English Communication for Disaster Management

Sridewanto Pinuji
Jul 24 · 3 min read

Communication is the key to determine the success and effectiveness of disaster management. Even, communication becomes a matter of life and death in the response phase.

Living in a region that volatile and prone to disaster threats, such as in Southeast Asia, 10 members of ASEAN countries need to aware. A disaster can be happened in Indonesia and affected other countries. The calamity also can cause-effect that beyond a country’s capacity. Therefore, in such circumstances, coordination and collaboration between countries should be maintained and developed.

ASEAN Coordinator for Humanitarian Affair (AHA Centre) realises the needs for integrating and coordinating different countries in ASEAN to face the disaster threats. In doing so, the centre believes that mastering the English language is paramount.

The language plays an important role to communicate in a region that is very diverse in terms of cultures, religions, and languages. It acts as a bridge between different countries. The role even more important when it comes to a disaster that affects a country in ASEAN and a collaborative response should be conducted. Even though many countries have been using the language for several of the time, the level of proficiency is diverse.

Given this knowledge, AHA Centre with USAID, Relo, and Middlebury Institute conducted English Communication for Disaster Management training for AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Program participants. From 3 to 20 of July 2019, 19 participants from 10 countries learnt to use English in the context of disaster management.

There were 12 modules that were discussed. These modules not only incorporated 3 main phase in the disaster management cycle but also other related issues, such as communication risk, humanitarian principles, and conflicts. These modules are as follows:

1. Introduction to the Course: Expectations and Course Objectives
2. National & International Response Systems
3. International Response and Humanitarian Principles
4. Strategic Pre-Positioning and Funding Streams
5. Disaster Preparedness and Stakeholders
6. Intercultural Conflict in Organizations and Communities
7. Risk Assessment
8. Rapid Needs Assessment
9. Disaster Response Plan
10. Post-Disaster Operations and Needs Assessment
11. Information Management and Media Relations
12. Post-Disaster Recovery and Resilience

In each module, Middlebury Institute has designed a comprehensive curriculum. First, it introduces several useful glossaries. Then it is followed by a listening section. In this section, there are guidelines questions, the listening section itself, and is closed by a number of questions to test the understanding of participants regarding the topic.

Secondly, it provides ample reading sections with PowerPoint presentation and articles. Again, it then is closed by a number of discussions to assess the participant’s knowledge. Finally, there is an assignment completed with a rubric.

For me personally, as the participant, there are several lessons learned regarding the training. Although I have been using English for several times, it turns out many other things that I have not a clear information yet. For example, for many years I have been struggling with the past perfect tense. Coming from a language that does not consider time reference, it is hard to put and change correctly a number of verbs and ‘to be’.

The next lessons learned is regarding the knowledge of disaster management. Even though I have been working for managing disaster for almost 15 years, many things are still unclear for me, especially when it related to English. For example, previously I have never consider the underlying factors that affect communities’ performance in managing disaster. I also did not comprehend several topics, such as conflict, making press release, and dealing with media.

Through the design of the course, now I understand many issues that previously seem unrelated to the disaster management cycle. I become more confident in several requirements of managing the disaster and maintaining the collaboration with other stakeholders, such as making request of assistance from different countries and institutions, producing situation report, and presenting this report to broader audience.

Thank you again for AHA Centre, USAID, Relo, and Middlebury Institut who have been successful in conducting the very useful training for the future leaders of disaster management in ASEAN.

Sridewanto Pinuji

Written by

Indonesian Blogger for Disaster Management, Writing, Tips and Tricks, and Leadership. Please visit my blog at www.pinuji.net.

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