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When Disaster Strikes: Benefits of Visual Communication

By Joel Bradbury

Wayfinding to Disaster Relief Shelter

Benefits of Visual Communication when Disaster Strikes

In 2013 the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) reported that, on average, 388 natural disasters are recorded worldwide each year. These disasters affect millions of people and kill thousands each year. In the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declares an average of 100 disasters, affecting more than 100,000 people each year.

Those affected are often uprooted from their homes and communities when a storm, flood, or other disaster damages their town. Emotions are high, and many people may be confused and unsure of what the future has in store for them. Emergency response services like FEMA, the American Red Cross, and other local agencies help to alleviate physical and emotional hardships during these times. These agencies can use visual communication to help responders diagnose injuries, create order, maintain a safe environment, and help to provide a sense of normalcy.

How Does a Disaster Affect People?

Every person who lives through a disaster is affected differently. FEMA explains that adults and adolescents understand the greater scope of loss, while young children are often overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness. Although each experience is different, people may:

  • Feel anxious about their safety and that of their loved ones
  • Experience profound sadness and grief
  • Feel hopeless

These effects can make it hard to cope with an already difficult situation, as well as make it difficult to communicate.

How Can Visual Communication Help?

In emergency situations, communicating can be one of the most difficult things to do. Survivors may be too traumatized or ill to communicate clearly. And some survivors may speak a different language than that of the first responders. These difficulties can cause communication to break down among first responders and the people in need of help, increasing feelings of anxiety, fear, frustration, and loss of control.

Help diagnose injuries: Quick and accurate diagnoses can mean the difference between life and death. Echo large-format printer and enlarger by Graphic Products enables responders to quickly create posters from standard 8.5 x 11 documents. They can create enlarged pain scales and picture sets to help people communicate nausea, dizziness, and other common symptoms by pointing rather than using verbal communication. This enables EMTs and other first responders to swiftly and accurately evaluate a patient’s condition in the treatment center.

Restore order: Visual communication can be used to help restore order in emergency situations. Echo can be used to quickly create banners and posters that communicate key locations, like where to get food, water, aid, general information, or where to go to find loved ones who may be missing. These posters and banners create a visual map of the relief area by conveying information that can be seen at great distances. As more people enter the area, they will readily see where things are and be able to get where they need to be without becoming frustrated. These posters can also provide essential health-related information, like what to do or where to go for help if someone is experiencing depression or experiencing other health-related issues.

Create a safer environment: Having access to onsite and mobile printers for banners, posters, and labels can help create a safer environment. Emergency response organizations can quickly create customized safety messages that can be easily seen throughout the camp. Information like sanitation practices and safe water practices can be clearly displayed on posters, while environmental hazards can be clearly marked, keeping people safe in an environment that can change daily.

Graphic Products offers portable printers like DuraLabel Toro that can be used to quickly create safety messages as required by the situation. Graphic Products’ line of labeling supplies includes labels that can be applied to nearly any surface without having to use sign blanks.

Help restore a sense of normalcy: Emergency situations disrupt everyday activities, whether spending time with family and friends, letting children run around and play, or attending school. During these trying times, it can be difficult to provide fun, stress-relieving activities for the family. Echo can be used to print custom images, while the enlarger can be used to scan stock images for a group coloring activity, which can help to reduce stress and distract people from the harsh situation.

Echo keeps up with a fast-paced and ever-changing environment. It requires no additional equipment or setup, while the enlarger enables responders to seamlessly convert small documents into large banners that can display essential information. The Rhino cold laminator does not need power, which enables responders to laminate documents when there is no power. The laminated documents will last when exposed to the elements and can be posted without using sign blanks.

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