Toads can predict earthquakes and ants ignore them

According to an article on the BBC website  common toads appear to be able to sense an impending earthquake and will flee their colony days before the seismic activity strikes. The evidence comes from a population of toads which left their breeding colony three days before an earthquake that struck L’Aquila in Italy in 2009. How toads sensed the quake is unclear, but most breeding pairs and males fled. Hmmmm I’m sure Queensland would give us a few for free…  yes, the worst idea yet.

My real reason for starting with this is to get your attention, so now I have it please bear with me.  Getting attention, keeping it, advocating, giving a voice, demonstrating accountability, managing expectations and building trust – in the global scene, amongst those in the biz, this is called bencom – beneficiary communications, while the term is not right for the New Zealand context I would suggest the concept is hugely powerful.  It is the kind of communications that provides an enabling environment for effective leadership.

It sits somewhere between traditional communications and community development and recognises that people affected by disaster retain and respond to information differently (please see Australian Red Cross Communication in Recovery book and training course). To be effective, communication in recovery has to be two-way – this is generally where it falls down. Traditional comms people know how to get the information out and community development people know how to get the information in but never the twain shall meet…

I have been reminded of the importance of this type of communication a number of times on my trip. The team at the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery talked about the power of communications in creating an environment for effective leadership, the master class in Milan had a session on it, but it was in L’Aquila that I was most strongly reminded of its importance.  I saw hundreds of sets of keys (to the damaged homes and building in L’Aquila) hanging on a fence, the suicide doll, the beautiful knitted blankets draped around town (old saying, putting a cloth on it helps you move on) and the post-it memory wall that I was reminded of the importance of giving people the space to express their feelings, ideas, and recovery needs and to be heard by those in decision making roles (see photos below). I suspect this will determine how success is perceived more than the number of buildings deconstructed or consents issued. Perhaps it is like a health episode, people remember how they were treated rather than the treatment itself?

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