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The risk communication strategy that was used by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control during the 2003 SARS outbreak is an example of how psychological distress was mitigated. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2004), mixed messages result in psychological distress because it prevents people from getting consistent and simple recommendations from multiple experts from different sources. However, the CDC prevented the occurrence of such an issue during the SARS outbreak when its solid communication plan ensured the consistency of information and improved public perception of the management of the crisis. Therefore, the management of information during the epidemic is an example of how to prevent psychological distress during emergencies.

The effective management of the communication during the terrorist attack in New York by its former mayor can be considered as the outcome of successful communication due to the level of honesty and openness that was displayed by the government official. Instead of succumbing to pressures to release the casualty figures from the incident, he was honest about it by letting the public know that he does not have the information (Eichelberger,2007). Therefore, the effectiveness of the risk communication efforts of the public officials during a crisis is dependent on the perception by the public that they received accurate information about the bad news and are prepared to handle other incidents that might occur as the event unfolds.

In this regard, the barriers and obstacles in the communities that could be escalated through negative perceptions of the handling of the crisis by members of the public could be eliminated through effective risk communication. Also, the information from the assigned readings showed that effective risk communication is the most appropriate strategy for increasing the active participation of all stakeholders, including the public and private ones. According to O’Neill, Calia, Chess, and Clarke (2007)., the need to strengthen the resilience of the overall emergency management systems that communities utilize for both human and natural disasters is dependent on the effectiveness of the processes for risk communication. In a nutshell, effective risk communication is necessary for a successful career in emergency management because of its role in increasing community participation and elimination or mitigation of barriers from all stakeholders.

As a conclusion, the critical review of the literature on effective risk communication showed that current and future emergency managers should place great attention on the development of a communication plan that identifies all the elements that are essential for increasing public support and building community resilience. Also, they should understand that communication is crucial to the acquisition of the relevant resources for the execution of all the activities that are needed to respond and recover from the incident (Schiavo, 2014). Finally, the unpredictable nature of these disasters further makes it imperative for practicing and aspiring emergency management professionals to ensure the uniformity of their messages and is not used to counter rumors or demonstrate the power struggles between all the agencies and organizations that are involved in the project.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2004). Crisis & emergency risk communication: by leaders for leaders. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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.


1. 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?

The emergence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARC) in 2003, there were numerous stories and propaganda that circulated throughout the Asian areas in the US, especially in New York (Eichelberger, 2007). News media had their interpretation about the cause of this epidemic, speculating that this was a domestic epidemic, while only a few people in the entire country had been infected. The Asian areas were marked as sites of contagion and risks. It is important for a public leader to counter the rumors in real time, to prevent tension among the community. The psychological distress at this crisis could have better been mitigated if there were a national response from the local, regional and state official. In such a crisis, people do not want to pick the best message to follow. They want a consistent and simple recommendation from multiple sources. Therefore, the national response officials could have collaborated with other partners including the new Media to ensure that the right message was disseminated to the public in real time.

2. 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).

I believe there is a lot to learn from the crisis in West Africa. The anthrax attack in New Jersey is a perfect example of a failed risk communication. During the attack in 2001, there was a very complex interaction between the relevant authorities (O’Neill et al., 2007). Even though the attack was perpetrated through a letter; information to the public was released more than two weeks later. In fact, hospitals that encountered cases of infection did not notify the local health officials for mobilization.

3. What lessons about effective risk communication will you carry forward in your career in emergency management?

In today’s information age, it is essential to disseminate information in real time to counter the psychological distress that may emerge from public tension. This means that there should be a consistent message when there is an outbreak. Thus, I have learned that to have a successful risk communication; it is important to coordinate with all stakeholders and ensure that the risk message is available to the public. This does not mean telling the public not to worry, but rather engaging them in the progress of management and always being the lead. In other words, nothing is important in emergency management than a solid communication plan. If there is no solid plan, a disaster could be detrimental to the public, like was the cases of CDC, during an anthrax attack. Due to lack of effective risk management, CDC has been blamed and criticized ever since the incident.


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.


Disaster occurs unknowingly and affects many people at ago. According to Ripley (2009), traditionally disaster was anything that caused loss of life or big loses to the properties. I selected reading of a case involving Odwalla Foods E-coli outbreak that happened in 1996, which was handled expertly by the company. Washington state health officials officially lined a string of E. coli contamination cases to Odwalla’s apple juice. The contamination had caused the death of one child and hospitalization of more than sixty people. The leadership of the company promptly responded by accepting the blame for the E.coli contamination, made a public apology, and assured the masses that the situation would be handled effectively. Also, Odwalla paid the medical costs of all the people affected by their products. They recalled all their products, which had a juice of any kind which cost them over six million dollars. The company maintained regular communication with the public informing them of the new safety standards through newspaper ads, press briefings, and their official website. In the end, the company managed to survive the crisis and was acquired by the Coca Cola Company.

One of the most notable successful risk communication cases is Apple’s legal struggle with the United States (US) federal government in 2016. The federal government approached the company requesting them to help investigators hack an iPhone belonging to a Syed Farook who was a terrorist involved in the 2015 San Bernardino attack. The company refused as they were concerned that such actions would permanently compromise the security of their devices and also set a negative precedent between companies and the government. Apple communicated to the public about their concerns and received overwhelming support from the masses.

An example of a failure in risk communication is the miscommunication during anthrax attacks in 2011 by local health officials involving the Monmouth Processing and Distribution Center (PDC). According to O’Neill, Calia, Chess & Clarke (2007), two employees from Monmouth PDC were admitted to hospital after a nasal swab showed they had bacillus on Oct 29th. The issue was not reported to state health officials nor did the company issue any timely public statements. The news spread via the grapevine, and shortly afterwards, the media published stories about the infected persons. The union took the employer to the court recommending closure until the facility was anthrax-free. Further tests, however, showed that the two has bacillus but not Bacillus anthracis and were not infected by with anthrax. The company had failed to control the narrative ad suffered a lot of negative public relations (PR).

From the readings, I have several life-long lessons I have learned. According to Renata (2014). inter-organizational collaboration is instrumental in risk communication. I understand that it is essential for individuals and companies to maintain positive relationships with the police, media, and other stakeholders who are helpful in the event of a crisis. Risk communication involves a series of steps leading to proper risk management. To have an appropriate risk communication, I will need to do several things such as issue public statements, give progress reports, accept blame, and improve the status quo.

Risk communication has taught me several things I would like to share with my colleagues. According to the Center for Disease Control (n.d), reducing fear and anxiety is necessary and achievable through the issuance of timely messages to the public. The public is likely to react emotionally to crises, and it is the responsibility of the leader to facilitate a relaxed response through communication. The society seeks leaders who are active and participatory in response and recovery. Leaders cannot afford to take a passive role in the event of crises; they must step up to an active role which boosts the public’s confidence.


Center for Disease Control. (n.d). Crisis Emergency Risk Communication for leaders by leaders. Retrieved from

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.

Renata, S. (2014) Risk communication: Ebola and beyond, Journal of Communication in Healthcare, 7:4, 239-241

Ripley, A. (2009). The unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes-and why. Harmony.

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