Risk Communication Before and During Epidemics

Panic, in short, is rare. But official “panic panic” is common. That is, officials often imagine that the public is panicking or about to panic. And in order to allay panic, officials sometimes do exactly the wrong thing from a crisis communication perspective: They withhold information, they over-reassure, they express contempt for public fears, etc.

Panic is quite rare. What’s quite common is denial; denial is why panic is rare. We are organized such that, when we’re about to panic, we trip a circuit breaker instead and go into denial. There are good reasons for being worried about bird flu denial. There’s very little reason, in my judgment, for being worried about bird flu panic — with the possible exception of in the middle of the crisis, where that’s going to be an issue. But it’s not an issue now. So, I think that’s the first misperception.

via Risk Communication Before and During Epidemics: Peter Sandman, Transcript (09.23.2005).

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