Use trustworthy, widespread, multi-lingual, culturally appropriate and inclusive means of alerting the target population in case of disasters


Disaster managers and other relevant authorities should seek to identify the most suitable technological means to alert communities during an emergency. The technology used must be trustworthy, irrespective of whether it is fully automatic or manual. It must be adapted to the communities’ culture and level of technology acceptance. Moreover, the system must allow alerting the whole population, which often implies sending a unique message through multiple communication platforms.

Applicable to:

Stakeholders: Policy Makers, Disaster Managers

Disaster Phases: Prevention, Preparedness

Types of Actors Concerned: Non-active citizens, Active citizens, Media, Entrepreneurs

Hazards: Natural hazards, Man-made non-intentional hazards or emergency situations, Man-made intentional hazards

Cultural Map Entries:

Communication patterns between the different actors of disaster response

Ethnically inclusive climates change adaptation strategies

Introduction of a colour coding system for risk levels used for warning alerts amongst different actors

Specialised assistance tools developed by the German Red Cross for people with special needs

Preparedness actions for all vulnerable groups during heat waves

The EU-funded project ‘Aware and Resilient’ (2013-2015) description

Comunitat Valenciana' is a public service in the Valencian region that receives emergency calls in Valencian, Spanish, English, French and German

Language-independent communication in case of disaster

Cultural differences in visual communication and perception

Text messages, the most efficient and resilient mode of communication after a disaster

Security values and communication in risk perception

The roles of religious leaders in disaster preparedness

Importance of safety instructions in non-native languages

Information channels to be used to communicate information about disaster preparedness

Interest in receiving information about disaster preparedness amongst citizens in Frankfurt

The importance of conveying disaster-related messages in at least three languages

The role of celebrity leaders in mobilizing citizens and resources

Language barriers in disaster situations

"Territorial belonging" of individuals and its impact on the response to a disaster

Traditional vs modern communication channels

"Home alone" scenario for children during a disaster less likely in Italy

Perception of elderly as volunteers

Perception of foreigners as volunteers

The importance of communication strategies for the preparedness and response phases

Protection of minorities in disaster situations

Engaging community leaders to foster trust in authorities

Building trust in early warning systems

Building effective communication mechanism between communities and DMAs

Risk perception in relation to hazard type

Community leaders as gatekeepers in social networks

Special information needs of young people

The special needs of elderly people in information dissemination

Women's and minorities' risk perceptions during the preparedness phase

Relationship between community sense and technology use

General association with cultural factors: Communication

Implementation steps:

A. Always take into account the social vulnerabilities, technological culture and habits of target groups when setting-up early-warning alerting systems. Related cultural factors: Communication, Social exclusion

B. Foster the fast distribution of disaster information or alerts / warnings. Related cultural factors: Communication

C. Identify and recruit “online volunteers”, e.g. through adverts/banners on social media sites, who would be willing to take up the role of an information distributor in a disaster situation, using their personal online social networks. Related cultural factors: Communication

D. Ensure the effectiveness of the early warning by following the principles of timeliness (e.g. the information is communicated in time) and credibility (e.g., the source/platform is trusted). Related cultural factors: Communication

E. Create partnerships with the necessary stakeholders e.g. mobile operators in order to find the most efficient means of alerting the population in case of disasters. Related cultural factors: Communication

F. Provide disaster information and announcements in more than one language in order to increase availability of information to different communities. Related cultural factors: Communication, Languages

G. Disaster managers should take into account that people normally doubt warnings based on factors that are either people-centred, risk-centred or system-centred, e.g. citizens may be less likely to respond to warnings of man-made disasters than those of natural disasters. Related cultural factors: Communication

H. Design and adapt emergency warning systems for visual, hearing and cognitive impairments, and further communicate them with multiple media. Related cultural factors: Communication, Social exclusion

I. Consider cultural factors in disaster communication. Related cultural factors: Communication


Further reading:

Jayasinghe, G. et al., 2006. A GSM Alarm Devise For Disaster Early Warning. In First International Conference on Industrial and Information Systems. pp. 1–5.

Basher, R., 2006. Global early warning systems for natural hazards: systematic and people centred. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 364(1845), pp.2167–2182. Available at: