resilience communication is fundamentally social, reliant upon interactions and relationships between and within communities. Communications construct how people see their roles in disasters, build the resolve necessary to endure, and encourage learning from historical precedent. Disaster planners can increase their communities’ ability to plan for, absorb, and adapt to disasters by employing knowledge of specific audiences and evidence-based strategies, leveraging new media, strengthening communications networks, and helping construct disaster-resilient narratives (Table 5.3). Specific actions for this kind of communication are briefly described.
Communication That Motivates Resilient Actions
A cornerstone in communication is to know its primary objective. Is it simply to provide information without actions or is it to provide guidance on taking action? Ideally, communication should motivate individuals, families, blocks, neighborhood groups, and entire communities to develop and even rehearse plans. For example, prior to the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, neighborhood clusters such as blocks were encouraged to prepare as individuals and collectively. Individual preparation included earthquake kits, family communication plans, emergency lighting, etc. In Bel Air, neighbors got together and each home had a red flag and green flag. After the earthquake, people with no emergencies put a green flag in front of their homes. Designated neighbors checked houses with red flags (signaling help was needed) and without flags. The neighborhoods were essentially on their own for several days, and neighbors shared food, water, flashlights, and first-aid kits. Several houses on that street were a total loss, but there was no loss of life.
In another example, Hurricane Irene in 2011 destroyed numerous roads and bridges in upstate New York, in Vermont, in parts of Massachusetts, and in New Hampshire. In several of these states, it was difficult to determine which roads were open and which were closed. In Vermont, within 24 hours of the disaster, the Vermont Agency of Transportation had a map on the Internet with detailed information on hundreds of road closures. Essentially, it was impossible to cross from New Hampshire through Vermont to New York State for at least 30 days post-storm, but motorists and businesses could identify where they could travel and where they could not based on this kind of communication.
Source: Personal observation and experience from a committee member.