Is Public Participation in Emergency Management a Problem or a Solution?

Recent disaster experiences in the U.S. demonstrate that the public is demanding more control. While the new information technologies make it easier to keep the public informed, the public now has an expectation that you are listening through this new “feedback” loop; that responsible agencies are paying attention to them; and answers will be provided. The last two items in this sequence are new and important to consider.

@kim26stephens posted this great article today. I link to it because I’ve always been a staunch advocate of including the public in emergency planning. How that happens, though, is a bit more tricky.

Ms. Stephens argues (and I agree) that in the best of situations, we’ve only reached the “Informing” stage of working with the public. We let them know what’s happening. Some folks, especially those in vulnerable populations planning, are starting to hit the next level of “Consulting” with the public as plans are developed.

While this type of thinking is mostly directed at preparedness planning (and rightfully so!), I would argue that those of us in charge of “Informing” the public also consider partnering with the public when developing our plans. What radio stations should we reach out to first? Is the web a viable distribution method? Is social media a good way to reach out to the faith-based community? We don’t know the answers to these questions until we ask — so why don’t we ask?