DR4 communication in the South African context: A conceptual paper

Authors: Le Roux, T.

Editors: Rensburg, R.S.


Journal: Public relations review

Volume: 40

Issue: 2

Pages: 305-314

Publisher: JAI Press

ISSN: 0363-8111

DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.11.011

Within the disaster risk reduction field the term that is used to encompass all pre- and post-disaster phases such as disaster planning, preparedness, prevention, mitigation, warning, impact, rescue, relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery (Van Niekerk, 2008, p. 367), is disaster risk reduction, response and recovery, shortly referred to as DR4. DR4 communication refers to communication, management applied during the disaster management phases.

In the Hyogo Framework for Action (UN/ISDR, 2005), that calls for action to build resilience of nations against disasters, information sharing and cooperation, dialogue between parties involved in disaster management, public awareness and media relations is suggested as some of the priorities that should receive attention (UN/ISDR, 2005, p. 23). Authors, such as Wisner, Gaillard, and Kelman (2012, p. 1), also refer to the importance of communication between stakeholders and specifically the fact that disaster risk reduction requires specialist knowledge on communication management.

In addition, the South African National Disaster Management Framework (SANDMF) specifically focuses on communication management and communication flow during incidences by identifying this aspect as one of the three enablers of the SANDMF (South Africa, 2005, p. 3). Communication responsibilities are even assigned to the Provincial Disaster Management Centre and Municipal, Disaster Management Centre (South Africa, 2005, pp. 13–14). Communication is thus regarded as a critical aspect of disaster management (Coombs, 2012, p. 17) and assistance with disaster communication management is needed in order to limit current problems experienced with communication in disaster risk reduction and disaster management (see International Wildland Fire Summit, 2003; Reid & Van Niekerk, 2008, p. 246).

An analysis of disaster (crisis) communication literature showed that it mainly focuses on (i) pre- and post-crisis reputational communication from the profit organisation's point of view (Avery, Lariscy, Kim, & Hocke, 2010, p. 192) and (ii) on the profit organisation's expected technical reaction communication during the, crisis, i.e. who to phone to activate response agencies (Avery et al., 2010, p. 192; Littlefield et al., 2012, p. 248). From a disaster risk reduction field, the little information there is on communication, focuses on media engagement during a disaster (see Radford & Wisner, in Wisner et al., 2012, pp. 761–771; Van Niekerk, 2008, p. 362). Research on the trans-disciplinary focus of combining the disaster risk reduction and communication management fields, is lacking.

This paper conceptualises DR4 communication by:1.

Theoretically placing strategic communication management within the disaster risk reduction, and management paradigm, 2.

Defining DR4 communication; and 3.

Applying DR4 communication to the South African context.

The findings indicate that appropriate disaster communication could assist to lessen the risk and aid disaster recovery (Hale, Dulek, & Hale, 2005, p. 112, 114) as communication practitioners could provide strategic information from the environment that could reduce uncertainty in strategic decision-making and ensuring that disaster management goals align with stakeholder expectations in order to save lives and limit the impact of a disaster (Grunig, 2006, p. 3, 6; Phillips, 2006a, 2006b, p. 34, 35; Valin, 2004). Specifically in South Africa, a country where myriad of man-made disasters and 77 natural disasters (between 1980 and 2010) took place (Preventionweb, 2012), communication management has a positive role to play in disaster risk reduction.

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