Transmitting information in disaster situations

Mental health professionals

Information is very important to survivors who have been separated from their families and close relatives who don’t know if they are alive or dead. It’s more so when the disaster has violent or uncertain aspects.


What follows are some tips for transmitting information during the acute phase of a disaster. However, how that information is communicated will depend on the nature of the disaster and the situation of confirming the safety of those missing.



〇Most survivors want to know what happened, where their family members and close relatives are, and if they are safe. They also want to know what kind of relief is being provided at that moment. During the acute phase of a disaster, many people’s emotions are heightened and they are very anxious. It is important for professionals to understand what the survivors are worried about and what they hope to find out, while showing empathy in regards to their plight related sorrow and concerns.


〇Be as clear and specific as possible about what you know. You should also describe what is not yet known, what activities are underway to resolve it, and what actions will take place in the future.


〇The needs of survivors vary from one disaster to the next. Multi-agency coordination and outreach efforts are needed to accurately understand the plight of those in the most difficult situations. By doing so, they provide information and psychological support to those affected by the disaster.

(See “Disaster Outreach”)


2)Information transmission

〇It is very important to provide information transmission channels to the survivors. A route should be established at the earliest possible stage after a disaster. That way, the survivors can find out when and how to get the detailed information they are looking for.


〇In instances such as man-made disasters and terrorism, it is also important to consider the possibility of criminal or legal action and establish communication channels regarding the complexities of these procedures.


〇Information transmission channels are crucial not only for the victims of a disaster but also for relief workers. During a disaster, relief workers may also be risking their lives, get severely injured or experience loss. So it is also very important to provide accurate information to these relief workers in order to respond appropriately to the victims. It is also important that the rescuers are supported by experienced and empathetic people and systems that are familiar with the disaster situation.


〇Public agency information must be widely publicized through a various means through multiple media, the Internet and paper media.



Much of the psychological support for the acute phase of a disaster is not interventional. The purpose of support is to accept any acute reactions without judgment: if they want to talk, you listen.  If they ask questions, you respond calmly. You also respond step by step to the needs of the survivor. In this context, providing information is an important way for survivors to gain perspective on the future.

For more information, please refer to the “Psychological First Aid” page.


* Source of this page: “Loss and Grief; Disaster deaths, their implication and management”, specially provided by Dr. Beverley Raphael.