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



Radio Soup opera
“Tiempos de Huracanes”
Radio daytime drama in the service of disaster reduction

Most efforts at raising public awareness of the need for a culture of prevention can come dangerously close to nagging, as if we were being told again and again to floss regularly or lower our cholesterol. Meanwhile, the mass media retain the grateful attention of the public by telling them stories about other people, very much like them or beguilingly different, whose lives they can share vicariously, rejoicing or suffering (but never feeling bored) from the comfort of a multiplex or their own living-rooms.

One of the most powerful mediums of this kind in Latin America and the Caribbean is the daytime radio drama. Not only are receivers affordable and ubiquitous, where a television set might prove too expensive. Radio dramas do not set a literacy barrier for enjoyment, as books and magazines do—and since the medium is aural rather than visual, housewives and farmers, truck-drivers and bus passengers, can enjoy the travails and romances of the leading characters while engaging in other activities such as cooking, tilling the soil, or driving.

While rural and marginal urban communities learn a great deal about Fernando’s infidelities or Marcela’s marital problems, they often remain painfully unaware of knowledge that could prove much more useful to them in the event of a natural disaster. Such ignorance is not only a gap, but often a barrier, since in the absence of accurate, timely information on disaster prevention a great many myths proliferate about how to confront adverse natural phenomena—including the belief that catastrophes are divine punishment for sinful living, or that fate is both blind and omnipotent and therefore nothing can be done to thwart the threat of a hurricane or volcanic eruption, except possibly praying or trusting to one’s luck.

In recognition of this irony, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the International Organization for Migrations (IOM) and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), in collaboration with the Central American Coordination Centre for the Prevention of Natural Disasters (CEPREDENAC), have produced a daytime radio drama that actually helps people to prevent and mitigate the impact of hurricanes. It is called Tiempos de Huracanes.

The radio drama incorpo-rates four stories that show what happens in a typical Central American community before, during, and after a major storm. Each story shows the various responses of the community to the threat of such an event and its actual occurrence.

The same information could have been conveyed through a brochure or perhaps a lecture. By inserting the message into situations involving recognizable human characters—not stick figures—the audience feels involved, not lectured at. Their identification with these characters extends to their willingness to learn from their mistakes, or imitate the good practices that manage to save the lives of imaginary human beings—thereby increasing the odds of actual human lives being saved.

Handbook for Participatory Workshops

Tiempos de Huracanes comes with a handbook that helps facilitators to use the radio drama as the basis for workshops aimed at local health committees, community development organizations, parent-teacher associations, and other grassroots bodies, not to mention ordinary citizens.

The material has also been designed to be used by local announcers when introducing the radio drama or running call-in shows on the subject. Local emergency committees, municipal governments, and the local outposts of national institutions can also benefit from workshops based on the radio drama, which should be available starting in July 2002.

Programa de Preparativos para Situaciones de Emergencia y Socorro en Casos de Desastre, OPS/OMS
Oficina Subregional para America Central

Secretaría EIRD-ONU
Unidad Regional para América Latina y el Caribe

Oficina Regional de la OIM para Centroamérica y México

CEPREDENAC, Secretaría Ejecutiva: