Communication and inclusive technologies: the new standards in Crisis Management

Communication and inclusive technologies: the new standards in Crisis Management

Security concerns in today’s societies are at the forefront of European policy discussions and preventive measures. Deep Blue’s recent contribution has been instrumental in this context, within the conclusion of the STRATEGY project. The result is the release of the CWA 18005, a comprehensive standardisation document, which underscores the significance of adopting cutting-edge technologies for efficient crisis and emergency management, focusing specifically on strategic social media communication in disaster scenarios.

“The CWA 18005 is divided into two main sections – explains Alessia Golfetti, Head of Secure Societies at Deep Blue – the first section provides guidelines on how to effectively formulate the text of messages on social media to ensure inclusiveness, accessibility, and clarity. The second section, focuses on recommendations regarding graphic design, paying attention to visual content, recognised as more immediate and supportive in understanding the written text, which is a key element to ensure that messages are not only clear but also visually impactful and easy to interpret “.

The standardisation document is the result of intense collaborative activity within the STRATEGY project and will remain public and accessible to all for the next three years, thus constituting a valuable resource for those working in the field of emergency management.

 

Validation Methodologies

In validating the CWA 18005, a notable synergy between theoretical research and on-ground practice was observed. This phase reached its zenith with an extensive drill, carried out in partnership with the Fire Brigade and other key players in the emergency management sector. During diverse sessions, more than 200 specialists across various domains – including law enforcement and medical services – engaged in the realistic simulation of two potential disasters: a dam breach causing severe flooding, and a chemical-radiological event threatening to unleash a lethal cloud of poison.

The activities took place in two distinct locations: an open field, where the simulation was conducted with victims and injured to be rescued, and the operational room, where numerous screens allowed constant monitoring of operations and where what was developed within the STRATEGY project was discussed. Demonstrating that communication between the involved parties is a fundamental piece for the success of rescue operations and that theory alone is not enough: “The efficacy of our response in real-world emergencies is a direct reflection of the groundwork laid during the planning stages – explains Andrea Capaccioli, Senior Consultant at Deep Blue, highlighting the importance of accurate and continuous trainings, based on cooperation and prevention – together various experts and stakeholders to discuss and collaborate is key in crafting responses that are not just theoretical, but practically applicable in critical situations”.

 

STRATEGY project - firefighters and first responders during the field exercise

Firefighters and First Responders during the field exercise – STRATEGY Project

 

 

Enhancing Crisis Management Through Social Media

In the current landscape, social media play a fundamental role in managing emergency situations, radically changing the ways of transmitting and receiving information. This raises the question: How do these platforms work in critical scenarios, and what are the effective strategies for their use?

“In crisis communication, it is essential to know and use all available resources, to develop communication strategies that effectively employ the best channels for reaching communities – highlights Capaccioli – alongside traditional channels, we’re witnessing a rise in innovative methods such as social media and IT Alert, a broadcast channel recently tried in Italy as part of a broader European strategy”.

Although during the early stages of an emergency, what really matters does not only depend on the platforms used for transmitting and receiving information, but also on thoroughly training those at the forefront, including citizens and first responders – explains Golfetti – the effectiveness of communication during disasters hinges on the groundwork laid before the crisis. This underscores the importance of familiarising the public with official communication channels, well in advance of any potential emergency”.

“However, adopting social media during these phases presents its own set of challenges – adds Capaccioli–  for instance during the project phases, first responders reported to us that tracking and responding to the spread of alert messages becomes increasingly complex post-publication. The key challenge, therefore, is not just disseminating information but also efficiently managing the bidirectional communication that follows”. Therefore social media’s role is undeniably crucial in disseminating swift communication during emergencies, but ensuring that this information reaches every community member is the real core of the issue.

 

Communication in Times of Crisis: The Importance of Inclusivity

In times of crisis, it becomes essential to build communication strategies that are both effective and broadly accessible: “It is necessary to review and refine communication processes, with the aim of making them easily adoptable by an increasing number of individuals and organisations – emphasises Capaccioli – “by doing so, it will be possible to ensure that the resulting communication strategies are truly inclusive, and therefore effective.”

The first step consists in promoting the proactive involvement of citizens during the preparation and prevention phases: “Citizens play a fundamental role in these contexts – explains Golfetti –  as they are often the first to intervene In these situations, their direct involvement can be decisive in ensuring quick and effective responses”. Such a strategy not only involves multi-faceted and multichannel communication but also integrates innovative digital tools alongside traditional methods. As highlighted by the study published by the Natural Hazards Center, conducted on a sample of 200 residents in housing located in flood-risk areas, which clearly demonstrates a direct link between digital literacy and the ability to access crucial risk information, leading to proactive and preventive actions. 

“Educating the public on utilising digital platforms extends beyond just creating an extra communication channel – explains Capaccioli – It’s primarily about reducing the impact of crises on the most vulnerable groups.” 

In fact, the research underscores a clear link between vulnerability and challenges in accessing online information, particularly for those already facing obstacles: “That’s why it’s both critical to combine our operational workflows with digital skills training, and focused communication efforts – Golfetti adds – this approach is key to enhancing the effectiveness of conveying risk-related information to the most vulnerable populations”.

The adept integration of digital tools facilitates prompt and inclusive communication among involved stakeholders, while underscoring the need for universal access to information. Social media stands out as a vital component for swift communication during emergencies, with an emphasis on ensuring that the disseminated information is accessible to the entire community.  By integrating new technologies within a risk communication plan, we contribute not only to strengthening the sense of community but also to saving human lives and promoting resilience in the face of adversity. Through careful planning and listening to all voices within society, it is possible to work together to build a safer and more resilient future.

 

 

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