D10 Raising the alarm

DisastersCommunication

In a disaster people are desperate for information, and incorrect rumours can create panic and cost lives. Reliable sources of information are essential. Radio stations, government officials or NGOs should be investigated before a disaster to discover who could supply accurate information. Plan how to share this vital information as quickly and accurately as possible.

  • All communities use a variety of sounds to pass on messages. These can range from drums passing on news of deaths, to school bells and gongs beaten to tell churchgoers of an approaching service.
  • Are there any sounds that are already used to call people together? Discuss the best way of attracting the attention of the whole community to pass on vital news that may help to save lives.

Discussion 
  • What existing resources are there which already make a loud and unusual noise? Are there other little-used sources of noise, such as horns? Are there churches or organisations with megaphones?
  • Make contact with radio stations that broadcast to your area. Who are the people who should be contacted for announcements to be made over the radio? What kind of information will they broadcast? Where can reliable information be obtained?
  • In many communities messages move very fast by word of mouth. Discuss how this works in your community, and what channels can be used in times of need.
  • In many places the church is very good at passing on information through its structure. How does this work? What can we learn from this? How can it be used for passing on alarm messages?
  • One community in the Philippines ties ropes over rivers with flags and small bells attached. If the river level begins to rise, the water knocks the flags and bells so that the bells start ringing. Can you think of other similar ways of raising the alarm?
  • Plan for registration centres so that people can quickly find out who is missing and where relatives can go to find news. Schools or churches could plan to act as such centres and appoint several respected people to keep accurate lists of families in their area. How could you make known the need for such registration?