Tailoring disaster education programs to local communities


The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 adopted at the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan provides strong guidance to support local efforts to build resilience to disasters within the context of sustainable development. As part of disaster risk reduction, Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement (ECE) also needs to be tailored where possible to local communities and individual learners. Research has shown the limitations of broad nation-wide Disaster ECE campaigns and the value of tailoring programs to local needs.

The above framework for tailoring Disaster ECE to local at-risk communities and individual learners has been explored, designed and tested.  The framework consists of three steps that lead to the ‘outputs’ – the design of tailored local community Disaster ECE plans, programs and learning activities. The three steps are:

1. Broad principles of effective Disaster ECE. It has been found that many disaster education programs rely primarily on the provision of generic information and preparedness plan templates and this ‘traditional’ approach can be lacking in impact e.g. to motivate preparedness behaviours. Principles based on evidence from disaster psychology, sociology and learning theory have been shown to be preferable in developing effective Disaster ECE plans and programs.

2. ‘Palettes’ of potential content and methods to choose from in the design of the Disaster ECE plan, program or activity. The content range should be across the disaster management cycle (mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery). However, if Disaster ECE provided by emergency agencies is to help build disaster resilience through learning then it needs to not only be geared to public safety and reducing risks to property, but also to attaining an efficient recovery to ‘bounce back’ (or preferably ‘bounce forward’) through the post-disaster processes. Furthermore, to help with building disaster resilience, learning should also be obtained by post-disaster evaluation conducted not only by agencies (e.g. after action reviews) but also with impacted communities (e.g. community de-brief meetings, resilience forums, webinars). For weather-related hazards (e.g. flood, heatwave, drought, wildfire/bushfire), learning related to climate change adaptation should be added, as it will impact on the other content.

A new classification of Disaster ECE methods has been developed. From an examination of Disaster ECE activity on Twitter and an assessment of methods covered in disaster management literature, a new typology  was created. The four categories of ECE methods identified are:
a. Information – one-way information provided across the disaster management cycle
b. Interactions – methods that use interrelationships for learning
c. Skills and capabilities – methods that build or acknowledge people’s skills and capabilities
d. Creative expression – methods that use creativity for disaster learning.

3. ‘Filters’ to identify appropriate local content and methods from the palettes guided by the principles of effective Disaster ECE.

As shown in the framework, there are five ‘filters’ that help tailor Disaster ECE content and methods to local communities and learners. The filters are:
1. Community profile
2. Hazard risks
3. Risk reduction
4. Emergency Management
5. Learners


For more details and guidance read Disaster Education, Communication and Engagement by Neil Dufty to be published by Wiley in early 2020.

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