Lizardo highlights social media in communicating disasters

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- From volcanic eruptions to super typhoons to earthquakes, the Philippines is no stranger to some of the strongest, deadliest, and costliest natural disasters to ever hit the world.

Disasters are inevitable in this country but the potential risks can be minimized through effective communication and information management.

Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) Chief Science Research Specialist Oscardo Victor Lizardo emphasized these during a forum on disaster prevention and mitigation spearheaded by the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. held at Max's Restaurant in Villa Del Sol, City of San Fernando, Pampanga, on Thursday.

Drawing from the experiences and social experiments in public safety of the Project NOAH, Lizardo presented the vital role of social media in effectively communicating and disseminating information during a disaster.

"More than ever, we are equipped with the all the kinds of information we need when it comes to disaster risk reduction. But that information is all for nothing if we do not communicate it effectively," said Lizardo, adding that the approaches to communicating the risks of disasters vary from place to place given the multicultural character of Philippine society.

The challenge, however, lies on the "getting the people to listen well even if the experts are the ones who are communicating the information," pertaining to the power of the entertainment industry (celebrities) to effectively engage the social media users, which the government information agencies cannot match.

"There's a way to package that information in such a way that can be understood by everyone," said Lizardo, saying that information dissemination should be visual.

What can be done?

Lizardo said the National Government must further empower local governments as leaders of disaster reduction and recovery.

"First you need to empower your local leaders because information needs to be equalized. Given the multicultural setting here, the information must come from below. The local chief executives, for example, should know how to explain the consequences of the disaster to his constituents," said Lizardo.

Lizardo also suggested that the government should capitalize on and take advantage of the popularity of the entertainment industry.

"People scoff at the idea of using the celebrities in disseminating disaster information. People from the government and the academe ridicule the capacity of the celebrities. But these personalities have certain influence on a lot of individuals. Imagine if they are sharing the same information, things might be different because people listen to them all the time," said Lizardo while presenting the images of celebrities who garnered the most number of retweets and shares during the onslaught of Typhoon Mario last week.
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