As the 2018 hurricane season approaches, now is the time (if you haven’t already) to start thinking about your response and recovery planning documents and process. Balancing the needs of emergency management operations and the technical writing needed to prepare these plans is a key part of the process.
You probably didn’t even know there needs to be a balance between the two did you? Just like the light side and dark side in Star Wars (I’ll let you decide which is which), there needs to be a balance between the urgency of emergency management operations (recovery, response, etc.) and the deliberative nature of technical writing.
After a disaster, perfect grammar is not on the top of most people’s minds. An emergency manager (OEM), is not going to be worried about the creative flow of a post-disaster recovery document. The manager just wants it done and approved by the chain of command, local community, and/or other stakeholders so it can be implemented efficiently and effectively.
However, the technical writer (often someone that doesn’t hold that official title, but has been “volun-told” to handle that part of the mission) is - and always should be - focused on ensuring the information is laid out in the most clear and understandable way possible.
Here are some ways to bring these two “forces” together:
The OEM and designated technical writer should be in constant communication about how best to shape any pre- and post-disaster documents. Whether it’s a mitigation plan, response checklist, or community recovery plan, reviewing the documents together and tweaking them - with an eye towards future disaster possibilities - will help improve your overall document production and implementation activities.
There are many templates available online that will help you prepare your documents beforehand so you’re not scrambling during or after a disaster. FEMA, state/county/local OEMs, nonprofits, and disaster management consulting firms all offer various document templates that you can use to get your planning process started.
For the technical writer that isn’t classically trained, there are online courses that can help with preparing complex documents that cover technical topics but must be easy to read by a layman. The OEM’s confidence will be increased with a highly trained technical writer on staff.
When is the best time to review your emergency operations/disaster recovery plans? Before the next disaster happens! Make sure you have all the foreseeable steps covered in the disaster spectrum. From resiliency and mitigation, to response and recovery, you should have plans available to use to meet the needs of your community.
These are some simple activities that will bring the OEM and technical writer together and get them working on the same page. There are plenty of things that need to be done to ensure disaster survivors are served. A clear and concise recovery (or any type of emergency management support) document will go a long way to securing government or private funding, support from stakeholders, or just a better understanding of the community you are serving
Chris Obudho has over 25 years of writing, marketing, and public communications experience he learned in the public and private sectors. As a technical & marketing writer/editor, he can help you tell the right technical story through actionable content, precise editing, and passionate communications.