Communicating Under Fire

How does an introvert develop a passion for effective communication? By disaster.

I spent several years with the American Red Cross as both an employee and volunteer. And it was in the disaster planning arena where I gained my favorite story on communication gone wrong.

In the disaster response world, agencies and organizations prepare by conducting exercises. These hypothetical scenarios are invaluable in identifying risks and gaps before an emergency strikes.

Can you guess one of the most common gaps? Yep, lack of communication.

How about the most common solution to lack of communication? People communicating with each other? Accountability?

Nope. New radios. Better radios. Every. Single. Time.

Don’t get me wrong; I love new platforms and gadgets, but I love root-cause analysis even more. And for the glaringly obvious conclusion—the radios weren’t the problem. They were sitting there doing what radios do, waiting on a human to depress a button and bring them to life.

But new radios appeared to be the solution. And, to be fair, new radios are more fun than cultural change. So off a human would go to write the grant. Again. <sigh>

But this isn’t a story about the inefficiencies of emergency operations. This is all of us. Every organization. Every industry. We are the lack of communication. Humans. You. Me.

So before you buy the next shiny solution or adopt the latest new methodology, explore what might be at the heart of lack of communication in your organization.

Read the article that inspired this post and thank your local emergency responders.

Shannon Vasko is a natural-born planner with a passion for strategy and integrated communications. © MI Compass Services

fire portrait helmet firefighter
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