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close this bookEmergency Information Management and Telecommunications - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1997, 62 p.)
close this folderPart 1: Information management systems
close this folderInformation dissemination
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOrganizational protocols
View the documentUse of coordination structures for information dissemination
View the documentUse of the media in information dissemination
View the documentThe Internet and the World Wide Web

Organizational protocols

“Normal” information dissemination channels are often inadequate to engender a quick, effective response.

An organization’s “normal” information dissemination channels are often inadequate to engender a quick, effective response. In establishing a strategy for the dissemination of critical emergency information, emergency managers must consider the context of the overall disaster response goals and objectives of the agency. Organizational protocols which should be developed well in advance of a crisis include the following concerns:

· Levels of transparency: The question inevitably arises as to the degree of openness that an organization should maintain. The answer lies in the organization’s actual emergency response objectives: ie, an agency seeking to maintain a low profile in a disaster zone for security reasons is unlikely to adopt a policy of wide-open information dissemination, whereas one whose very security may actually depend on openness and worldwide scrutiny would likely do so.

Decisions about transparency must include a policy determination as to what constitutes internal vs. external categories of information. Organizations sufficiently well-endowed appoint public information officers whose main role is to serve as information “gatekeepers”, ie, to decide which information may be released externally. Where such officers are not vailable, emergency managers should ensure that field workers are well-trained in recognizing that which is to be guarded for internal use and that which may be released for public consumption8.

8 Related to this issue of transparency is the concern about the security of telecommunications links, i.e., whether or not a message intended for internal use only can be accessed by those outside the organization. Privacy of particular types of telecommunications systems is discussed in Part 2 of this module.

· Identifying the recipients: An effective dissemination strategy requires advance identification of the intended information recipients and of their particular needs. The time spent in identifying and periodically updating the list of eventual end-users is time well spent. (Even with this effort, in a crisis, the list will inevitably grow if the information disseminated is considered reliable and accurate.) Managers should beware: overlooking even one key user can, in some more bureaucratic organizations, slow certain aspects of the response to a crawl. Given the capacity of today’s information technology, shaping the information to each user’s particular needs should not, with some foresight, be problematic.

When the disaster strikes, the list of information recipients should be modified to include the population actually affected by the disaster. High priority should be given to informing those affected about, for example, assessment or monitoring team findings, actions already taken to-date or planned, and how others are responding to the situation. The constraints of language and illiteracy must be considered; the dissemination of information through verbal reports with on-site translators may be required.

· An emphasis on reporting: Many staff, in setting priorities, often accord low status to the reporting function. “I’ll get to it when I have time” is all too often the response to a request for information. Emergency response organizations should, as a preparedness measure, establish and communicate to all staff their expectations concerning reporting requirements. Staff should understand that “getting the information out” is a critical part of their jobs, not a burden but rather an essential tool in decision-making.

Q. Identify the various recipients of information produced by your organization.




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Q. In reviewing your list, would you say that your organization employs an appropriate degree of openness? Explain your response.




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