Communicating risk: Learning from Typhoon Haiyan

Meriwether Wilson, Raul Lejano, Joyce Melar Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


In our view, the communication of disaster risk during Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013, could have been better.

The typhoon was one of the strongest tropical storms ever to make landfall, registering category 5 on the Saffir–Simpson scale. Despite forecasts of winds of more than 300 kilometres per hour and a predicted 7-metre storm surge, the city of Tacloban was caught underprepared: thousands died from the inundation.

The storm surge was predicted in a report by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) that was sent to local agencies and communities. Unfortunately, it was simply a line at the end of a routine weather bulletin. It was apparently not otherwise highlighted, elaborated on or, in our opinion, in any way explained in order to transmit its urgency to key agencies and the public.

After interviewing agency personnel, we concluded that a well-intended adherence to routine and pro forma communication could have been at play. Feedback loops for conveying tacit information (for example, the implications of modelling outputs) seem to have been inadequate.

PAGASA's Tacloban team stayed in its single-storey coastal office, which was demolished by the storm surge, claiming a team member's life.

Many other factors influenced the impact of Haiyan, but this example indicates that routines need to adapt to deal with extreme events that lie beyond personal and institutional memory.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2015


  • coastal
  • typhoon
  • disaster
  • risk
  • preparedness


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