Disaster engagement or education?


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Paper looks at whether education or engagement will help build community disaster resilience. It shows that both are required and should be interrelated to help communities learn to build disaster resilience. The paper also promotes social media as an emerging mechanism for disaster education and engagement activities.

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Disaster engagement or education?

  1. 1. Engagement or education?By Neil Dufty, Principal of Molino Stewart Pty Ltd. ABSTRACT Most of Australia’s emergency agencies Learning for disaster resilience have developed either engagement or There are many definitions of community education strategic plans to deliver disaster resilience in the literature. In this article, community learning related to PPRR. community disaster resilience is defined as the ability This article identifies the engagement of a community to not only resist and recover from a and education processes and activities disaster, but also to improve as a result of the changed realities that the disaster may cause. commonly used in these plans and analyses their respective potential usefulness In December 2009, the Council of Australian in broader disaster resilience learning Governments (COAG) agreed to ‘adopt a in line with the National Strategy for whole-of-nation resilience-based approach to Disaster Resilience. From this analysis, disaster management, which recognises that a national, coordinated and cooperative effort is the integrated use of both engagement needed to enhance Australia’s capacity to prepare for, and education approaches by emergency withstand and recover from disasters. The National agencies in their strategic plans is Emergency Management Committee subsequently promoted. Social media are emerging tools developed the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience that should be added to the engagement which was adopted by COAG on 13 February 2011.’ and education activities of emergency The purpose of the Strategy is to ‘provide agencies. Agencies should also ensure in high-level guidance on disaster management their strategic plans that all engagement to federal, state, territory and local governments, and education programs and activities are business and community leaders and the not-for-profit sector. While the Strategy focuses on adequately evaluated to enable continual priority areas to build disaster resilient communities improvement and effectiveness. across Australia, it also recognises that disaster resilience is a shared responsibility for individuals, households, businesses and communities, as well as for governments. The Strategy is the first step inIntroduction a long-term, evolving process to deliver sustainedThe author recently researched the community behavioural change and enduring partnerships’learning delivery approaches of most of the State (Attorney-General’s Department website:and Territory emergency management agencies in www.ag.gov.au).Australia. He found that emergency agencies tend tocentre their community learning delivery activities The Strategy (COAG, 2011) identifies seven groupseither around an ‘engagement’ approach or an of actions to build community disaster resilience‘education’ approach. Several of the agencies have in Australia.developed and are implementing either communityengagement or education strategic plans. 1. Leading change and coordinating effort 2. Understanding risksThis article explores what is the best approach foremergency agencies: engagement or education? It also 3. Communicating with and educating peoplebriefly examines the potential of new (social) media in about riskssupporting both approaches. 4. Partnering with those who effect change 35
  2. 2. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 26, No. 3, July 20115. Empowering individuals and communities to 2004). A major benefit of engagement is that it can exercise choice and take responsibility include activities where communities participate in decision-making and share responsibility. Several6. Reducing risks in the built environment studies during the past fifteen years have found the7. Supporting capabilities for disaster resilience. traditional approach to emergency management of ‘top-down’ provision of information to be relativelyLearning–both within emergency agencies and with ineffective. According to O’Neill (2004), this approachcommunities–has a critical role to play in building ‘was often one-off and one-way, and assumed that thedisaster resilience. This claim is supported by the audience was an undistinguishable group of individualsfocus on resilience-building in the national learning who had the same needs and values.’programs developed and implemented by theAustralian Emergency Management Institute (AEMI). The traditional approach is based on the premise thatAEMI ‘continues to focus on improving knowledge raising individual awareness will lead to preparednessand development in the emergency management and response behaviours. According to Paton et al.sector. It supports broader national security capability (2003), ‘It is frequently assumed that providing thedevelopment efforts to build community resilience to public with information on hazards and their mitigationdisaster’ (Attorney-General’s Department website: will encourage preparation. This assumption iswww.ag.gov.au). unfounded.’ Several researchers, such as Boura (1998), have demonstrated that there is not a strong andAlthough usually attributed to changing community causal link between receiving information and actingbehaviours (e.g. for preparedness, response and appropriately for hazards.recovery) in emergency management, learning canplay a strong role across all seven disaster resilience- A more participatory approach to the delivery ofbuilding actions in the Strategy. community learning by emergency agencies is now being promoted. According to Paton (2006), ‘Participation in identifying shared problems andA national approach to disaster collaborating with others to develop and implementresilience learning solutions to resolve them engenders the development of competencies (e.g. self-efficacy, action coping,As noted on page 3 of the Strategy, ‘emergency community competence) that enhance communitymanagement in Australia is built on the concept of resilience to adversity.’prevention, preparedness, response and recovery(PPRR)….preparing for each of these elements of Education in this article involves planned activitiesemergency management helps build resilience.’ The that lead to prescribed learning outcomes. Based oncontribution of emergency agencies to community education theory (e.g. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learningdisaster resilience learning through engagement and Domains) and recent research into emergencyeducation therefore should be related to PPRR. management education (e.g. Dufty, 2008), learning outcomes relevant to disaster resilience-buildingHowever, PPRR is only one element–albeit a are generally related to awareness-raising, skillscritical one–in building disaster resilience. Other development, behaviour change, attitudinal change andparticipants are required to build disaster resilient values clarification.communities across Australia through a change toshared responsibility. ‘The fundamental change is that A major benefit of education is that it can beachieving increased disaster resilience is not solely specifically targeted to measurable learning outcomes.the domain of emergency management agencies; For example, education programs can be designed torather, it is a share responsibility across the whole raise community awareness of disaster risk and forof society’ (COAG, 2011, p.3). There is therefore a appropriate disaster response behaviours e.g. throughneed for disaster resilience learning to be delivered evacuation drills.in a coordinated manner between State and Territoryemergency agencies other relevant agencies, the Table 1 provides an insight into the similaritiesAustralian Government (e.g. through AEMI, Bureau and differences between engagement and educationof Meteorology), local councils, insurance industry, processes and activities as used bynon-government organisations (e.g. Red Cross, emergency agencies.volunteering organisations), and with the participationof community groups and individuals. Which approach for emergency agencies?Engagement vs education As shown in Table 1, there is a strong nexusIs engagement or education the best way for between the engagement process of informing andemergency agencies to deliver their responsibilities in the education process of awareness-raisingcommunity disaster resilience learning? (sometimes called ‘top-down’ delivery). Generally, they involve similar activities for emergency agencies.Engagement involves processes that inform, consult, However, due to differences in their intent, the otherinvolve, partner with and empower communities engagement and education processes can have quite(International Association for Public Participation, different activities.36
  3. 3. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 26, No. 3, July 2011 Table 1. Some differences and similarities between community engagement and education approaches that could be used by emergency management agencies. ENGAGEMENT EDUCATION Processes Example activities Processes Example activities Fact sheets, websites, Fact sheets, websites, Informing Awareness-raising displays, presentations displays, presentations Focus groups, surveys, Consulting Developing skills Training, simulations public meetings Emergency plans, Involving Workshops Behaviour change emergency drills Committees, citizen Opinion pieces, debates, Collaborating Attitudinal change advisory panels role plays Citizen juries, delegated Empowering Values clarification Visioning, values surveys decisionsFurthermore, the learning impacts in communities expert educators to design specific programs (e.g. forfrom engagement and education can be quite different. schools, vulnerable groups, businesses), it is generallyGenerally, engagement by itself will provide unplanned difficult to extend effective education programs acrosslearning for disaster resilience; education will provide broad areas.planned learning for disaster resilience. This is shownin Figure 1. As shown by recent studies (e.g. Elsworth et.al., 2009), it is when engagement and education processes andFigure 1 also highlights the limitations of both activities are combined there is potency in impact. Forengagement and education in learning for disaster example, a focus group or survey may identify and leadresilience. As shown, engagement by itself enables to a particular education activity such as an emergencyinteractions across communities (‘breadth’ ofdelivery) but only provides a relatively ‘shallow’ drill to help build resilience. Also, engagement andlevel of unplanned learning. On the other hand, education activities can be coupled together e.g. aeducation provides ‘depth’ in community learning community event to increase preparedness levelsrelated to specific learning outcomes. However, due could involve elements of engagement (e.g. talking withsometimes to resourcing issues (e.g. many education people) supported by an education activity (e.g. how toprograms are financed by grants) and the need for prepare a home emergency plan). Figure 1. A theoretical representation showing how engagement provides breadth and education provides depth to community disaster resilience learning.. ENGAGEMENT L e a E r D n U i C n A g T I O N Space/People 37
