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< prev - next > Disaster response mitigation and rebuilding Reconstruction KnO 100449_IFRC_Tools_9 (Printable PDF)
What do we need to communicate?
The key message in a communication strategy on
reconstruction is that we need to reduce the risks of
disasters re-occurring in the future. Therefore, the
safety aspects of designs and technologies are very
People, however, generally do not accept new
ideas as soon as they are presented to them.
Instead, through a process of assimilation of the
idea, people become ready to accept it and use it in
a practical way. The main steps in this process are:
1. Raising awareness
2. Promoting interest
3. Testing the idea
4. Evaluation
5. Adoption.
To get people to use an idea or method for
building back better, the why-to questions (steps
1 and 2) are as important as the how-to questions
(steps 3 to 5). An effective communication
process addresses both sets of questions, but not
necessarily all at the same time or using the same
It is easier to convince people to improve their
building methods immediately following a disaster,
than to do so in the absence of a disaster with
preventative intentions. The personal experience
of poor disaster-resistance is a very important
factor in raising awareness (step 1), but people
also need to understand why particular building
types behaved so badly and therefore should be
avoided or improved. By this time in the re-building
process, people may have undertaken vulnerability
or structural damage assessments (treated in more
detail in PCR Tool 3, Learning from Disasters),
which will have helped to explore this further.
The same assessments can help to increase their
interest (step 2) in certain types of building that
performed better. This may solve many of the
why-to questions for those who participate in these
assessments. However, communication needs to
extend to others in the affected settlements.
There are two distinct approaches to building
back better after a disaster:
1. To improve on those traditional or vernacular
designs and technologies that have shown to
resist the disaster well, or:
2. To introduce innovative or modern designs and
building technologies.
Preference for either approach may be
influenced by many factors in addition to the
desire for risk reduction. Residents may opt for
the modern solutions for reasons of status, the
financial value of the house, reduced maintenance,
or a wish to leave the past behind. Professionals
may also prefer modern approaches because they
have studied and gained professional experience
in them and thus are less familiar with indigenous
technologies and their performance in disasters.
However, it is easier to communicate ways of
improving designs and technologies that people
are already familiar with, rather than introducing
and explaining alternatives that are entirely new.
Thus, from a communication perspective using
and improving existing technologies is preferable.
Similarly, less support would be needed during
construction using existing technologies.
One particular problem with information
that exists on modern construction is that it is
predominantly technical in language thus difficult
to understand for self-builders or even building
artisans who may not have a high level of literacy or
education. For example, official codes, regulations,
standards and other legal instruments are used
to specify the quality of construction. For this
information to be communicated effectively it
needs to be presented in an alternative, more
appropriate format for the target audience.
Conversely, vernacular construction suffers from a
lack of documentation in many regions and there
is often little information on how it behaves or can
be further improved. Thus, the problem here is not
with the content of the information, but with its
availability. Case studies from building elsewhere
often do exist, but they need to be compiled for
Whereas safety is a key factor in reconstruction,
it should be remembered that safety can be
compromised by other factors such as poor
quality construction, poor resistance to climate
or insects, poor maintenance, etc. To prevent
this occurring, the safety guidelines need to
be thoroughly researched and tested before
dissemination to people rebuilding or repairing their
houses. Information available from other regions
may help in this research, but local research
through collaboration with universities or research
institutions is helpful. Communication should
cover both new construction as well as repair of
damaged buildings or retrofitting of others that are
considered to be not sufficiently resistant. Another
important aspect of risk reduction is location.
PCR Tool 3: Learning from Disasters explains how
various assessments can help to determine risks
associated with location. For example, the risks of
building in flood plains or on unstable slopes need
to be communicated clearly to people intending to
rebuild their houses.
Disasters may come in the form of floods, strong
winds, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions,
fires and conflicts. Each of these risks may demand
a different approach to reconstruction, particularly
in terms of safety. When planning for reconstruction
and the process of information dissemination
and communication, it is important to consider
that some areas may be at risk of several types of