Edited Version of October 11, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation

"October 11th -- International Day for Disaster Reduction"

Nicole Appel
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

Amy Sebring - Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the October 11, 2000 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Today we are once again observing the International Day for Disaster Reduction. We will start with a presentation, and then follow with a Q&A session for your questions and comments. Right before we begin the Q&A portion we will review the procedure. Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/vforum/001011.htm>.

The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, is the successor to the IDNDR, which concluded a decade-long effort to focus attention on reduction of disaster impacts. Each year they conducted a public awareness campaign built around a theme. The ISDR continues that tradition, and this year's theme is "Disaster Prevention, Education and Youth" with a sub-theme, "The Specific Case of Wildfires."

We will be following up today's session with two more related sessions this month; next week, Rocky Lopes from the American Red Cross will be with us to update us on the Masters of Disaster school curriculum and on October 25th, Ken Baechel of the Community Alert Network will be joining us in the Tech Arena to present their experience with the Los Alamos fire last spring.

Before I introduce today's speaker, I would like to share with you a spectacular photo that Judy Jaeger sent us this morning. Judy tells us that this photo was taken August 6, 2000 by John McColgan, a fire behavior analyst from Fairbanks, Alaska. In the background is the raging Montana wildfire in Bitterroot National Forest. See <http://www.emforum.org/vforum/slide01.htm>.


Now it is my privilege to introduce today's speaker, Nicole Appel. She is joining us from Geneva, Switzerland, so we may experience a little lag from time to time. Nicole has recently joined the ISDR as Awareness & Promotion Officer after serving with the World Meteorological Organization since January 1999 as Information and Public Affairs Officer.

Prior to that, she served with the predecessor to ISDR, the IDNDR, since 1995. Her responsibilities included compiling and writing the information packages on four consecutive promotional campaigns and arranging three Internet conferences. In fact, Nicole participated in a previous session with us a couple of years ago regarding one of the Internet conferences. Welcome back Nicole, and thank you for taking time to be with us today.


Nicole Appel: Thank you, Amy. Hello everyone and greetings from rainy Geneva.

I wish to present an over-arching orientation on the public awareness and advocacy activities of the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and talk a little bit about this year's campaign on Disaster Prevention-Education and Youth, with a special focus on forest fires.

The well functioning of modern society is effectively based on the good and fast circulation of information. This is even more relevant in the case of a society vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards. There, accurate information and its regular delivery is of importance at all levels of social, political or economic implication, as people's lives and assets are at stake.

The concept of communication to promote disaster reduction refers to a planned and articulated process that does not disregard any technical model or resource available. Its ultimate goal is to facilitate the dialogue between all social actors, aimed at achieving a cultural change. Cultural changes occur in the context of people's daily lives, in which multiple communication processes are carried out. These processes must be considered when addressing the issue of their corresponding strategies.

This cultural change may be achieved only if the gap between the scientific and technical knowledge, the management of political and technical standards and the social appropriation of information is overcome. Then the information, translated into public messages and means, becomes knowledge and, at the same time, knowledge may be translated into concrete decisions and social actions.

Therefore it is important that public information and awareness actions be linked to broader strategies to prevent and address disasters as part of mainstreaming and sustainable development plans at all levels and through extended partnerships and networks.

The promotion of a culture of prevention is the key to achieving the change of attitudes required to deal with disasters and carry out actions intended to reduce and prevent hazards. This entails the need to extensively disseminate the main concepts that lay the foundation for both preventive actions and those aimed at sensitizing different sectors at the international, regional, national and local level.

The functions of the Secretariat of the ISDR are, inter alia, to promote a worldwide culture of reduction of the negative effects of natural hazards through advocacy campaigns, to serve as an international clearing house for the dissemination and exchange of information and knowledge on disaster reduction strategies and to backstop the policy and advocacy activities of national platforms for natural disaster reduction.

IDNDR's main achievement was to generate awareness of disaster reduction worldwide; ISDR's task is now to translate this awareness into reality. This, in addition to the wider mandate of ISDR requires not only an overall continuance of public awareness activities coordinated by the Secretariat for the ISDR but also a substantial strengthening and further development of the activities currently in place based on increased partnerships and expanded risk reduction networks.

