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The effects of disasters and disasters often lead to complex and catastrophic situations. Apart from the magnitude and severity of accidents, part of its effects is due to the type of organization, management and performance of communities. Effective risk communication, providing accurate information and analyzing potential risks can play an important role in preventing, reducing the effects of disasters and making safe decisions.
in disasters & emergencies
Risk communication
Communication for Health (WHO)
Communication is an important component in managing any
infectious disease outbreak, and is essential in the event of an
epidemic or pandemic.
Accurate and timely information at all levels is critical in order to:
minimize unwanted and unforeseen social disruption and economic
maximize the effective outcome of the response.
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What is Risk Communication?
Under the IHR, risk communication for public health emergencies
includes the range of communication capacities required through the
preparedness, response and recovery phases of a serious public health
event to encourage informed decision making, positive behavior
change and the maintenance of trust.
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Risk Communication
An interactive process of exchange of information and opinion among
individuals, groups, and institutions; often involves multiple
messages about the nature of risk or expressing concerns, opinions,
or reac- tions to risk messages or to legal and institutional
arrangements for risk management.
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Crisis + heightened public emotions + limited access to facts
+ rumor, gossip, speculation, assumption, and inference =
an unstable information environment.
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Purpose risk communication
Emergency risk communication can help people cope, make
risk/benefit decisions, and begin to return their lives to normal.
Attempt to provide the public with information to make the best
possible decisions within nearly impossible time constraints and to
accept the imperfect nature of choice.
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Why risk communication?
To achieve a common understanding of risk
To develop credible regulations
To inform interested parties about an issue which is submitted to a decision making
To lead to better understanding about the scientific process
To allow to the decision makers to take better decisions, enhancing trust and confidence in
the regulatory agencies.
To promote the participation and appropriate involvement of all interested parties
Strengthen the working relationships among participants
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What is risk communication?
Risk Communication uses a mix of communication and engagement strategies and tactics, including
but not limited to:
media communications
social media
mass awareness campaigns
health promotion
stakeholder engagement
social mobilization
community engagement
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Three Rules for Risk Communication
Tell people that you have determined they need to know
Tell them what they must know so that they can understand and
feel that they understand the info
Add qualifiers to prepare them for what you are not telling them
(until more info becomes available)
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Risk Communication Guidelines
Accept and involve public as a legitimate partner
Plan carefully and evaluate performance
listen to your audience
Be honest, frank and open
Coordinate and collaborate with other credible sources
Meet the needs of the media
Speak clearly and with compassion
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Risk communication
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risk Communication Life Cycle
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Effective Risk Communication
Spreads accurate information, informing people of potential danger
Emphasizes concerns of risk
Encourages proper risk mitigation
Improves general safety
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Need to consider
The message (information)
The source (origination point of message)
The communicator
The channel (path)
Receiver (termination point)
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The message
Who is the target audience?
How can they be reached?
What level of education do they have?
What do you need to tell them?
What is the risk
Effects of potential risk
How potential situation canbe prevented
How to respond in the event
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The source (origination point of message)
All sources are not equal (by decreasing trustworthiness):
Family Doctor
University researcher
Local government
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The communicator
Ensure the spokespersons are trained in risk
Trustworthiness (must be earned)
Showing emotion
Good speaker
Eye contact
Identify with audience
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Channel or Medium
Very important to choose the correct one for your target
Entire messages can be missed if wrong medium is chosen
Radio messages in English for French audience, etc
Decide what communication channels will be used:
Print: posters, billboards, direct mail
Electronic: e-mail, web
Broadcast: radio, television
Traditional: loud speakers
Novel: social media, theatre
Personal communication: community health workers...
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Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) is a recognized field of communication study that
differs from health-risk communication and risk communication.
It is used in disaster communication and combines elements of the other types of risk communication,
but has emerged as a new field of communication recognized by academia.
Risk communication is an integral part of any public health response.
The importance of effective and timely communication is particularly high during an emergency,
where the situation is rapidly evolving and the need for information is particularly high
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Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication
CERC balances the urgency of disaster communication with the need to rapidly communicate
risks and benefits to stakeholders and the public in an evolving situation.
CERC is a strategy used by experts to provide information to allow individuals, stakeholders, or
an entire community to make the best possible decisions about their well-being within
challenging time constraints.
It also assists people with accepting the imperfect nature of choices during a crisis.
CERC differs from risk communication in that a decision must be made within a narrow time
constraint, the decision may be irreversible, the outcome of the decision may be uncertain, and
the decision may need to be made with imperfect or incomplete information
CERC represents an expert opinion provided with the goal that it benefits its receivers and
advances a behaviour or an action that allows for rapid and efficient recovery from the event.
