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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder21. Communications
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentCommunications Management
View the documentTelecommunications
View the documentUNHCR Telecommunications Network Field Preparations
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes

Communications Management

2. With improved means of communications, even from very remote locations, the proper management of communications has assumed great importance. The structure and flow of communications should reflect that of the management of the operation, with communications being channelled in a properly structured manner.

At each level reports and information received should be analyzed and consolidated before being passed to the next level.

Raw information should not be routinely transmitted simultaneously through several levels of the management structure by copying reports widely, in addition to directing them to the person responsible for action. Distribution of information should be restricted to those who need it for the exercise of their functions and communications traffic in general should be restricted to that which is necessary.

3. Originators of communications should always ask themselves what the purpose of the message is, who will be receiving it, and whether the information contained is sufficient and appropriate for the purpose.

4. Under the pressures of an emergency there is sometimes a tendency to exchange incomplete information. If the information is insufficient for the purpose of the message, and if the matter cannot wait, then acknowledgement of gaps may save time and trouble. For example, "further information being obtained but meanwhile please react on points..."

5. The most appropriate means of transmission for the message should be considered in view of cost, urgency and bulk. For example, avoid using the telephone or fax when the message could be passed by electronic mail (e-mail). Similarly, large amounts of data, unless very urgent, should be sent via pouch or mail rather than bye-mail.

6. Using or developing standard forms can assist communications management, as they can act as a checklist for information usually transmitted in that form of communication (sitreps are an obvious example - see the annex to chapter 8 on implementing arrangements.)

7. An effective referencing system must be used - this is a major factor in ensuring good communications.

Use separate messages for clearly separate subjects.

Correct numbering and/or referencing will greatly help identify earlier communications. It will also provide a means to systematically track actions required and help maintain orderly and disciplined communication. See chapter 20 on administration for more information on a filing system. Annex 1 describes the official UNHCR message identification system which is used by the Telecommunications Unit.

8. The immediate requirement for communications may be satisfied by telephone, e-mail and fax. However, regular pouch, courier or mail services should be established as soon as possible. A checklist for communication needs which should be considered when setting up an office is contained in chapter 20 on administration. In addition, the Checklist for the Emergency Administrator contains guidance, forms and information for setting up different types of communications.