nd World Meteorological Day and 147th National Meteorological Day.

He also said PAGASA and other agencies concerned must disseminate the information to community leaders who can localize this to better warn their respective constituents and partners about looming disaster dangers.

"The agencies must likewise further work closely with media," he continued.

Isberto recommended the strategies, recognizing disaster communication "is a very difficult task which must be done" to help guard against widespread confusion, death and destruction from onslaught of hazards.

Panic gripped Negros Oriental province last month after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) issued a tsunami bulletin advising people to be on alert for unusual waves in their areas.

Phivolcs issued the bulletin after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck offshore Negros Oriental, killing several people there.

Negrenses panicked as they thought the bulletin was to inform them a tsunami was already headed their way.

Confusion and panic in nearby Cebu island also highlighted the need for effective disaster communication, Isberto noted.

"Those are classic examples of how critical communication is when disasters happen," he said.

In disseminating disaster-related information, Isberto said media entities must train personnel tasked with reporting the data to people so they can deliver the work accordingly.

"Media organizations must establish expertise for this," he said.

Isberto reassured Smart's continuing commitment to partner with agencies concerned in disseminating disaster-related information.

Television station TV 5 reported boosting its efforts on covering the weather and enhancing its weather presentors' knowledge on the topic to help empower people with information they can use to help reduce their vulnerability to climatic events.

"We aim to inform and alert the public as well as have people understand weather reports," TV 5 news operations head DJ Sta. Ana said during the forum.

He said TV 5 adapted a conversational format and prepares visual aids for its weather reports to help people better understand technical matters.

Sta. Ana also reported TV 5 earlier acquired the system of Metra, New Zealand's weather bureau, to better present information from PAGASA.

Metra enables TV 5 to present PAGASA's technical weather information in graphical form, facilitating public understanding of the data.

"We must deliver the message in a language and manner that's understandable to all," Sta. Ana said. (PNA) scs/CJT/utb

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