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On a sunny May morning, 21 years ago, I heard my name being called on the hospital's speaker system. I was still in the lobby, eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first baby. As I rushed to the delivery room, the nurse handed me a stack of paperwork filled with confusing medical jargon. It was overwhelming, but I had to sign everything before they could start the delivery.
Although my experience was traumatic, our baby was healthy. As someone who has gone through this, I want to share some personal insights that emergency professionals and disaster relief organizations can use to improve their communication before, during, and after emergencies.
LESSON ONE: Clear Communication is Key Before an emergency occurs, it's essential to share important information in a clear and concise manner. As we've seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people had difficulty filling out applications and understanding test results due to the use of technical terms and medical jargon.
LESSON TWO: Use Simple Words and Stories Complex language and technical terms can cause confusion and hinder effective communication. It's best to use simple words and relatable stories to ensure that your message is easily understood.
LESSON THREE: Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario As the saying goes, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time." It's essential to prepare for all possible scenarios and consider what-if situations to ensure that you're ready for anything.
- Conduct a monthly headcount to ensure that you have updated contact information for your team and community.
- Reach out to extended family, vendors, contractors, subcontractors, and close friends to obtain their contact information in case of an emergency.
- Work with groups like faith organizations, sports teams, schools, employers, associations, nightclub owners, and local celebrities to share information and gather feedback.
LESSON FOUR: Be Proactive Instead of waiting for an emergency to happen, be proactive and establish a connection with your community. This will help build trust and ensure that you can communicate effectively during an emergency.
By following these lessons, emergency professionals and disaster relief organizations can improve their communication and response during emergencies.