• 14Jun

    5 Communication Lessons Learned from Hurricane Maria

    Excerpts from an article from CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

    When Category 4 Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, CDC assembled a team of experienced communicators who were flexible, bilingual, and culturally sensitive communicators. This group of experts prepared to deploy to Puerto Rico on short notice to support the communication needs of the Puerto Rico Health Department. I was asked to lead content development, and as a native Puerto Rican I did not hesitate to go home and help in any way I could.

    I was part of the first team of four health communications specialists who arrived on the island just three weeks after the hurricane. We knew our job was not going to be easy— severe electrical power outage meant that residents had no access to internet, social media, or television. Antennas had fallen during the storm, so there was very limited radio coverage and almost no cell phone connectivity. Large billboards were literally on the ground and newspapers were not circulating widely because there was no way to publish and transport them for delivery.

    Hurricane Maria was an unprecedented disaster, exposing residents to an increased risk for foodborne, waterborne, infectious and non-infectious diseases, and other public health risks. We had to figure out how to communicate about multiple health risks to the public, especially to those in rural and isolated communities, when basic resources and services were not available.

    We met this challenge head on, and I took away five key lessons that I hope can help other communication responders prepare for the 2018 hurricane season and any future emergency events:
    1. Develop Key Messages in Advance
    2. Identify New Communication Channels
    3. Create Culturally Appropriate Materials
    4. Partner Up
    5. Boots on the Ground

    There is more detail on all 5 lessons learned here: https://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2018/06/5-lessons/