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When disaster strikes the rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures need an integrated and coordinated approach and for the purpose of all institutions, they have to pool their resources together for efficient, expedient and effective work on all fronts. This is where media plays a very important role. The depiction and devastation and human misery though the media may many a times act as an appeal for people to come forward to render help. A prompt presentation of the ground situation by the media helps in dispelling the wrong impressions of people who are removed from the scene of activities.

However, if the media is to act effectively, they should gain the precise picture of the situation. Careful research must be carried out at various governmental and local levels to assess the extent of the damage. One of the key research tools by the media is needs assessment; this tool can be used to identify salient features of the affected society. This also facilitates in determining the attitude of the affected population.

The assessment aims to carry out the research in a methodical way. Secondly, it should provide information to determine how much human information programme is needed. Then it is also important to identify the demographic profile of the crisis hit areas or crisis prone areas. There is also a need to assess the local resources and finally, produce recommendations for further actions.

Once the needs assessment is identified, communication models have to illustrate the role of needs assessment. It is important to identify everything possible about emergency and this should be followed by research and analysis of the target population. The model must then look at host authorities and host organizations that are to render help to the disaster struck areas. As emergencies develop, more assessment is needed and therefore the material gathered during the initial research must be valid. Finally, one of the main concerns when a disaster strikes is timing. When such situations occur there is a temptation to jump in and do something and spread the information. Therefore, it may be a good idea to equip emergency teams with portable transmitters.

However, at the same time appropriate agencies must ensure that correct message is reached. It cannot be over-emphasized that without adequate research and data collection, information programmes are likely to miss their intended goals and objectives. Therefore, even when time is short it is essential to carry out a rudimentary needs assessment before the actual programming begins.

Finally, any crisis may escalate so it must be monitored continuously. There are some criteria outlined for action. The media should initially assess the scope of the crisis. For example the 1999 earthquake in Turkey left over 600,000 people displaced and here majority of the population did not receive information about shelters etc. Secondly, it is also important to assess the media environment of the region; by that we mean whether the information channel has been affected or whether proper information is reaching out to the public and in case of a refugee movement media needs to go beyond the borders to report the plight of the people. Finally, there are two other issues that need to be identified; gauging the attitude of the host countries, as in how much are they willing to let outside help in and how much is the media controlled by the state. Finally, it is also important to assess the estimate the repercussions of the crisis and how would this facilitate in the rebuilding process. Therefore, media does play a key role in Disaster management and timely distribution of resources for help and assistance.

Source: Lifeline Media
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