Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Grandmas more reliable than information technologies

When reports came in that Simeulue Island had largely been spared from the Dec 26th earthquake and tsunami despite its proximity to the epicenter, Indonesian media supposed the people living there survived because the wave didn’t have time to gain strength.


It turns out the wave hit those communities hard, but only seven people died. According to Associated Press, the people of Simeulue were the only one to get a warning in time. While modern, up-to-the-minute information networks worldwide failed to act in time to save lives, the people of Simeulue relied on a far more effective system: their grandparents.


Unlike hundreds of thousands of others who thought the worst was over when the shuddering stopped, the islanders remembered their grandparents’ warnings and fled to higher ground in fear of giant waves known locally as "semong," AP reports. The last tsunami to hit the island was in 1907.


Three PR lessons from this:

  1. In some societies, oral tradition is still a critical element of culture and the most credible source influencing people’s behaviour.
  2. In a crisis, getting the right information into the right hands is your no. 1 priority.
  3. Listen to Grandma!

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