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Blog 2: Communication and ICS

FEMA’s Incident Command System (ICS) is a tool developed for first responders and those charged with managing a disaster. It brings order to chaos, and it extremely useful for rapidly deploying resources to save lives and property. Without communication, however, ICS becomes meaningless.

In ICS training, FEMA stresses repeatedly that communication must be clear and simple. No jargon, no technical terms, no acronyms. There’s a simple reason for this: to avoid any possible confusion. In a disaster scenario, confusion or misaction due to poor communication can have terrible consequences; help may not get to where it needs to be, people may suffer — or die.

No where were the implications of lack of communication more obvious than FEMA’s own response to Hurricane Katrina.

Brownie, you’re doin’ a heck of a job.     –President George W. Bush, praising Michael Brown, then head of FEMA

Because of poor communication, these schools buses sat immobilized under water after Hurricane Katrina. Effective communicators would have used these buses to aid evacuation efforts.

Because of FEMA’s inability to communicate with local and state responders, as well as its own response apparatus, a rescue and recovery mission was slow to get underway and did not reach people effectively.

The news media were able to reach those in need before the government. Even if the government was doing everything in its power to save people and get them out of the Katrina disaster zone, when the media reaches those whom the government has not yet reached, it does not look good. It’s a recipe for negative reaction to government response. This should never happen.

Don’t get caught up in poor communication during a disaster. Click here to complete ICS training yourself.

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  1. September 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Good post, and I agree the non-acronym communication guidelines are very interesting and important. Also you have some good elements in this post (image, quote, video).

    However, this blog post is late. Be sure to get these in on time. See syllabus for details. And be sure to add tags to your post. You have the categories, but also need tags.

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