Getting the Word Out in a Disaster
But is the message getting through and reaching its mark?
As part of his “Bring New Orleans Back” initiative, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin held a town hall meeting in Houston yesterday in a bid to get residents to return to the flooded city.
He plans another meeting in Memphis later this week.
The meeting only drew about 500 people out of the 150,000 currently living in Houston, showing that Nagin has a unique challenge – effectively communicating to millions of people spread out over more than a dozen states.
Nagin has set up a Website that seems pretty current and has a toll-free hotline that people can call to get general updates. While the phone number can get you to a live operator, the Website doesn’t include neighborhood-by-neighborhood updates.
Unfortunately, it seems that local government, and especially school systems don’t have adequate communications plans in the case of an emergency. When my extended family evacuated from Beaumont during Rita, it was hard to get the information we needed –
When would power be restored? When would schools reopen?
We put together a patchwork of Internet links, including a Clear Channel radio station and the local television and newspaper to get information, and still, we had a hard time getting area-specific news. One school Website was completely down, possibly hosted onsite?
In disasters, it is a block-by-block proposition. As communication experts, we need to figure out how to micro-communicate to provide information that is meaningful for each person. Any thoughts on how to acheive this are welcome.