The Value of Communications in Times of Emergency: Harvey and Irma

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PDDude)

This image of Irma is somewhat surreal. A beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, yet what further devastation will be in the wake of this storm.

Outside today, it’s overcast and cool for early September in Chicago. The skies are not threatening, the winds placid.

Wish the same could be said for parts of the Caribbean and the state of Florida.

Okay, you know where this is going: Commentary on the massive Hurricane Irma as it approaches the continental United States and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Well, let’s let the experts, the pundits, the forecasters and the government officials provide analysis on subjects like:

  • The potential for lives lost and property destroyed.
  • The exact course of this latest Category 5 storm.
  • The exodus of people seeking safety via highways and air.
  • The analysis of how continued development along coastal areas will exacerbate damage from the storm.
  • And, the role of global warming in these storms and others to follow.

Here, I’ll share a thought on the value of communications — and those responsible for accurate, timely and ethical communications — in helping to mitigate what’s to follow from Irma when it reaches Florida later this weekend.

In researching this post, I googled “Hurricane Irma and public relations advice.”  Yes, the search yielded a lot, as there were more than 150,000 findings.

In reading some of the results, I found links to reports on how to prepare for the hurricane (from the Federal Trade Commission), travel insurance claims advice from a company called Squaremouth, and a USA Today article on how to prepare your smartphone for a catastrophe.

Of course, there were many more articles and links to websites offering direction and insight that perhaps has little value to the tens of thousands who may be displaced over the next few days.

Or suffer more substantial losses.

The point here: These messages were drafted and distributed by communicators — public relations consultants, marketing professionals, content experts. They were playing a role in disseminating potentially valuable information in a time of need.

These messages won’t stop the winds and the rain from making landfall. But in times like these, communications on how to lessen or avoid the impact of a potential tragedy do count.

Expect more hurricane-related communications to come, as Hurricane Jose  was building strength, becoming a Category 4 storm, in the Atlantic Ocean.  The good news: Forecasters predict Jose may head north and may not reach land.

Let’s hope.

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As a true weather wonk, The PRDude has addressed weather and natural disasters before. Here are two posts:

 

 

 

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