The Importance of Emergency Communications in Disaster Preparedness
A couple weeks ago, Americans were jolted by warning sounds coming from an emergency alert on their phones, radios, and TVs. Far from an actual emergency, though, the alerts were part of a nationwide test.
So, what does this test have to tell us about the importance of emergency communications in disaster preparedness? Read on to find out.
Federal agencies test the nation’s systems for emergency communications.
But first, what was the emergency test all about?
Conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the test was meant to ensure that the Wireless Emergency Alerts system (WEA) for cellphones and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) for radio and television were both in proper order.
What do these systems do? They’ve been put in place in the event the nation faces an actual emergency, whether a natural disaster, terrorist strike, or another serious threat to public safety.
Why are systems for emergency communications important?
In an age of ubiquitous communications, why have these systems in place at all?
Well, that’s the rub.
Disasters are scary times. And to make safe decisions, members of the public will have an urgent need for emergency information and warnings.
In this context, the public requires information on what’s likely to happen (or has happened), what to do, and what to expect.
If the disaster is affecting them directly, members of the public will also need to know what a relevant government and emergency services agency will be doing to address the risk and assist them in the near term.
What’s emergency information?
The intelligence they get from these public entities is emergency information.
Emergency information itself consists of emergency alerts and other information disseminated to affected communities both before and during a disaster. And the purpose of the information is to help individuals understand what they can expect, where they can seek help, and how they should act.
Why can’t the public receive emergency communications from media sources?
Members of the public can’t just receive this information from newscasters or the media more broadly. And that’s because of the very nature of disasters.
As mentioned, disasters are scary times. As such, they’re highly stressful.
Being so stressful, they disorder how we understand and respond to information.
Unlike regular media communications, emergency communications, such as those tested by FEMA and the FCC, have evolved to provide individuals with emergency information and/or warnings that balance the need to provide as much detail as possible yet are clear and succinct, so as to be quickly and easily understood.
This often can’t be done by either traditional or new media sources.
For one, those sources often lack relevant emergency information. Relevant emergency information, here, includes the following:
- The type and location of the risk
- The expected timing of the risk
- Who will be affected
- How they’ll be affected
- What they can or should do to respond
Add to that, members of the public have grown to rely on government and emergency services agencies to provide them with tailored, consistent emergency information and warnings at different times when preparing for, and responding to, natural disasters, and for different purposes.
But what emergency management software capabilities are needed to deliver emergency communications to the public at a regular clip? Download our Buyer’s Guide to Emergency Management Software to find out.