From your reading, what is an example of how psychological distress either WAS mitigated or COULD HAVE been better mitigated via the use of effective risk communication from public officials?
One good example of how psychological distress could have been better mitigated by using effective risk communication from public officials is the CDC spokesmen’s response to the Anthrax. The response involved inconvenience messages, and the tremendous number of spokespersons of the CDC is also questionable. A message control began almost immediately when Secretary Tommy Thompson, responsible for the CDC as part of his Cabinet assignment, inferred Stevens’ death was his fault by publicly speculating that Stevens, an avid outdoorsman, “apparently drank from a stream while in North Carolina, a state known for hog farming and its associated waste.” Seven days later, CDC erroneously reported, “This appears to be a local and isolated exposure focused in one building” . The very next day, a CDC press release announced that Erin O’Connor, working in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza, had developed cutaneous Anthrax after opening a letter laced with anthrax spores. Also, public officials’ telebriefings and corresponding print media coverage of the anthrax crisis reveal the use of multiple spokespersons and poor message control. This resulted in a seemingly fragmented CDC message and apparent loss of CDC credibility.
Name a success of risk communication, if you can locate one, and alternatively, name a failure of effective risk communication (and why it was deemed a failure).
The communication of radiological accidents after the occurrence of a nuclear disaster in 1979 at TMI was a failure of effective risk communication from whereby the report to the government from the nuclear industry was delayed. This caused fear and confusion among the public leading to a lot of evacuations than the issued official advisory on evacuation. The nuclear accident was also initially underestimated.
What lessons about effective risk communication will you carry forward in your career in emergency management?
I believe that developing a plan for risk and emergency communication is a must and will help me as an emergency manager to ensure establishing clear communication lines with other organizations, leaders, and communicators. Also, I believe it is necessary to collaborate with public officials.
Please note any other lessons that you would want to make sure to share with current and future colleagues
One thing I would share is that it is necessary to dispel rumors quickly. If left unaddressed, rumors have the potential to weaken trust in official entities and decrease the effectiveness of response measures taken by people. Take wearing the mask as an example. A lesson learned from the current Pandemic COVID 19 is how many people around the world no longer wanted to wear masks and concluded that the virus is fake. Many people thought that if the virus was real, why would the politicians themselves not wear masks. On the other flip of the coin, the CDC responded well to defeat against rumors on how the virus spread. Some people thought the infection could spread via food, mail packages, and mosquito bites.
Eichelberger, L. (2007). SARS and New York’s Chinatown: The politics of risk and blame during an epidemic of fear. Social Science & Medicine 65. 1284–1295. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.04.022
O’Neill, K. Calia, J. Chess, C. Clarke, L. (2007). Miscommunication during the Anthrax attacks: How events reveal organizational failures. Human Ecology Review. (14). 2. 119-129.
In 2003, following the surfacing of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), several propaganda and stories spread all over the Asian regions in the United States, particularly within the state of New York. Different interpretations were made with the news media asserting that this was mainly a domestic pandemic, even as a small number of individuals in the entire nation had been infected (Eichelberger, 2007). The Asian regions were discerned as a site of risk and contagion. However, it is vital for a public leader to oppose the rumors immediately to avert tension amongst society. The psychological distress at this pandemic could have been mitigated better if there were a countrywide response from the officials of the local government, the regional administration, and the state officials. People in such a pandemic do not want to decide on the best message to tag along. They need reliable and simple advice from several sources. Consequently, the countrywide response officials could have teamed up with other allies counting the new media to make sure that the correct message was dispersed to the general public immediately.
Regarding the West African pandemic, I believe that there is a lot to discover. In New Jersey, the Anthrax attack is mainly an ideal example of futile risk communication. In 2001 during the attack, according to O’Neill et al. (2007), there was a very intricate connection between the pertinent authorities. Although the attack was executed via a letter, information to the general public was conveyed after two weeks. Actually, hospitals that stumbled upon the cases of infection did not alert the local officials of health for mobilization.
In the contemporary world of information, it is vital to circulate information immediately to counteract the psychological distress that might surface from public tension. This indicates that there ought to be a reliable message when there is a crisis. Therefore, I have noted that to have a triumphant risk communication, and it is crucial to organize with all important stakeholders and make sure that risk communication is accessible to the public. However, this does not necessarily mean telling the general public to relax and not to be anxious, but rather appealing to them, in the management progress, and constantly being the guide. In simple words, nothing is significant in emergency management than a clear and solid communication arrangement. Lack of solid plan, a disaster can be disadvantageous to the public, akin to the CDC cases, throughout an anthrax attack. Today, CDC has been criticized and blamed owing to the lack of effectual risk management communication.
Eichelberger, L. (2007). SARS and New York’s Chinatown: the politics of risk and blame during an epidemic of fear. Social Science & Medicine, 65(6), 1284-1295.
O’Neill, K. M., Calia, J. M., Chess, C., & Clarke, L. (2007). Miscommunication during the anthrax attacks: How events reveal organizational failures. Human Ecology Review, 119-129.
Schiavo, R. (2014). Risk communication: Ebola and beyond.
The SARS epidemic was horrific. Not only in terms of what it did to people physically, but how it turned people against an entire culture. This could have been mitigated with more appropriate risk communication from the very start, early on, before people got mis guided beliefs that ruined an entire downtown area of New York City. Health stigmas can kill people- they need controlled and clearly identified, maintained and updated to keep the health and well being of those at the center up and out of harms way.
A success of risk communication would certainly have to be the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System- since being implemented in has saved millions of lives and millions more in lost revenue for the people who benefit from it every day.
A failure is probably the most poignant one we all know of- the poor handling of Hurricane Katrina. The mayor saying the levees are holding whilst a helicopter flies overhead showing the 9thward under water and the levees completely breached and broken.
What lessons will I carry forward? I could go on for hours but the primary two are be honest and be timely- don’t lie to people as it will hurt when they find out and demolish the trust, if any, you had. As well, to be timely is to save lives. You cannot always have all the information, but you need to be able to make decisions with the best information you have at the time you have it. You should not push to the 11thhour to see if something changes, it could cost you everything- weighing cost benefits is not an easy job for anyone.
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