Natural disasters have always been having a huge impact on our current society with a huger impact developing countries in Asia, South America, and Africa. With the huge expansion of mass media and internet, in covering the occurrence of such events, technical communications have become the major tool for such purpose; thus, technical communications are crucial to expressing such events. In this case study, five cases on the topic of natural disaster will be presented in the form of technical communication, along with the discussion on the impact and connections between the natural disaster and the form of technical communication.
Technical communication serves as a great tool to pass along information about disaster events, mainly through media or internet. While the basis of technical communication is to keep the language straightforward and address the information effectively, the nature of expression of disaster is to utilize limited resources to organize and help a large population effectively. For example, in an occurrence of a natural disaster, short and clean ways of communications are needed to express to nearby communities so actions to help can be took in place as fast as possible.
The form of technical communication also unifies people from different standpoints to believe in one certain topic so that arguments will not be arisen and instead help will be provided at the fastest rate possible.
When it comes to technical communications, ethics are a huge impact factor on how the article is written either making it skewed in the viewpoint of one or the other.
Given on the point of interest, it is most definitely that the technical communicators will present the evidence varying their standpoint on certain issue. While it is commonly known that the mass media often expresses information on their specific standpoint of the issue depending on the code of ethics developed in the company and the writer’s own personal ethics. When it comes to media cover of natural disasters, it is crucial for communicators not to be affected by such ethics skew. Thus, it is crucial for technical communicators to put themselves in a standpoint that is not skewed to either side of the argument; technical communicators should consider evidence from both sides of the argument and present them in the way that it is neutral to their best ability. Technical communicators should prevent to mislead and manipulate the audience and base off their writing mainly using statistical facts other than personal perceptions on events and issues when it comes to issues with huge ethical controversies.
In the following five case studies, a thorough summary of the event will first be given, covering the cause, damage, and aftermath of the natural disasters; furthermore, emphasis will be put into examining the impact of technical communication on the specific case being presented. With the main purpose of informing the population, both the negative and positive impacts will be examined in how it has come to either strengthen or weaken their approach to the purpose. The information will also be presented with other through graphs and data figures to further examine the correlations.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey is tied with 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as the most detrimental cyclone on the record of US history, causing a total of 125 billion in damage, especially in the southeast Texas and Houston areas causing catastrophic flooding. Initially hurricane Harvey moved westward, south of Atlantic ridge, and reached an initial peak intensity of 40 kt on 18th August. The northerly wind shear increased so that Harvey gradually weaken back on 19th the August to degenerate into a tropic wave over the central Caribbean Sea.
It is the first major hurricane that made land fall in the United states since 2005. In a period of four days, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain, with peak accumulations over 60.58 inches. The hurricane has resulted in more than 30,000 people displaced and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. As estimated in Texas alone, 300,000 structures and 500,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an estimation of total damage at 125 billion dollars, with a 90% confidence interval from 90-160 billion dollars Nationwide, 107 people died in storm-related incidents: 103 in Texas, 2 in Arkansas, 1 in Tennessee and 1 in Kentucky. This makes such numbers the highest in the state of Texas in the state of 1919.
Maps of Total rainfall during Hurricane Harvey, source: WPC Hurricane Harvey rainfall data.
During the occurrence of the disastrous event, the role of technical communications and mass media coverage is crucial to organizations and government to act upon and aid on such areas. Technology serves as a media for the survivors that requests both aids rescue and form communities to come together to assistance. For example, twitter served as an important tool for the survivors to locate pleas for rescue and communicate with stranded individuals, allowing the Cajun army to help and aid survivors in the Texas area. The role of technical communications allows organizations to gather resources and form an effective solution at the fastest rate possible.
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake happened in Northern California on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 pm local time. The shock center was in the forest of Nisense Marks State Park, which is approximately 10 miles northeast of Santa Cruz. The earthquake has a Mw magnitude of 6.9 and maximum Modified Mercalli intensity of Violent, the shock resulted in 63 deaths and 3,757 injuries in the state of California. The most injuries occurred in the collapsed upper desk section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge.
Detrimental damage has been done in Santa Cruz County and less so has been done to the south in Monterey County. However, the earthquake effects have been extended all the way north into the San Francisco Bay Area. While no surface faults are recorded, a large number of other ground failures and landslides were presented especially in the Summit area of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Coincidentally, the earthquake happened during a national live broadcast of the 1989 World Series, thus the earthquake is referred to as the “World Series earthquake” sometimes.
In this case, due to the lack of mass media and internet coverage, the causalities and damage done to the counties is detrimental. Since the earthquake, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has increased efforts of communicating earthquake information and research to a broad spectrum of audience. The effort has been focused on communicating the information through the forms of technical communications. In 1990, the USGS, receiving financial support from the American Red Cross and the United Way, has produced a popular brochure, ‘The Next Big Earthquake in the Bay Area May Come Sooner Than You Think.’ The brochure was published in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Braille. The effort has received huge attention, making nearly 5 million copies been distributed through the span to 1994.
Technical communications are used after the earthquake so that the common knowledge will be distributed to the public. The public will then receive insights on emergency actions upon earthquake occurrences. This will directly decrease the causalities given the next occurrence of the earthquake. So, the technical communication serves as a media to spread useful information when emergency occurrence.
The 2010 Haiti earthquake is a magnitude 7.0 earthquake with an epicenter near the town of Leogane and approximately 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, which is the capital of Haiti. The earthquake took place at 16:53 local time on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.
The aftershocks of the earthquake are massive, according at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded by the officials. The numbers are massive with an estimated of 3 million people being affected by the earthquake. Death toll estimates ranges from 100 thousand to about 160 thousand according to the government of Haiti. About 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or severely damaged. The earthquake has further detrimental the national’s economy, contributing to the severe poverty existing and poor housing condition.
The earthquake has caused a huge impact in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti and other cities in the country. Many notable landmark buildings were damage or destroyed completely, including the Presidential Palace and the main jail. The headquarters of United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is collapsed and killed many people working inside. January 22nd, the United Nation declared that the emergency phase for the rescue operation is drawing to an end, and on the following day, the Haitian government ended the search for survivors.
Due to the help and aid of the mass media and internet, the news about such tragedies was widely spread to nearby countries and communities, making fast response for humanitarian aid available to Haiti. Many countries offered aid, pledging funds and sending rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel to Haiti. Interestingly enough, the telethon aired on 22 January, called “Hope for Haiti Now” became the most-watched telethon in history, which is another form of technical communication, has raised $58 million by the next day. In contrary, the communications systems such as radar, electrical networks have been damaged greatly, which rendered the rescue and aid. The lack of communication between local authorities and the rescue organizations has complicated the rescue and aid work.