The Purpose of Emergency Management Communications

By Jessie Cheveldayoff

It is generally understood that communicating in an open, honest, and productive manner is essential for almost all sectors. Within the working world, however, businesses and organizations often overestimate their level of preparedness, impact, and success of communications channels. 

Organizations of all kinds should have versatile, adaptive, and knowledgeable communications teams in order to handle varying degrees of emergencies. Communications is a field of its own that asks professionals to design and execute crisis plans efficiently; however, when it comes to emergency management response standards, they still seem to fall short. The fact is, the majority of After Action Reports state that communication is the main area requiring improvement (Abdoulaziz, 2019, p. 380)

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that communicating information to the public is essential for many reasons. Which means, we’re living in an extremely relevant time to analyze and discuss crisis management communications. In simple terms, at the start of the pandemic, people didn’t really know what was going on; certain businesses were shutting down while others weren’t, some locations required masks unlike others, and people weren’t certain about what to do if they had symptoms. Unfortunately, during a pandemic, people’s lives are at stake and can be put into greater danger due to a lack of correct and timely information. 

According to FEMA, delivering effective messages during a crisis situation has been proven to ensure public safety, protect property, facilitate response efforts, and encourage cooperation which can ultimately save lives (p. 3.2). Accordingly, emergency management plans should integrate communications teams that have trained to execute emergency plans. 

FEMA further states that emergency communications serve many purposes:

  • Saves lives and reduce injury
  • Protects property and environment
  • Facilitates the tactical response
  • Educates, informs, and changes behaviours and attitudes (in all phases)
  • Seeks the public’s cooperation
  • Instills public confidence 
  • Provides information to help families reunite (p. 3.6)

With all of the benefits of efficient crisis communications listed above, why shouldn’t businesses and organizations place a higher level of importance on emergency training? 

We can’t assume that crisis situations only happen to others; crises are inevitable and it’s our duty as communicators to raise the standard of crisis and emergency management communications training.

 

References:

Abdoulaziz, Abdoulaye. (2019). “Common areas for improvement from After Action Reports (AARs) generated after exercises or actual disasters, as reported by a national sample of U.S. hospitals.” Theses & Dissertations. 380. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.unmc.edu/etd/380

 

FEMA. (February 2014). “Lesson 3. Communicating in an Emergency.” Retrieved from 

https://training.fema.gov/emiweb/is/is242b/student%20manual/sm_03.pdf