International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001



Strategic Communication for the Prevention and
Mitigation of Technological Hazards in the Region

This is a research project that is being carried out at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Cuyo National University in Argentina. The Faculty’s Center for Research and the University’s Center of Research (CIUNC) are cosponsoring the project, which is under the supervision of Gloria Eugenia Bratschi.

Significant social sectors in our region express serious concern over the hazards posed by certain industrial activities, such as the toxic spills during traffic accidents due to the increase in the land transport of hazardous materials. Above all, there is an increasing alarm over pollution and the degradation of the environment.

These sectors have learned, through systematic or informal education, of the dangers posed by technological hazards. Other social sectors, especially the urban poor, do not have the necessary information and even if they do, like through the distribution of brochures on the issue, do not seem to care greatly about the matter.

Looking into this indifference, it appears that there is a disparity, not so much in the perception of risk itself, as in the perception of how serious it is, leading people to assign different levels of importance to prevention as well.

Greater knowledge seems to go together with a greater interest in vulnerability reduction. It is here that the appropriate use of the media, of social communication, appears likely to promote a greater commitment to the preservation of our ecosystems.

It is urgent for public institutions and private companies alike to do as much as they can to help society learn about technological hazards: how to identify them, how to analyze them, and how to manage them. This requires the use of carefully planned preventive communication—i.e., the intelligent administration of information resources within the framework of programs and projects that can help consolidate a culture of prevention.

As a result of this careful planning, prevention campaigns might be launched using both the traditional media (newspapers, television, radio) and the alternative media, including face to face meetings with the various social groups, lectures and debates, street theater, contests, and so on.

Some technological hazards are easier to perceive than others. Such is the case of accidents or disasters. Latent hazards, on the other hands, are with us in our everyday lives, and yet we ignore them or assume that they are being taken care of by the people responsible for creating them in the first place. Gas and oil pipelines, the electricity grid, fuel distribution centers and outlets, dumps containing pathogenic waste, noise pollution, CO2 emissions, bacteria in drinking water, and the unsafe handling of food are all examples of disasters waiting to happen.

Knowledge is the only safeguard—knowledge by the communities themselves, so that they can interpret the damage that might occur if proper control and management are lacking.

Strategic communication makes it possible to integrate all the communication actions by disaster prevention agencies. This involves choosing the best tools for distributing messages aimed at increasing knowledge and, with it, a more accurate perception of technological hazards.

In this sense, preventive communication is more than a concept; it is a vital commitment that can help to optimize the management of technological hazards by public and private institutions with the essential collaboration of social communicators and the media.

For more information please contact:
Lic. Gloria Eugenia Bratschi
Especialista en Prevención y Planificación y Manejo Integrado de Areas Propensas a Desastre
Mendoza, Argentina
Tel/Fax (54-61) 425-7582