Digital Regulation Platform

Preparedness phase: community outreach


Community outreach

Operators can be expected to tell their customers about their own products, but not necessarily about communications more generally. Information needs to be repeated for each generation. For instance, at the time of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, 21 per cent of the public in Japan did not know about the phone and Internet message boards (for sharing knowledge of casualties) and 91 per cent had not used them, though they had existed for about twenty years (ITU 2013). The regulator should require that operators inform not just their employees but also their customers about the telecommunications plan before and after disasters. Businesses should be given advice to help the development of business continuity plans.

Included in such information should be explanations of warning messages, national emergency phone numbers, rules, and conventions to be applied after disasters. The rules could mention, for example, that users might be able to roam between networks but not to make calls lasting more than two minutes. The conventions can also include, for example, that social media posts intended as public situation reports or requests for help or information should follow the Hashtag Standards for Emergencies (OCHA 2014).

Publicity needs to use several different media (such as word of mouth, posters, newspapers, television broadcasts, radio broadcasts, webpages and social media). It should reach homes, clubs, workplaces, schools, and rural communities. It should be understood and acted on by its intended audience; tips for achieving this with varied audiences can be found in Risk Communication Basics (NOAA 2016).

The regulator would need to work with the operators and other stakeholders to ensure that:

Phone calls to the national emergency phone numbers (such as 112 and/or 911) for any permanent national emergency call centres are implemented by all operators free of charge.

Calls to emergency numbers make caller location information available according to national standards (not just for fixed and mobile services but also for over-the-top (OTT) services that can connect to the public phone network).

Phone calls or SMS messages to the numbers for the emergency operations centre for identifying casualties after a disaster are implemented by all of the operators free of charge.

Social media posts intended as public situation reports or requests for help or information after disasters are recognizable through their hashtags and are handled by the relevant emergency operation centre.

In some cases, support can be enlisted from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. It will train local and remote volunteers in the use of ICTs to map hazards, as well as on the effects of disasters, as in an example from the Philippines (Stanton-Geddes 2013). The hazard maps can then be distributed widely so that the public better understands the risks. However, hazard maps can give misleading impressions by relying on official sources that do not foresee all the risks: the tsunami after the Tōhoku earthquake was twice as high as officially expected and the guidelines have needed revision (Ranghieri and Ishiwatari 2014).


ITU (International Telecommunication Union). 2013. Technical Report on Telecommunications and Disaster Mitigation.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 2016. Risk Communication Basics. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). 2014. Hashtag Standards for Emergencies.

Stanton-Geddes, Z. 2013. “OpenStreetMap Volunteers Map Typhoon Haiyan-Affected Areas to Support Philippines Relief and Recovery Efforts.” World Bank Blog: East Asia & Pacific on the Rise, November 15, 2013.

Ranghieri, Federica, and Mikio Ishiwatari. 2014. Learning from Megadisasters: Lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Last updated on: 09.10.2020