Wider target audiences would need to be reached with more information than before because awareness of the potential benefits of disaster reduction has not yet been successfully communicated to all sectors of society, in particular policy-makers and the general public. An awareness of risks and greater understanding of the consequences associated with particular hazards and the potential consequences of damage must be communicated to people.

The aim of ISDR, and consequently, the aim of public awareness efforts coordinated by ISDR is to:

a) enable all communities to become resilient to the effects of natural, technological and environmental hazards, reducing the compound risks they pose to social and economic vulnerabilities within modern societies; and

b) to proceed from protection against hazards to the management of risk through the integration of risk prevention into sustainable development.

Main Objectives of the Secretariat for ISDR in Public Awareness Activities and Advocacy:

i.) Engage organizations, authorities, professionals drawn from a wide range of expertise, and community leaders to develop increased partnership activities and multi-disciplinary relationships to foster more contributions to the public decision-making process in matters of hazards, risk and disaster prevention.

ii.) Develop sustained programmes of public information (electronic, printed, audio, audio-visual) and institutionalized educational components pertaining to hazards and their effects, risk management practices and disaster prevention activities, for all ages, using the platform established by the International Day for Disaster Reduction and the UN Sasakawa Award for disaster reduction.

iii.) Enhance the usage of the Internet and further develop the ISDR Webpage (online and offline via CD ROM) as an essential component in the provision of information on disaster reduction, especially to enhance capacity-building in less developed countries.

iv.) Support, wherever needed or requested, the production of local information material based on the products developed by the ISDR Secretariat and its partners so as to ensure the dissemination of substantive material adapted to local, national and regional needs.

v.) Following from the above and based on the successful model of the ISDR Office for Latin America, and more specifically of the Regional Disaster Information Center, in the exchange of information and experiences in the region, support the establishment of regional Units for Africa and Asia for better outreach and awareness in these regions.

vi.) Organize debates, roundtables, poster sessions and other focused public relations' events at specific venues (meetings on the subject) and support such events at the international, regional, national and local level in relation to the International Disaster Reduction Campaigns.

The approach to public awareness and advocacy activities rests on the aim of promoting disaster reduction globally. Successful promotion and public awareness activities will result in the commitment to disaster reduction by public authorities and the fostering of public participation in risk management and disaster reduction through increased partnerships and expanded risk reduction networks.

The ISDR framework offers a multi-sectoral platform for the promotion of risk management and disaster reduction through its wide array of partners, namely the UN system, IGO's, INGO's, academic bodies, the scientific community and technical institutions, the media and others.

The target groups are decision-makers at the international, national and local level, civil society, professionals engaged in disaster reduction and risk management, educators, academics, media and others. Public awareness and advocacy as part of IDNDR was successful, varied and innovative with, for example, the organization of one of the first conferences on the Internet in 1996 ("Cities at Risk").

Lessons have been learned from these exercises and integrated into a fresh approach which benefits from a new mandate and a strong focus on mutually beneficial partnerships at all levels.

ISDR is now a unique opportunity not only for knowledge and information sharing but also for building the best creative structures to carry out risk reduction messages in a user-friendly manner for the betterment and the full satisfaction of the end users.

About this year's campaign; Disaster Prevention, Education and Youth-The Specific Case of Wildfires -- as we speak, I have just come back from the celebrations at headquarters here in Geneva, at which the theme was presented to the press. A group of children who participated in an international drawing context attended, as well as member of the Inter-Agency Task Force of the ISDR (which includes UN organizations, NGOs and private companies) and observer countries.

A video about the subject of forest fires was shown with a heavy emphasis on passing on the message of forest fire prevention to children in view to educate them and their parents, friends and families.

The Fire Globe project -Global Fire Monitoring Center--was mentioned, an activity of the ISDR, which needs to be emphasized here (please go to <http://www.uni-freiburg.de/fireglobe> as it provides a unique platform not only for the monitoring of forest fires globally but also as a valuable source of information on all matters related to early warning and more generic forest fire management.

I highly encourage you to check the information kit put together on this theme <http://www.unisdr.org> in which you will find information on terminology and entries from various countries (for example Namibia, Indonesia, Costa Rica, South Africa, Australia), on their experiences in forest fire management.

I would be very interested in your own experiences with forest fire prevention and management and more widely, in disaster prevention programmes for younger people.

