What Is Unique about SBCC in Emergencies?
Emergency communication preparedness through an SBCC approach focuses on:
- Identification of mitigation measures at the individual, community and societal levels
- Participatory design of communication and policy interventions which are theory-driven, evidence-based and locally contextualized
- Promotion of social and behavioral approaches to reduce risk and impact of the health emergency
Although the principles and key steps of SBCC interventions are the same in emergencies as in other situations, there are some distinctions about communication during emergencies that are worth noting.
For example, during emergencies, the imperative is to act quickly to bring the outbreak under control and minimize loss of life. As such, there is less time to prepare and execute activities, which are generally built on stakeholder collaboration and guided by rapid needs assessments. Ideally, preparatory activities, such as setting up coordination systems and social mobilizer networks, or identifying important epidemiological and social information, should already be in place as part of a preparedness plan to inform a rapid response.
Preparatory activities may include putting into place knowledge management tools and techniques that can be utilized quickly and relatively easily such as Net-Mapping, card sorting, communities of practice (both online via social media and traditional), peer assists and after-action reviews
Further, although continuous monitoring is an integral part of any SBCC intervention, during an emergency this needs to be done more frequently to assess how the situation is evolving and adjust activities and messages promptly as needed.
Emergency communication strategies tend to cover shorter timeframes and need to be reviewed and adjusted regularly.
Finally, emergencies are characterized by five different phases:
- Initial phase
Each of these phases has specific communication requirements. The table below describes each of these five stages, highlighting their corresponding communication needs.
Emergency Phases and Corresponding Communication Needs
|Emergency Phase||Description||Communication Activities|
|Pre-crisis||Acknowledges that many disasters can be anticipated and some activities can be prepared in advance. Some locations are prone to known disasters and specific actions can be implemented for preparedness. Even in areas where disasters are less predictable, preparatory activities can be undertaken and systems can be put in place to support a rapid and effective response should an emergency occur.||
|Initial Phase||Emergency is confirmed. Anxiety, panic and rumors are likely to spread among affected communities and, if not addressed properly, can lead to denial or the adoption of unhealthy practices.||
|Maintenance||Emergency is stable or progressing at a slower rate. Flare-ups and aggravations are still possible, especially because affected communities may get complacent or be discouraged by the slow resolution. Feedback from stakeholders and communities is essential to inform communication activities and messages that are in line with contextual realities and respond to need.||
|Resolution||During this phase, the emergency is under control and its progression is slowing down. Communication is key in ensuring that members of affected communities do not become complacent, thinking that they are no longer at risk.||
|Evaluation||This phase indicates that the emergency has ended and provides the opportunity to carefully review how the communication strategy was implemented during the emergency. It is important to identify successes and lessons learned to shape future preparedness and response. These efforts are essential to monitoring and evaluation efforts described later in Unit 9.||