The lead article in the latest issue of International Journal of Strategic Communication (Volume 2, Issue 2 2008) is a timely one, though not timely enough given recent disaster in Myanmar. The article, Disaster Communication: Lessons from Indonesia, authored by Elizabeth K. Dougall, J. Suzanne Horsley, and Chadd McLisky, is available online from the homepage.
This article explores public disaster communication in the context of five separate disasters in Indonesia, including acts of terrorism in Bali and Jakarta and the 2004 tsunami. The concept of high reliability organizations (HRO), which explains how highly complex organizations function in unpredictable and dangerous circumstances, is applied here to explore how one public relations firm under contract to several Indonesian government departments handled these complex disaster communication challenges in partnership with its clients. Propositions about the role of HRO characteristics in permitting or preventing effective disaster communication are advanced.