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CDEMA Tsunami Preparedness - The Role of the Media
The Role of The Media

Wanted… “Media professionals”

                            Let Us Work Together

Media professionals we need you!

You can help save lives and protect communities! Let us work together to make our region a safer place.

  • To raise public awareness about national and community level hazards;

  • To empower communities and nations to build resilience against these hazards; and

  • To stimulate and build a culture of disaster risk reduction in the Caribbean.

The Role of the Caribbean Media

Access to television, radio and printed media is quite high in the Caribbean and many people obtain knowledge through these communication channels. The mass media therefore is one of the most influential sources of information for people in the Caribbean.

  • How Can The Caribbean Media Make A Difference

Caribbean Media Professionals provide a vital link between politicians, experts and communities and therefore crises communication among these groups MUST be approached through partnership to be successful.  The media can help save lives and protect communities particularly during the mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery phases of a tsunami or other coastal hazards related disaster.  
With regards to mitigation, journalists can usefully question local and national authorities about tsunami and other emergency strategies, and businesses about systems in place to warn clients and prepare staff for tsunami and other coastal hazards events. The media can also investigate disaster relief and reconstruction plans that the public and private sectors may (or may not) have developed.

Before a Tsunami, the media can support local national disaster officials in tsunami preparedness through awareness and education activities which sensitise communities and partners about the hazards, the protocols and actions that will save lives.  For instance, the media can highlight designated safe areas during a tsunami or the media can educate parents on appropriate responses to maximize family safety during a tsunami.  The media can further support tsunami safety by highlighting drills and preparedness activities as well as keeping the public up-to-date on information and research so as to promote public awareness.  

During actual hazard events the media is a crucial response partner in the rapid dissemination of warnings and information to vulnerable communities that would be most impacted by tsunamis and other coastal hazards.  This role will become more important as the development of a tsunami and other coastal hazards warning system for the Caribbean progresses.  The media is encouraged to adopt policies to ensure that the bulletins which are provided by local authorities are issued to the public immediately, and the content is disseminated in the manner it was received.  

After a disaster has struck, news media can provide effective communication channels and can assist in rapidly providing a picture of how a tsunami or another coastal hazard has affected impacted areas, thus helping authorities to more efficiently direct aid and rescue efforts to survivors.  In the aftermath of an event the media also plays an important role in monitoring relief efforts and the performance of authorities in recovery and rebuilding areas that tsunamis or other coastal hazards may have devastated.

  • Responsibilities of the Caribbean Media:

In executing their role, the media must be cognizant of fundamental responsibilities and principles:

  1. The media must seek to build and maintain good relations with key stakeholders in their national disaster management systems and vice versa.
  2. There must be common ground rules and mutual respect between media and disaster managers in order to harness the power of information and communication, educate and disseminate credible warnings to effectively save lives.
  3. The media must balance the need to conform to communication ethics i.e.  telling the truth, checking the facts/confirming information, and getting out their story ahead of the competition.
  4. Building interest and knowledge in tsunamis and other coastal hazards must be a continuous process for the media.
  5. The media must carefully target the audience.
  6. The media must not assume the knowledge base of the audience - explain, explain and explain.
  7. The media must avoid jargon and technical terms.
  8. The media must establish reliable methods of crisis communication.
  9. The media must learn how to add news value to information which is being provided.
  10. The media must practice using historical data, images from familiar places, and experiences from local residents to reinforce your messages.
  11. There is need for a definitive and agreed media policy which must clearly state the media’s role both print and electronic in emergency situations as well as the receipt and dissemination of information.  The policy must also set out who are the current focal points/designates within the various institutions e.g. media, government agencies, non-governmental organisations.
  • Key Tsunami Smart Messages for the Public:

The media is encouraged to relay these important messages to the public:

  1. Tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean in the past and can occur in the future.
  2. If you are at the coast and you feel a very strong shaking leave immediately and head inland or to high ground.
  3. If you are at the beach and the sea withdraws drastically exposing the seafloor, leave immediately and head inland or to high ground.
  4. Recognizing these natural warning signs could save your life.
  5. Do not wait for all the natural warning signs to occur before moving inland or to high ground.
  6. Do not wait for an official warning before evacuating as there may not be enough time to issue one.
  7. If a Tsunami Warning is issued, NEVER go down to the beach to watch the waves.
  8. A tsunami is a series of waves that can come ashore for hours and the first wave is not necessarily the largest or most deadly.
  9. After the tsunami, stay out of the danger area until an "all-clear" is issued by the competent authority.

International Media Case Studies:

It is well known that mass media plays a critical role for early warning at the time of disaster.

In Japan (one of the most frequently struck countries by earthquakes and tsunamis), reported earthquakes are broadcasted on television within 30 seconds of the event, and dependent on the nature of the earthquake, tsunami warnings can follow very rapidly. For this, the Japan Meteorological Agency has well-coordinated working procedures with the Japan Broadcasting System (NHK) that automatically and seamlessly insert earthquake and tsunami information upon receipt from the warning centre. Knowledge can be life saving, especially in an emergency, and much of what people know is learnt through the mass media.

For example, when his observation tower on the remote Indian island of Tarasa Dwip started shaking, port official Abdul Razzak recalled a National Geographic programme on tsunamis and knew he needed to act. He rushed through villages screaming “Go to the hills!” and sent colleagues on his motorcycle to alert as many others as possible. Razzak saved 1,500 lives.


Media Training for Caribbean Professionals:

CDEMA Training Materials:

Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Information Kit for the Caribbean Media (1.6 MB)

Disaster Broadcast: An In-house Training Guide Download
Tsunami Teacher Media Module Download

Characteristics and Wave Size

Tsunami Preparedness

What is a Tsunami, Characteristics of the Phenomena


Read more about Abdul Razzak’s story at:

For more information, see Disaster Awareness Materials



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