One of SCIRT's objectives was to "be proactive and communicate face-to-face where possible". It also aimed to be "approachable". These objectives were regularly measured in community surveys.
Door-knocking was a successful way to meet these objectives and encourage positive contact between SCIRT and the community. It was particularly important in a post-disaster environment where people were coping with many stressors and their ability to process information was impaired. It was also important in communities where written communication was less effective.
While not necessary for all projects and communities, it was the preferred method of contact for high-impact projects, when, for example, arrangements for special access needed to be discussed.
The door-knocking procedure recommended the Communication Team work in pairs for safety, or be accompanied by an engineering/construction colleague to help with technical questions. Dressed in SCIRT-branded apparel, they visited residents, businesses, schools etc. This could be prior to the start of the project, to provide updates during the work or to advise when a project ended.
The benefits were:
- The affected community was provided with a real person's name and face, providing comfort and reassurance to build trust and acceptance.
- The Communication Team learnt more about the affected community and any particular needs, such as key delivery times for businesses or important medical issues requiring 24/7 access for residents.
- The community was given an opportunity to ask about the work to better understand it. This helped build tolerance and patience.
Learning about a community during these visits could help pre-empt any issues by proactively addressing them. Work methods and timings could be adjusted in response to particular needs.
The positive feedback SCIRT received about this empathetic approach was a critical part of building community tolerance to help projects stay on schedule.