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Challenges in stakeholders self-organising to enhance disaster communication

Tanya Le Roux (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Dewald Van Niekerk (Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University – Potchefstroom Campus, Potchefstroom, South Africa)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 25 November 2019

Issue publication date: 17 February 2020




The purpose of this paper is to combine disaster risk reduction (DRR) and communication management literature to investigate the challenges and opportunities encountered when stakeholders spontaneously self-organise communication efforts during a disaster. The 2017 Knysna Fire Disaster in South Africa is used as the context.


The qualitative, exploratory research was supported by data obtained through thematic analysis of qualitative in-depth interviews and the Facebook page created by the community. Information from the disaster debrief was also included.


The findings suggest that disaster information needs to be sent every 30 s to a minute to coordinate rescue and relief efforts. The challenges for disaster management teams to manage this mammoth task and the role that the self-organising community played in assisting the communication process was found not to be recognised in disaster management policies or systems. This adversely affected the work of the disaster management team and stakeholder relationship.

Research limitations/implications

This study focussed on one disaster. Future studies could possibly compare various disaster examples to provide even greater insight into the self-organising communicative behaviour of those affected by disasters.


The research gives one of the first clear indications of the scope of disaster communication needed during a disaster. It also highlights the community’s ability to contribute to communication management during a disaster, and which is not catered for in the practice, guidelines or management systems used for disaster management.



No funding to be declared.


Le Roux, T. and Van Niekerk, D. (2020), "Challenges in stakeholders self-organising to enhance disaster communication", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 128-142.



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