Cabaero: Emergency media protocol needed

·2 min read

The devastation caused by super typhoon Odette in Cebu raises the need for an emergency media setup to allow the release of vital information in such situations.

The local media received flak from citizens hungry for information and who needed to be guided on what will happen next or where to get their essentials. Residents had a lot of questions immediately after Odette but there was no one to turn to for information. What scant information was available on social media could only be accessed by those fortunate to have connectivity. Radio stations that could have been accessible to people with radio sets and batteries were off air until they got power generators which allowed them to report only on limited hours.

When super typhoon Ruping ravaged Cebu in 1990, people had information to guide them as there were radio stations that aired and people owned radio sets that ran on battery. There was no Facebook or other social media. What happened after Odette raised the need to design an emergency media protocol with the aim of immediately restoring media services to information-hungry people.

Here are ideas on what the protocol or setup could look like:

1) Prioritize resumption of news media services. After Ruping, then governor Emilio “Lito” Osmeña and other local leaders went on emergency mode. One of their priorities was to restore electricity to news organizations so they could resume immediately. According to a SunStar Cebu article, Osmeña had promised Cebuanos that their radio, television and newspaper companies will get power supply, next to hospitals, on the condition they “do not announce any bad news, only heroism.” If Cebuanos knew of how their government officials were responding to the calamity to bring Cebu back on its feet, there would not be criticism but cooperation. After Odette, the government could have given the same priority of providing electricity to news organizations for them to provide information. Social media was no help as whatever signal residents got, they used it to connect with loved ones regarding their status.

2) Pool media resources for coordinated information dissemination. Media have been known to pool resources and set aside competition when the situation calls for it. A disaster is one where journalists think only of providing information and not whether their competition got a scoop. A mere call for the pooling of information might just get the support of competing news organizations into having a collective. Government then could decide on a coordinated manner of dishing out details for the public.

3) Stop divisiveness. The public was critical of media and government, and government was critical of media. There is no space for that in an emergency; calls for cooperation definitely sound nicer.

4) Soon, to start the creation of the protocol, create a forum for stakeholders to design the protocol to be adopted now as rehabilitation efforts continue and to go into effect when the next super typhoon hits.

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