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Contact: Rose Marie Harris

Monday, August 08, 2005 – Public Information Officers of national disaster offices in the region are now better equipped in emergency communication methods following their participation in the first ever workshop focussing on the role of public information officers, stakeholder analysis, the use of information and communications technologies in communication, the use of the website as an emergency information tool and the development of the communication plan

CDERA Information Manager Terry Ally said the Grenada workshop was the first of its kind which brought together “…information officers from national disaster offices of eleven CDERA member states in the Caribbean and Central America. Our particular focus was on managing information during an emergency because the experience of 2004-2005 showed a need for strengthening this aspect of the operation.”

The major output of the workshop was the publication of a framework ‘Crisis Communication Plan.’ “This manual will contain step by step instruction for developing communication plans for managing information during a crisis and will be available later this year through National Disaster Offices. This manual would be applicable to information officers in all relevant departments and agencies which have to deal with emergencies such as health, tourism, public works, water, energy and telecommunications,” Mr. Ally said.

Participants have lauded the effort of CDERA describing the two days as a steep learning curve for them – especially the exercises on dealing with a hostile media. The next training course based on expectation and feedback from participants is expected to focus on a number of hands-on approaches including how to design a multi channel communication campaign and how to measure and evaluate its impact.

Participants attended from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts/Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

Saint Lucia’s participant Information Officer at the Government Information Service GIS Miss. Rose Marie Harris said the workshop spoke to the need to always ‘stick to the message.’ “Your role is always to give the facts, do not be pressured by the media in terms of them forcing information out of you. You always stick to whatever factual information you have at all times, do not pay attention to hearsay. The other message for me is the need to always provide guidance to your stakeholders particularly your prime minister and other government ministers who will speak to the entire country at some point. We must remember there is a line of communication to be adhered to at all times and this you must reiterate to your stakeholders, they must not respond just because a question is asked of them by the local or international media, but must always be in a position to have the facts and disseminate just that and nothing more. In a disaster we must never give conflicting information for that can create panic among the people.”

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