Accessible communications needed to protect communities in emergencies

Helping communities prepare and respond to emergencies by ensuring they are well-informed and ready has never been more important, Minister of Civil Defence Hon Kris Faafoi says.

Mr Faafoi today addressed emergency communications practitioners at the Emergency Media and Public Affairs (EMPA) conference in Wellington, on the theme of making emergency information accessible for everyone.

“When emergencies happen, information is critical to keeping people safe and informed while giving them confidence in the response. It is a vital and challenging discipline that demands clear messaging, swift information flow across multiple channels, and access to a diverse range of audiences.”

Mr Faafoi says the growing focus on accessibility from emergency communications practitioners is vital.

“Everyone has a right to access emergency information, and some trailblazing work is happening around the country to overcome language, cultural and disability barriers. This is work I want to see continue, and to be shared, expanded and developed until we truly are world-leading in ensuring all our communities are able to access these important communications and to fully participate in emergency planning, preparedness and recovery.”

Examples of initiatives underway include Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office and Christchurch City Council (together with PlainsFM 96.9) translating emergency information into multiple languages, and the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Deaf Aotearoa.

Mr Faafoi says while modern communications channels such as social media and Emergency Mobile Alerts sent to mobile phones are valuable means to get information out quickly, traditional media remains important.

“More than 60 percent of New Zealanders turn to radio in an emergency, which makes it our number one emergency information channel. And television also remains a valuable way to keep the public informed, especially given that it is a visual medium with the ability to show captions and New Zealand Sign Language translators.”

Mr Faafoi says some of the most important emergency communications happens outside of emergencies.

“Emergency preparedness education during ‘peacetime’ remains one of the most effective ways of building resilience in our communities. As our nation grows, so does our exposure to hazards, and the more people know about what risks they face and how to prepare, the more resilient we are as a nation.