One issue that was discussed today was that of preventing forest fires too well, as some of them are needed in certain regions in order to keep a healthy balance of the ecosystem. Any thoughts?

I wish to add that these information campaigns are designed to get the disaster prevention message out through a different angle every year. This allows for wider distribution of information, a new target audience to come in and new partnerships to be developed. We, at the ISDR Secretariat, look forward to working with a very wide number of old and new partners, especially over the next information campaign. The theme is yet to be decided. We will post it immediately on the EIIP site for a preliminary exchange of ideas.

I wish to thank the organizers of this session for being such active supporters of the disaster prevention cause and of the ISDR.

[Audience Questions & Answers]


Judy Jaeger: Are you familiar with the Smokey the Bear campaign targeted toward young children?

Nicole Appel: No, I'm not. But am very interested. I wish to add that I joined ISDR five days ago and need to catch up on a lot of issues after two years at WMO where the focus was a bit different.


Amy Sebring: Who won this year's award, Nicole?

Nicole Appel: A professional from Columbia.


Gary Scronce: Nicole, do you routinely follow up your public outreach efforts to assess their effectiveness as to number of people who learned, what level of learning, etc.? One of the programs I am working with is addressing this issue now. It is not apparent that some of the vehicles traditionally used, like information calendars, have been effective, at least not as much as the program would like.

Nicole Appel: What other vehicles are suggested?

Gary Scronce: Mass media campaigns for one.

Nicole Appel: Ok.

Gary Scronce: Television particularly and increased newspaper usage.


David Crews: Has it been determined where ISDR will be placed in the UN Organizational Structure and will ISDR be taking on response roles in Global Emergencies/Disasters as well as Mitigation?

Nicole Appel: The ISDR is an independent structure whose Director reports to the Secretary General through the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs; no response role played.


Avagene Moore: Nicole, do you expect to continue with a "national committee" approach, and if so, how will that work?

Nicole Appel: Yes, we are very much focusing on continuing but widening the "membership basis" of the National Committees which will be called National Platforms. By widening, I mean addressing a wider range of sectors especially in the countries less active recently in the establishment of these platforms.


Amy Sebring: Nicole, when do you expect you will know what next year's theme will be, and how will you get the word out?

Nicole Appel: I will spend the next 6 to 8 weeks working on a complete analysis of where we stand here and expect the next theme to be decided by late November /early December.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, I have been told that organizations need time to prepare.


David Butler: To address you question about wildfire mitigation Nicole, you are correct that fire prevention alone is a too-simple solution to the problem of wildfire. It can lead to a dangerous buildup of fuel (old trees, dense forest, underbrush, etc.). I don't want to promote my own center's work too much, but there is a very good cover article in the September Natural Hazards Observer focusing on the New Mexico wildfires of last May. The author (Nan Johnson) points our [correctly] that a long-term mitigation strategy *including* controlled fire could save millions of dollars.

Nicole Appel: May I have a copy, please?

David Butler: See <http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/o/o.html> for a Web version of the article.

Nicole Appel: Thanks.


Avagene Moore: Are the National Platforms the primary mechanisms for reporting of activities in support of disaster reduction? Are there activities beyond an established platform that are reported to the ISDR? Or do you monitor in some fashion?

Nicole Appel: We try to use the National Platforms as the main elements at the national level but there are many other mechanisms through which info may get channeled both ways take the regional approach through CRID, for example. There are also regional organizations such as ADPC or SOPAC.


Judy Jaeger: In your educational approach, do you assume that wild fires are caused by human error, or usually caused by natural hazards (such as drought or lightning?)

Nicole Appel: Both are included.


David Crews: Has a new ISDR Director been appointed yet?

Nicole Appel: No, but the process is on-going. There is a brilliant man acting as Director at the moment. His name is Dennis Benn who has served as UNDP resident representative and is an academic too. We are lucky to have him in the transition phase.


Amy Sebring: Nicole, does ISDR have or expect to have a working partnership with the World Bank's ProVention initiative? If so, how will that work?

Nicole Appel: Over the last two days we hosted the second Inter-Agency Task Force meeting at which the World Bank was present and active. One of the discussion points was the setting up of a special working group on forest fires in which the World Bank and UNDP would be the main elements. We have been in close touch with the Provention initiative for some time. So the answer is that we are already in a working partnership with them.

Amy Sebring: Thank you.


