Posted: June 12th, 2015

DHS and the Law

DHS and the Law

Read and reply to the below discussion. Do you agree or not with the discussion? Why?

1. Do you feel that the media are effective risk communicators? Why or why not? If you do not believe that the media are effective risk communicators, then to which of the three schools of research regarding the effectiveness of news media risk communication do you subscribe? 1) The news media are ineffective at informing the public of the risks they face because of media bias. 2) The news media are largely ineffective as risk communicators but the focus of blame falls on the public. 3) The media are ineffective at educating the public but still play a vital role in risk communications.

According to our textbook, “The news media play a significant role in disaster and emergency management both before and after disasters occur. The media are well recognized for the invaluable service they have consistently performed during the initial critical moments of a disaster, when the emergency response efforts are mobilized.”[1] I partly agree with this statement. The first part is true in that they do play a significant role. The second part is true most of the time. As a whole, I believe the media has gotten so focused on ratings and “glorifying violence” they have lost their way. I’m sure we all remember when we were kids all the public service announcements on television. One of the ones that sticks in my head the most was the “this is your brain (egg); this is your brain on drugs (fried egg). Any questions?” What happened to commercials like that? Now if they don’t fill their commercial space with advertisements, they won’t make as much money as they could.
But, I digress; back to the topic at hand. The media has done a good job over the years of becoming better in the area of risk communication. It is a very difficult role though and has lots of problems. “Communicating messages to the general public is a critical yet underdeveloped aspect of effective emergency management.”[2] As we see, it is still underdeveloped and needs to be bettered just like anything else in the comprehensive emergency management.
It is very important to get the information out to people and these “messages fall under three basic categories: risk communication, warning, and crisis communication.”[3] The first I already gave an example of before with the public service announcements. It is simply getting the information of hazards out to the general public. The second is just what it sounds like: letting people know of a potential situation or impending danger. The third “involves the provision of timely, useful, and accurate information to the public during the response and recovery phases of a disaster event.”[4]
As mentioned, these areas need to be improved, although we have made significant headway. “The importance of communicating with the public during the response and recovery phases of a natural or technological disaster event has only recently been fully embraced by emergency officials.”[5] Since this is a new concept (well, not new, but newly accepted as required), it is constantly being improved.
The design and implementation of warning systems has similarly advanced in the past decades. From the Civil Defense sirens to the Emergency Broadcast Network to weather radios, warning systems alerting the public to sudden or impending disaster events have become more sophisticated and widely used. Broadcasting timely information that allows individuals to make appropriate shelter and evacuation decisions is at the core of the warning systems designed for natural hazards such as tornadoes and tsunamis.[6]
However, we have been making strides to make this better. For years we have had the emergency broadcast service, which told people of a possible threat to life in the local area. Then, once the warning went out the communication ceased and the crisis communication never happened. No one was communicating information (other than the effects of the disaster by news agencies) about what to do after the crisis. “This changed in the 1990s as FEMA, under the direction of James Lee Witt, made a commitment and marshaled the resources to develop and implement an aggressive public affairs program designed to deliver timely and accurate messages to the public in a time of crisis.”[7]
The problem with some of these warning systems and post-crisis communications is they do not have much lead-time and many of the people will be without power once the disaster occurs. People must be watching TV (and must be on a local channel…one area for improvement) or listening to the radio (again, must be a local station…not satellite radio or an out of town station) in order to get this vital bit of information. However, with the increase in technology, we see strides towards progress. Recently the Internet has been used to warn and inform the populace. Also, with most smart phones incorporating GPS and location services, people can be warned and informed via mobile devices and tablets.

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