  4. 4. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 26, No. 3, July 2011Based on the above analysis it would be prudent apparently over 14,000 tweets mentioning ‘QPSMedia’for emergency agencies to include engagement and during the floods and Twitter followers increased fromeducation processes in their delivery of community 2,000 to almost 11,000 followers in 25 days (similarlearning to gain ‘breadth’ and ‘depth’ of learning striking increases occurred for the QPS Facebook site).across communities. The impact of this delivery Interestingly, a large proportion of the Facebook andshould be heightened through the coupling of Twitter users were under 50 years of age and about 75both approaches. percent were female.After reviewing several engagement and education Social media appear to be tools that can deliver allstrategies prepared by Australian emergency of the ten engagement and education processesagencies, it appears most utilise processes from listed in Table 1. Social media rely on peer-to-peerboth approaches, including in conjunction with each (P2P) networks that are collaborative, decentralised,other. However, it could be worthwhile for agencies to and community-driven. They transform people fromconsider this analysis (e.g. in Table 1) as they evaluate content consumers into content producers. Usingtheir community learning delivery strategies to enable social media emergency agencies can inform, consult,improved precision in choosing appropriate and involve, collaborate with and empower users. All fivepotentially effective processes from both approaches. education processes in Table 1 can also occur throughThere may also be value in using the title ‘engagement ongoing dialogue. Furthermore, social media enableand education strategic plan’ in recognition of the use a seamless and organic linkage between engagementof both approaches. and education processes as promoted above. Several Australian emergency agencies including theSocial media QPS, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Victorian Country Fire Authority are using social media forSocial media such as Facebook and Twitter have engagement and education. This trend should bebeen used extensively in the past few years by encouraged with social media added to the traditionalemergency agencies to engage with and educate engagement and education activities used by emergencyusers, particularly in relation to disasters such as agencies, some of which are listed in Table 1.the 2011 earthquakes in Japan and Christchurch, the2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Queensland andVictorian floods. For example, the Queensland PoliceService (QPS) used Facebook and Twitter to help Evaluationissue warnings, send out response messages and A major weakness of engagement and educationsupport flood-impacted residents through dialogue activities and programs delivered by Australianat the height of the 2011 Queensland flood disaster. emergency agencies is lack of evaluation. The NationalTo give some idea of the impact of this, there were Review of Community Education, Awareness and Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been used extensively by emergency service agencies.38
  5. 5. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 26, No. 3, July 2011Engagement (EAE) Programs for Natural Hazards Referencesconducted by RMIT University for the AustralianEmergency Management Committee (Elsworth et. Boura, J., 1998, Community Fireguard: Creating partnershipsal., 2009) found ‘close to 300 separate programs and with the community to minimise the impact of bushfire, Theactivities for natural hazard community education, Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 13, pp.awareness and engagement. Evaluation studies of 14 59-64.of these initiatives were located and reviewed in detail’. COAG, 2009, National Disaster Resilience Statement, ExcerptThe EAE Review report concluded that ‘systematic from Communique, Council of Australian Governments,monitoring and evaluation of community education, Brisbane 7 December.awareness and engagement programs for natural COAG, 2011, National Strategy for Disaster Resilience:hazards is the exception rather than the rule. Some Building our nation’s resilience to disasters, Council ofagencies have good systems for monitoring activities Australian Governments, 13 February.and the dissemination of information; howeverresearch into outcomes in terms of effectiveness of the Dufty, N., 2008, A new approach to community floodinformation in changing attitudes, patterns of thinking, education, The Australian Journal of Emergencyand behaviours is fairly scarce’. Management, Vol. 23 No. 2, May 2008.Emergency agencies should ensure that evaluation is Elsworth, G., Gilbert, J., Robinson, P., Rowe, C., andbuilt into all engagement and education programs and Stevens, K., 2009, National Review of Community Education,activities in their strategic plans. Awareness and Engagement Programs for Natural Hazards, report by RMIT University commissioned by the National Community Safety Working Group of the AustralianConclusion Emergency Management Committee.Most emergency agencies in Australia have an International Association for Public Participation, 2004,engagement or education strategic plan to deliver IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum, available on the IAP2community learning. These agencies have an Australasia website: www.iap2.org.au.important role to play in community learning aroundPPRR as part of broader disaster resilience learning O’Neill, P., 2004, Developing a Risk Communication Modelguided by the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. to Encourage Community Safety from Natural Hazards, NSW State Emergency Service paper.It is recommended that emergency agencies: Paton, D., Smith, L., Johnston, D., Johnston, M.,• ensure that engagement and education & Ronan, K., 2003, Developing a model to predict the adoption processes are linked where possible in strategic of natural hazard risk reduction and preparatory adjustments, plans to enable ‘breadth’ and ‘depth’ of learning (Research Project No. 01-479): EQC Research Report. in communities Paton, D., 2006, Community Resilience: Integrating Hazard• position their engagement and education strategic Management and Community Engagement. Paper from plans in relation to the National Strategy for School of Psychology, University of Tasmania. Disaster Resilience• encourage shared responsibility for community learning e.g. through the development of local engagement/education plans involving local About the author residents and businesses Neil Dufty is a Principal of Molino Stewart Pty Ltd. He has extensive experience in the development• use social media as a disaster resilience learning and implementation of community engagement tool in addition to traditional engagement and and education strategic plans across Australia. education activities During the past eight years he has reviewed community engagement and education strategic• evaluate all engagement and education strategies, plans, programs and activities for several emergency programs and activities. agencies including VICSES and NSW SES. He can be contacted at ndufty@molinostewart.com.au. 39