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Tips: Have a Debris Removal Public Communications Plan


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Large debris and white goods on the curb outside a home damaged in Hurricane Sandy.

Debris waits to be picked up outside of a home on Fire Island, N.Y., after Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of FEMA.

A communication plan is an important but often overlooked element of a community’s debris management plan. Localities can use these tips to expedite the debris removal process by sending quick and effective messages to the public.

Identify and develop alternative outreach channels.

  • Normal channels of communication may be unavailable at the time you need to communicate with residents about debris removal. Have pre-scripted social media and radio announcements, and be prepared to distribute flyers at shelters or go door-to-door to distribute information if necessary.

Be proactive about debris removal information management.

  • Place an emphasis on actions the public can take to expedite the cleanup process. Timely removal of debris from resident’s front yards can signal that positive restorations are underway. Actions residents can take to expedite the process can include:
    • Separate burnable and non-burnable debris
    • Segregate household hazardous waste (HHW)
    • Place debris at the curbside
    • Keep debris piles away from fire hydrants, valves, etc.
    • Report locations of illegal dump sites or incidents of illegal dumping
    • Segregate recyclable materials — vegetative debris, building materials, appliances, hazardous materials, etc.
    • Empty all refrigerators and freezers and remove the doors
    • Don’t separate recyclable waste in plastic garbage bags

Develop debris removal messaging and infographics pre-incident.

  • Have pre-written public information notices that outline the debris removal process for residents – how they should separate material, what material can be picked up, where and when they should put it out.
  • Infographics are also a useful tool for displaying this information in a visual, easy-to-read and engaging format.
  • Make sure to include contact information for debris management questions on all messages distributed to the public.
An illustrated debris removal inforgaphic for residents showing how to separate debris after a natural disaster.

Localities can provide this or a similar infographic on debris removal to residents. Published with permission of the Tuscaloosa News.

 

Implement and distribute a debris removal schedule.

  • Localities should keep the public informed on when their debris will be picked up. Use social media and local news outlets to notify residents of the schedule and keep them updated on any changes or delays.
  • Don’t forget to keep residents updated on the locations and timeline for public debris drop-off.
  • Keep residents up-to-date on when regular garbage collection will resume, and how they should manage regular household trash, recycling and yard waste during this phase of recovery.
  • Be honest and set clear expectations about the debris removal timeline; if you’re unsure of when debris in certain areas will be picked up, provide residents with a range of times or let them know the timeline is still pending.

Be prepared for frequently asked questions.

  • Consider making an FAQ post on social media or distributing flyers to answer common questions. FAQs on debris removal often include:
    • What is the pickup system?
    • When will the contractor/clean-up crew be in my area?
    • Who are the contractors/clean-up crews and how can I contact them?
    • Should I separate the different debris materials and how?
    • How do I handle HHW?
    • Do I have to pay? If yes, what if I cannot pay?
    • What if I am elderly?
    • What if I miss the initial (or only) pickup?
    • Do I have to cut up small yard debris?

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