CERC integrates elements of all of the previously defined fields of communication and
emphasizes each more or less depending on the type of disaster and the stage of the disaster
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Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication
Communicator: Expert who is a post-event participant invested in the outcome
Time Pressure: Urgent and unexpected
Message Purpose: Explain, persuade, and empower decision making
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An integrated model for emergency risk communication
principles for risk communication
1. Create and maintain trust
2. Acknowledge and communicate even in uncertainty
3. Coordinate
4. Be transparent & fast with the first and all communications
5. Be proactive in public communication
6. Involve and engage those affected
7. Use integrated approaches
8. Build national capacity, support national ownership
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Create and maintain trust
Building and maintaining TRUST is fundamental
With TRUST, the public health advice given during an emergency will be taken
Trust in individuals and organizations is by far the greatest factor in
communicating risk
It is either strengthened or weakened every time officials and experts speak or
make announcements
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Actions for Building and Maintaining Trust
1.Be open, honest, transparent
2.Be consistent
3.Communicate first and frequently
4.State what you know, what you don't know and what you are doing about it
5.Show empathy
6.Address concerns
7.Follow up
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In emergencies, risk communication occurs in a complex, shifting environment
where information is incomplete
Risk communication must recognize that information and advice can shift as the
emergency evolves
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Proactive internal communication and
coordination with partners before, during and
after an emergency is crucial to ensure effective,
consistent and trustworthy risk communication
that addresses both information and public
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Transparency & speed
During emergencies, communication related activities has to be fast, frequent and
First announcement frames the risk and addresses concerns
Communication must include what is known and what is not yet known
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Proactive communication
All public communication, including media outreach and via other preferred
channels to the affected populations and stakeholders (even with incomplete info)
prevents rumours, misinformation while demonstrating transparency and sincerity
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Involvement & engagement
Community engagement is not an option. Communities
must be at the heart of any health emergency response
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National capacity strengthening
Strengthening policies, plans, trained personnel,
platforms, processes, etc. of key stakeholders,
including government, NGOs, civil society,
journalists and other key national and
international players is key to preparedness for
effective risk communication for health
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The right spokesperson
at the right time
with the right message
can save lives
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Role of the Spokesperson
communicate well, telling their stories
communicate credibly, by preserving a good
relate to different audiences and engage
interact with the media
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Role of the Spokesperson
Acknowledge fears. Do not tell people they should not be afraid. Fear may be a reasonable
reaction. One effective technique for calming fears is for spokespersons to share a reason
why they are not afraid (based on expert knowledge) and let people conclude for
themselves why these experts are less concerned. Never follow with so dont be afraid.
Express wishes. I wish we knew more.” “I wish our answers were more definitive.An
Iwishphrase expresses empathy.
Give people things to do. Offer a range of responses a minimum response, a maximum
response, and a recommended middle response. For example: Dont drink the tap water;
buy bottled water or boil the tap water.
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Role of the Spokesperson
Acknowledge the shared misery. Some people will be less frightened than they are
miserable, feeling hopeless and defeated. Acknowledge the misery of a catastrophic event,
then help move people toward hope for the future through the actions of the organization
and through actions that they can also take.
Give anticipatory guidance. If officials are aware of future negative outcomes, they should
let people know what to expect (e.g., side effects of antibiotics). If it is going to be bad, tell
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Five Communication Failures that Inhibit
Operational Success
Mixed messages from multiple experts
Information released late
Paternalistic attitudes
Not countering rumors and myths in real-time
Public power struggles and confusion
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Barriers communication
Access to information
Private companies or governments may choose to withhold information from each
other or the public, making it difficult to conduct research and reach informed
Population doesnt have a strong scientific background
Messages may contain technical terms that are confusing
Messages often dont explain if/how these risks will affect people
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Barriers communication
Mass Media
Reporters may not accurately convey risk messages accurately due to lack of
expertise in the hazard or the risk
Media outlets may choose what information is necessary
Societal Characteristics
Cultural factors (language differences, religious beliefs/laws, etc.) must be
considered when crafting effective messages
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ERC policy
1.The rights of individuals and collective right (to information, participation, etc.)
2.The nature of hazards, community, and the vulnerability in the geographical area/s covered
by the policy
3.Existing and related policies including overall emergency preparedness and response policies,
development, health and environmental policy, etc.
4.Existing organizational and related policies
5.Resource limitations
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ERC policy
6.The need to be monitored and evaluated, and revised as needed
7.Accepted emergency management concepts, including
a.The comprehensive and systems approaches
b.All-hazards approach
c.The multi-sector, multi-stakeholder approach
d.Incorporating emergency preparedness into developmental planning
e.Community participation
f.Building on existing capacities
8.Public attitudes and perception
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The risk communication strategy and its components are essential parts of national risk
management plans.
The most important aspects of the risk communication strategy are prepared in advance
of a public health emergency.
Beginning preparations at the time of an emergency is tantamount to missing
opportunities to control it.
During the preparation stage, it is vital to ensure fluid internal and inter-institutional
coordination for the appropriate flow of information and communication.
The risk communication strategy is not a poster, spot or campaign
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Centre for risk communication -
PAHO PED documents...
WHO Food safety -
Janmaimool P, Watanabe T. Evaluating determinants of environmental risk
perception for risk management in contaminated sites. Int J Environ Res Public
Health. 2014 Jun 16;11(6):6291-313. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110606291. PMID:
24937530; PMCID: PMC4078580
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.