edmg 330 wk

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W5: Public Interaction, Safety, and Notification EDMG 330

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A close-up of a risk communication  Description automatically generated

· This week's readings focus on communication with the public. The readings addressed two aspects of communication that are critical when dealing with the public and disaster response. These are particularly important when dealing with hazardous materials incidents because of the potential human health effects.  For this week's discussion,  list the critical aspects of communication and further discuss:

· What can you do to adjust for them? 

· How can they hurt or help your operation? 

· On whom you would most heavily rely (as the IC) to help you with public communication?


One of the most difficult tasks when it comes to major disasters and hazards is effective, clear, and quick information and communication to the public. There is no one answer on the best way to communicate hazardous conditions and instructions to the public. Every community has its own ways that work best for that community. This is why it is sometimes challenging for responders and public officials to get information out to the public. There are two aspects of communication that are critical when it comes to disaster response and the public, not just in hazardous materials incidents, but any incidents or disasters. Risk communication and Crisis communication. Risk communication mainly involves conveying a potential risk to the public. Risk can be subjective in terms of what is a risk to a community and what is not. This can lead to slow and unresponsive efforts from local communities. Crisis communication refers to the quick and immediate actions needed to be taken by the community and involves spreading as much information about the impending hazard as quickly as possible. This typically elicits a more panicked and rushed response from the community. A good example would be a tornado warning and advising the community to take immediate shelter. 

There are 5 critical aspects involved in communicating with the public. These 5 broken down and explained are:

Communication at the best of times is challenging, communications surrounding events that can alter our lives suddenly and traumatically are even more so. In the START report, we find that there are two ways to categorize this communication:

1. risk communication which mostly focuses on imparting information prior to an event and during the recovery phase and

2. crisis communication which has the same goal immediately prior to and during an event (2012).


Risk and Crisis communication may be received differently based on a wide range of factors including but not limited to:

1. The public’s trust or lack of said trust in those delivering the message. This can be due to a previous incident or the community's lack of confidence in those delivering the message.

2. The public’s emotional response, like panic or choosing to ignore the hazard, scale or size of the event, and nature of the event.

3. The public’s direct location in regards to where the risk/event has or will occur

4. Perceptions of severity and susceptibility based on where the public is

5. The reputation of those providing the information have with the community from past hazards or disasters. Crying wolf a lot by those delivering the message can negatively effect how the public responds.

With any emergency people want to know information. There is a fine line from being informed, and misinformed.  We have seen over the years with Covid, Brush fires, Hazardous materials, Mass shootings. That you need to get correct information out to the people, and you must instill confidence in the public that the situation is under control and measures are in place for the safety of the community.  Having a trained Public Information Officer (PIO) that will deliver your message to the public is key. They will deliver mission information that will fulfill the media and local residence concerns.  As discussed in this week’s readings if the public has trust in your message, you decrease the emotional response. When you give a direct area of concerns and communicate that severity, or lack of of severity the public will gain confidence in your response. A great communication tool has been with different social media platforms getting information quickly, without having to have a full-blown press conference. The negative side with social media is anyone can post pictures or information and it can be inaccurate or increase the fear and anxiety in people.   As the Incident Commander you must communicate the only information leaving the incident will be done through the PIO. That means telling all crews no social media posts on the incident without approval from the PIO. Most departments have a social media policy, and it can lead to discipline if done on duty.   As the Incident Commander communicating a risk vs crisis is a something that needs to be discussed. One is more of a potential and awareness ,and one is more of imminent or direct issue.  Be prepared when these topics are brought up that you have a plan for those impacted and those not directly impacted it will decrease anxiety of the unknown.   The five factors I covered above in the message, but I’ll list here. 


· The public’s trust or lack of trust.

· The public emotional response which could lead to fear, anger etc. depending on the actual threat. 

· The publics direct proximity to the event.

· Perception of severity.

· The reputation of those providing information with the public.