Step 8: Publicize the National Drought Management Policy and Preparedness Plans and Build Public Awareness and Consensus
If there has been good communication with the public throughout the process of establishing a drought policy and plan, there may already be an improved awareness of goals of the drought policy, the rationale for policy implementation, and the drought planning process by the time the policy is ready to be implemented. The public information specialists that are engaged in this process at the commission level and at the state level are vital in this regard. Throughout the policy and planning development process, it is imperative for local and national media to be used effectively in the dissemination of information about the process. Themes to emphasize in writing news stories during the drought policy and planning process could include:
- • How the drought policy and plan is expected to reduce impacts of drought in both the short and long term. Stories can focus on the social dimensions of drought, such as how it affects local economies and individual families; environmental consequences, such as reduced wildlife habitat; human health; and the impacts on the regional and national economy and the development process.
- • Behavioral changes that will be required to reduce drought impacts, various aspects of state drought preparedness plans, new policies associated with water allocations, and water management during the various stages of drought severity.
In subsequent years, it may be useful to do "drought policy and planning refresher" news releases at the beginning of the most drought-sensitive season, letting people know the current status of water supplies and projections regarding water availability. News releases can also focus on the various aspects of the drought policy and plan. Success stories regarding the application of the plan in various sectors or communities will help to reinforce the goals of the mitigation plan and the national policy. It may be useful to refresh people's memories ahead of time on circumstances that would lead to water use restrictions. The timing of these news releases would be associated with regular meetings of the monitoring committee at the local and national levels, pinpointing regions and/or sectors of particular concern.
During drought, the commission and state drought task forces should work with public information professionals to keep the public well informed of the current status of water supplies, whether conditions are approaching trigger points that will lead to requests for voluntary or mandatory use restrictions, and how victims of drought can access information and assistance. Websites should be created and updated on a regular basis so the public and managers can get information directly from the task force without having to rely on mass media. Products or dissemination strategies and tools need to be available that effectively communicate information to the user community.