Disaster Communications Lessons from 2011 Flood


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Four mistakes and five lessons from the Great Thailand Flood of 2011

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  • Focus in the disaster was on (1) death count; and (2) economic fallout
  • DonMuang airport and its images was perhaps the most telling picture of the Thailand Flood
  • This NASA image shows the Don Muang Airport and the little dots on the Don Muang airport are airplanes.
  • Another example of famous imagery, where next to Don Muang, the escaped crocodiles made for human interest stories.
  • What got lost was the Communication Disaster.
  • Four mistakes of the Thailand Flood disaster – First was lack of enough official information. People relied on informal channels more than official channels.
  • Second mistake was lack of enough information in English, which hurt the expatriate community.
  • 3. Mixed messages emerged when non-official channels competed with official channels contradicting information. Official channels did not use nonofficial channels.
  • 4. Image shows Democracy monument during the 1942 flood. Such images can only be found in archives, and very few remember the incident.
  • Four lessons from the Flood
  • While information can be centralized, information channels need to be decentralized.
  • If the servers are flooded, and the website goes down, then what do you do? Best is to set up an alternate backup website – preferably with server located at a second location.
  • This news from Pattaya Daily News shows that social media usage soared during the flood. The impetus gained by social media during the flood continues…
  • While email and websites are regarded as primary modes of communication, and social media also being granted due importance, mobile telephony was ignored. Mobiles can continue to be functional even when websites are down.
  • Final lesson
  • – Telephone directories of target households/individuals was missing. A single SMS can alert everyone if one has a proper telephone directory
  • And the telephone directory needs to be correct and uptodate.
  • Different priorities?
  • Disaster Communications Lessons from 2011 Flood

    1. 1. Communicating during disasters 4 mistakes and 5 lessonsGreat Thailand Flood of 2011Bajinder Pal Singhbajinder@hotmail.com www.bajinder.com 12th Indian Science Communication Congress 2012 , New DelhiImage source: http://www.dvidshub.net/image/475064/iii-mef-assess-flooding-thailand#.UMlJfuSR9gg
    2. 2. Economic damage received a lot of attentionImage source: http://www.dvidshub.net/image/478683/thailand-hast#.UMlLNuSR9gg
    3. 3. 815 deaths14 million affectedLoss - 45.7 billion (WB)Image source: http://www.dvidshub.net/image/478677/thailand-hast
    4. 4. FocusA Thai worker looks at an aircraft parked in floodwaters at Don Muang airport in Bangkok onOctober 27, 2011. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images. Image source:http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    5. 5. Fourth largest disaster Image source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=76282
    6. 6. NoiseA Thai rescue worker sits next to a crocodile caught in a flooded area in Ayutthaya province October 15, 2011. (SukreeSukplang/Reuters) Image source: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    7. 7. Lost….A woman holds a toddler as she walks through floodwaters in an area near the Chao Praya river in Bangkok on October 29,2011. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images) Source:http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    8. 8. 1Paucity of official updatesA woman hangs onto a street sign in chest-deep water on October 24, 2011 in Rangsit on the outskirts of Bangkok. (PaulaBronstein/Getty Images) Source: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html#
    9. 9. 2Lack of information in English Image source: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/10/09/mapping-the- thailand-flooding-disaster/
    10. 10. 2 Lack of information for target audienceA Thai child carries a gas tank through floods in Rangsit district on the outskirts of Bangkok on October 21. Children makeup around a quarter of the nearly 800 deaths the United Nations has tallied since July across Thailand, Cambodia,Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines, which have been ravaged by some of the worst flooding in decades. Drownings are ahuge unreported epidemic in Southeast Asia, killing an estimated 240,000 children up to 17 years old each year - mostlybecause the majority of kids in the region simply never learn to swim. (Aaron Favila/AP) Source:http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    11. 11. 3 Competing official and non official channelsImage source: http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/karn-tv-cartoons-flooding-in-thailand/
    12. 12. Historical disbelief in a 4major flooding event 3
    13. 13. Vehicles at a Honda car factory are submerged in floodwaters in the Rojana industrial district in Ayutthaya province, centralThailand on October 16, 2011. (Sakchai Lalit/AP Image source:http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    14. 14. LessonsA Thai boy holds aloft banknotes to keep them dry while he swims during the flood in Nonthaburi province, suburbanBangkok, on October 15, 2011. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images) Image source:http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    15. 15. Communication 1Centralised SystemDecentralised channelsVehicles at a Honda car factory are submerged in floodwaters in the Rojana industrial district in Ayutthaya province, centralThailand on October 16, 2011. (Sakchai Lalit/AP Image source:http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    16. 16. 2 Backuphttp://www.cse.yorku.ca/course_archive/2012-13/F/2041/image/the-web-is-dead2.jpg
    17. 17. 3Alternative MediaImage source: http://www.pattayadailynews.com/en/2011/11/07/social-media-use-soars-in-flood-hit-thailand/
    18. 18. 4 Mobile TelephonyPhoto courtesy: TSF(P.S. image is not from flood, but during a postdisaster relief operation)
    19. 19. 5Source:http://www.imperialstlandry.org/telephonedirectories/1922/Opelousas%20Telephone%20Directory%201922%20-%2001.jpg
    20. 20. MissingSource:http://www.imperialstlandry.org/telephonedirectories/1922/Opelousas%20Telephone%20Directory%201922%20-%2001.jpg
    21. 21. Source:http://www.imperialstlandry.org/telephonedirectories/1922/Opelousas%20Telephone%20Directory%201922%20-%2001.jpg
    22. 22. A man floats on a truck tire with supplies of beer as floods advance into central Bangkok on October 26, 2011. (DamirSagolj/Reuters) Image source: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/10/thailand_flood_reaches_bangkok.html
    23. 23. Image source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-2OT69RDPf4g/UJjiU-LZibI/AAAAAAAABcI/apofn76N7jU/s1600/thanks.jpg