Tag Archives: teamwork

EMPA day 1 – an overview

Hi all,

Well it’s been a long and busy day here in Canberra for day one of the Emergency Media and Public Affairs conference for 2011. The day was a more casual approach, a workshop run in the ‘world cafe’ style. For those of you not familiar with world cafe (which was most of us!), the aim is to spilt into tables and have the level of discussion you have have with your friends if you opened that second bottle of wine. Quiet an interesting way of going about it, and one that I think worked very well.

The aim was to have varing degrees of emergency management experience represented on each table, along with a media representitive.

Firstly we were to discuss what common ground emergency media communicators and media staff have in common, then onto issues and differences.

Tables were rotating (not the tables, but the participants!) under the following topics:
Working to deadline
Gathering facts versus the information vaccum
Facts, rumours and misinformation
Emergency warnings versus editorial content
Text, tweet, blog…the citizen journalist
Access to spokespeople

Table leaders, if you will, summarised the discussions at the end of the alloted time, and notes were taken, with the aim of coming up with guidelines and principals that emergency media communicators and media staff can use as a guide for collaboration to build on. Over the course of the conference the principals will be drafted, with the aim of testing them out on Tuesday, the last day of the conference.

A reminder, you can follow the conference on Twitter, @EmergMediaConf, and by using the hashtag #EMPA2011.

-Nathan, @nathanmaddock

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Guest blog post: Steve Ahern – collaboration in the real world

As a broadcaster and broadcast trainer, who has been drawn into the sphere of emergency media only recently, I know there are many more people who know much more than me about it. Kristin’s blog puts her in a very special position to comment from the viewpoint of a practitioner and also a recent victim of disaster. I agree totally with her points about local information in the recovery stage, which is much less of a priority for many media than covering the disaster itself. There has been a lot of talk about the recovery aspect from the Australian community radio sector, who are the closest to the community and well placed to help in recovery. The most recent example is UGFM after the Victorian bushfires. I look forward to hearing more of Kristin’s story at the conference.

 My own viewpoint comes from the background of a former broadcast manager and now an international trainer, and I hope I can make a contribution in helping media understand emergency services and vice versa.

I have found that understanding the pressures on both sides helps media and emergency services staff work better together. Finding common ground and realising that both media and emergency services both aim to help people and save lives, is a good starting point. Honestly understanding the pressures faced by media – such as deadlines and highly competitive editors, and by emergency services – such as the constraints of law and agency protocols, is another good place to start in achieving better cooperation through finding common ground.

In a project initiated by the Attorney General’s Department, I developed a training program where these things are discussed, with the aim of creating a better working relationship between media and emergency services. I have now delivered the program in a few different places and so far so good in achieving better understandings on both sides. The project is just one small part in the many steps being taken by everyone to make sure the media and emergency services work well together for the public good in times of emergency.

I am writing this blog from Afghanistan. Here is an example of extreme conditions where some of the principles we will talk about at the upcoming conference are desperately needed to help rebuild the country. I will tell you more about it at the conference.

– Steve, www.steveahern.com.au

Steve Ahern is an international broadcast training consultant, broadcaster, author and media commentator, and will deliver a paper at the EMPA conference on collaboration between emergency services and the media.

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Guest blog post: Dr Susan Nicholls – the resilient community and communications practice

Hi all, Susan here, on a grey, cool day in Canberra, very autumnal. I’m looking forward to the conference, meeting everyone and listening to what I know will be a stimulating and rewarding set of papers.

My paper is about resilience, and arises out of my connection with an organisation called Australia21 and my research interest in community recovery after disaster.

Resilience is intimately associated with good communication. Without resilience, communities are not likely to recover after disaster. In this context, governments are rightly concerned with the maintenance of a robust and fully functioning society that is able to withstand the shock of disaster, whether caused by nature or human intervention.

However, the problem for government agencies is how to communicate with people at risk (which, given recent extreme weather and geological events, is virtually the entire population) initially to encourage preparation and mitigation activities, and later to assist with recovery following disaster.

Communication strategies for both of these stages are difficult to implement well and can be politically risky. My contention in this paper is that communication intended to foster resilience means more than simply delivering information. This is true of all stages of the emergency process – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

My paper examines the components of resilience in the context of disaster, the role communication can play in promoting resilience, and proposes some pointers toward the use of communication to assist in building and maintaining resilient, adaptable communities.

See you at the conference!

– Dr  Susan Nicholls

Dr Susan Nicholls is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities, University of Canberra.

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Is your Blackberry on 24/7 and glued to your hip?

This week the Australian School of Business at UNSW released an article entitled The Smart Phone Turn Off: When the Boss’s Call is a Barbeque-stopper. It describes the psychological and business impacts of having smart phones and being ‘always on’ – something everyone in emergency management & media acutely understands.

We all know that phone and email access are vital for every emergency communicator, but is there a smarter way to manage this technology? Is it efficient to always be on call? How does an organisation find a balance between meeting its objectives and supporting its employees?

 According to the article, constant use of a smart phone can interrupt your thinking and  lead to burn-out:

“Hard cognitive work requires a fine focus. Younger workers may have grown up with constant distractions and could be better at handling the interruptions that technology delivers. But Andrew May (who’s written a book on skill-sets required for the digital age) argues ‘if you’re getting distracted every couple of minutes, there is just no way you can reach your potential.’ However, a balance is required because leaders can’t cocoon themselves away all day to focus on high-end tasks either – part of leadership is being available at all times.”

We’ve all seen that the media is generally unforgiving of leaders who are not available 24/7, and we’ve always known those types of roles require significant personal sacrifice. But this research suggests there is also a professional issue to be addressed as well – the effect on our thinking, and consequently, how that impacts upon decision-making and our ability to see the big picture. 

“Without time for recovery, human beings burn out. ‘If we’re always on, we don’t have time to refresh or to recover and that has implications for our capacity to think and act strategically. Our focus is narrowed because we’re no longer looking at a lot of the other elements in our work context and our wider work environment.’ A physiological aspect of working all the time is that it puts the body into a stress response, Judi MacCormick, a researchers at the Australian School of Business points out.”

The article goes on to suggest there should be clear agreement between individuals and organisations as to the expectations for being on-call which carefully acknowledge and respect the work-life balance everyone needs.

I think some of the bigger implications of this idea touch on how decision-making in emergency management is impacted by rostering schedules, and how media teams are created, managed, maintained and supported. Seems to be that it’s pretty important to get your team’s arrangements right, communicate them clearly, and make sure employees retain a measure of control. 

One of many thing to consider between emergencies, as we all review our operations and plan for the future.

-Sandeep
Twitter: @dizzydeep

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