The multifaceted importance of information in natural disaster management is an undeniable fact, as evidenced by the relevant literature, but also by all plans drawn up by civil protection authorities. At all stages of a natural disaster, but also in managing it, either pre-disaster, during a disaster, or post-disaster, people need information.
Obviously the type of information they need, as well as the way to get it, are different at each stage, whether they concern protection and prevention issues, or they have to do with planning and preparedness issues. Undoubtedly, the role of information in preventing the public from panic and reacting calmly to an imminent or manifest natural disaster is vital, as it can lead to the least possible loss of life and reduce the economic impact.
According to the United Nations' (UN) definition: "a disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society. Disasters involve widespread human, material, economic or environmental impacts, which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope, using its own resources".
Though most often caused by nature, disasters can also have human origins and there is no country, society or community, that appears to be unaffected. A disaster occurs when a hazard impacts on vulnerable people. In the latest years, hazards are recorded to be on the rise in both frequency and intensity with increasing impacts on livelihoods and wellbeing. However, the outcomes vary significantly depending on the combination of hazards, vulnerability and the ability to reduce potential negative consequences. Hazards can be categorized as either natural or technological.
Disasters interrupt essential services, such as healthcare, electricity and water supply, transportation and communications. These interruptions seriously affect health status and healthcare provision and the social-economic growth of communities or countries. Disasters have major and long-lasting impacts on people long after the immediate effect has been mitigated.
Disaster preparedness involves all activities designed to minimize loss of life and damage and reduce the impact of disasters. It refers to measures taken to: equip for, predict, prevent, reduce effects and mitigate impacts on vulnerable populations. These activities embedded with risk reduction measures can result in saving maximum lives and livelihoods, enabling the affected population to get back to normalcy within a short time period. Disaster preparedness is a continuous and integrated process resulting from a wide range of activities and resources and it requires the contribution of many different areas (e.g. training, logistics, health care, recovery, institutional development).
In the area of disaster reduction, information and communication issues are already considered important. A very typical case is that of organized population displacement due to an imminent or evolving fire or flood, where information is already considered the heart of the problem.
Risk information must be clear and simple, so as to communicate risks effectively with populations, communities, families and individuals. Every organization, government or individual, engaged in disaster risk reduction awareness, must plan and communicate consistent, harmonized messages so as to rise information credibility and avoid confusion. For maximum positive outcomes, it is essential for everyone to be better prepared when disaster or crisis occur.
After all, the greatest challenge facing a person managing a disaster is the need for objective, fast, reliable and honest information, without deterrence, in such a way that, on the one hand, it will demonstrate the alertness and presence of the state mechanism in an attempt to restore the situation to normal and on the other hand will inform, without aggravating the cognitive confusion or innate anxiety that pervades people. The media, the social media (e.g. facebook, twitter) and the development of new technologies has increased the possibilities for two-way information, both among the competent authorities and the affected people themselves, regarding the situation and the needs.
However, much remains to be done to make the information important to it, and in particular to be a means of participation, transparency and accountability.
The theoretical approach to these issues and the case study of Mandra in November 2017 that killed twenty four people and caused a lot of material damage when a heavy rain came in sudden flood that drowned western Attica. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of information and the right communication design, following a natural disaster, studied the case of Mandra Attica.