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< prev - next > Disaster response mitigation and rebuilding Reconstruction KnO 100449_IFRC_Tools_9 (Printable PDF)
Communicating Better Building
When a disaster has damaged or destroyed many
houses and buildings, there is a general desire to
build back better than before to reduce future risks.
Affected populations, now more aware of disaster
risks, are eager to address them. Humanitarian
agencies and their supporters want to build back
better to minimise the impact of future disasters.
However, simply providing cash grants may not
achieve safer building, as people may not have the
know-how to improve their existing technologies,
or to use alternative more modern technologies
well. Most of the time, people need support to
achieve better reconstruction. This comes in various
forms such as: training, regular supervision and
information. This tool focuses on support through
providing information on building back better, more
specifically, how to ensure this information is well
communicated to residents and local builders in
disaster areas.
Why do we need to communicate
In the early 1990s a team of researchers from
Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd undertook
a study in northern Pakistan to assess how people
understood disaster risks and safe building practice
from information presented to them in the form
of posters, pictures, pictorial stories, drawings,
diagrams, slides and films. It highlighted that:
many misunderstood the information materials;
overlooked important elements of the information
presented or were confused or even offended by
some of the materials. Much of the information
presented was thus useless or even harmful. The
main limitation was that many of the materials
utilised Western visual literacy and notation.
Many of the people interviewed, especially in
rural areas, had very little experience of this.
Therefore, it is essential to ensure a local context
in information materials in order to successfully
communicate the intended messages. An account
of this research is given by Dudley and Haaland
(1993) in the Resources section. Its findings are
not unique but confirmed by others in different
sectors of development. Fortunately, our means
of communication have advanced and diversified
since this research was done, enabling us to better
address these issues now.
A girl is using the Second Voice communication equipment
which enables her community to share information with other
communities in rural Zimbabwe
We need to communicate effectively about safer
building because failing to do so can have serious
consequences. Firstly, people may build back
incorporating many of the faults and problems
that contributed to the vulnerability of their houses
and buildings in the first place. If inspection of
the construction site is thorough, faults may be
corrected before rebuild, but this is sometimes at a
high cost, limiting the amount of financial support
remaining for the actual build. Where inspection
is non-existent, lax or corrupted, however, people
may rebuild houses that are vulnerable to disasters.
Secondly, people may attempt to build in new ways
– assumed to be safer – without fully understanding
the performance standards.
There are information centres now, such as this one used by
a girl in Bangladesh; they are increasingly used to access
information and share it between communities