Gary Scronce: I wanted to clarify the intent of earlier question. I was wondering if ISDR might have developed some hard data on the impact to be expected from various types of disaster outreach/education campaigns that could be utilized by the general Emergency Management community? It seems little good information of this type is publicly available for all of us to utilize.

Nicole Appel: We have a series of analytical reports on past initiatives which include a campaign focused on women and children in 1995. Would you be interested in this type of information?

Gary Scronce: Yes, I would.

Nicole Appel: There is also data available on this subject through our regional Information center (CRID) in Costa Rica where studies on public awareness campaigns have been published. My email is <[email protected]>, please send me a message on this.

Gary Scronce: Thank you.


David Butler: Do you anticipate hosting more Internet conferences? - I thought they were one of the major successes of the IDNDR but at the same time I think they could be improved based on that experience and the experience of the EIIP.

Nicole Appel: Yes, very much so. I would like to revamp and improve the Website in such a way that live chats may be added to the more formal structure of the conference presentations. And have, for example, a live kids' corner as well as a regular chat session facility available. Maybe EIIP and ISDR could link up somehow??

Amy Sebring: I am sure we would be happy to discuss it, Nicole.


Avagene Moore: Nicole, it seems to me that the folks in Costa Rica via CRID have done a fabulous job of getting information out and networking. Is there anything we (collectively and individually) can do to improve U.S. participation in the ISDR campaigns?

Nicole Appel: I think what can be done on the US side as far as participation is concerned is primarily linked to a networking effort which needs to come from us. Fora like yours are of great help and if you agree, I will spend time regularly here to update our contact lists, your contacts can be very useful as a start.


Amy Sebring: You asked for suggestions, Nicole, and I would strongly recommend that ISDR set up a mailing list to communicate activities with interested persons. Do you have any plans in that regard?

Nicole Appel: There is already a mailing list in place. It needs to be checked and updated as I was saying earlier, as part of an initial analytical effort.

Amy Sebring: How does one get on the mailing list, Nicole? There does not seem to be a sign up place on your site.

Nicole Appel: Initially, please send your names and contact numbers to me, <[email protected]> As a second step, we'll add this to the Website very quickly.

Final Question:

Kathleen Gohn: As part of our effort at the USGS to raise the general public awareness of natural disasters, our Director has issued a statement for World Disaster Reduction Day which is posted on our Website and e-mailed to our list-servers. It's fairly general, rather than focused on wildfires, but it's important to keep the message out in the public eye that people can do things to help themselves.

Amy Sebring: Kathleen, if you have the link please put it in.

Kathleen Gohn: Site is at <http://www.usgs.gov>.

Nicole Appel: Excellent, thanks!


Amy Sebring: Thank you very much for being with us today, Nicole, and best wishes for success in your new job. Can you stand by a moment while we take care of some announcements?

Nicole Appel: Sure, thank you to you!

Amy Sebring: For any first-timers, we will have a text transcript posted later this afternoon, which you will be able to access from the Transcripts link on our homepage. Then next Monday we will have a reformatted transcript in both html and in Word for download.

We received a new pledge this past week from Fred Baehl in Wood Buffalo, Canada and here with us today! < //bell http://www.emforum.org/pledge.wav> Thanks Fred!

Avagene, can you tell us a little more about next week's session please?

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. Nicole, this has been a real pleasure. Thanks for the effort on our behalf. Participants, please take an active interest in ISDR activities around the world as work continues.

Next week, Wednesday October 18, 12:00 Noon EDT, Rocky Lopes will be here to discuss the Masters of Disasters Curriculum. This program is making headway across the country in our community school systems.

The American Red Cross has developed a curriculum that teaches students about disaster safety and helps teachers meet their required objectives as well! The Masters of Disaster curriculum integrates disaster safety instruction into the regular core subjects such as language arts, math, science, and social studies.

This is not additional material for teachers to teach. It supplements existing subjects and lessons while providing students with information to help them prepare for disasters and stay safe during and after a disaster in their home, school, or community. This is an exciting curriculum for our nation's schools. Make plans to be here for the session to learn more about the project and its current status. That's all for now, Amy. Back to you.

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Ava. Thanks to all our participants today. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are welcome to remain for informal discussion. You no longer need to use question marks. Please help me thank Nicole for a fine job.