National Academies Press: OpenBook

Improving Risk Communication (1989)

Chapter: Appendix E: Key Terms and Distinctions

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Key Terms and Distinctions." National Research Council. 1989. Improving Risk Communication. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1189.
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Page 321
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Key Terms and Distinctions." National Research Council. 1989. Improving Risk Communication. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1189.
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Page 322

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Appendix E Key Terms and Distinctions Risk communication practitioners and researchers anct the gen- eral public often confuse key distinctions such as that between hazard and risk and that between risk communication and risk message. We have therefore categorized terms in order to emphasize such distinc- tions. HAZARD An act or phenomenon posing potential harm to some personas) or thinnest; the magnitude of the hazard is the amount of harm that might result, including the seriousness and the number of people exposed. RISE Adds to the hazard and its magnitude the probability that the potential harm or undesirable consequence will be realized. * * * RISE ASSESSMENT The characterization of potential adverse ef- fects of exposures to hazards; includes estimates of risk and of uncertainties in measurements, analytical techniques, and inter- pretive models; quantitative risk assessment characterizes the risk in numerical representations. 321

322 APPENDIX E RISE CONTROL ASSESSMENT Characterization of alternative interventions to reduce or eliminate the hazard and/or unwanted consequences; considers technological feasibility, costs and bene- fits, and legal requirements or restrictions. RISE MANAGEMENT The evaluation of alternative risk control actions, selection among them (including doing nothing), and their implementation; the responsible individual or office (risk manager) sometimes oversees preparation of risk assessments, risk control assessments, and risk messages. Risk management may or may not be open to outside individuals or organizations. ~ * * RISE COMMUNICATION An interactive process of exchange of information and opinion among individuals, groups, and institu- tions; often involves multiple messages about the nature of risk or expressing concerns, opinions, or reactions to risk messages or to legal and institutional arrangements for risk management. RISK MESSAGE A written, verbal, or visual statement containing information about risk; may or may not include advice about risk reduction behavior; a formal risk message ~ a structured written, audio, or visual package developed with the express purpose of presenting information about risk. * * ~ RISK COMMUNICATOR/MESSAGE SOURCE The individual or office sending a risk message or interacting with other individ- uals, groups, or organizations in a risk communication process; may also be the risk manager, risk message preparer, risk analyst, or other expert. AUD~NCE/RECIPlENTS The recipient ts) of a risk message; al- most never a homogeneous group; can include the recipients intended by the preparer of the message as well as others who receive it even though addressed elsewhere.

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Technological risk and the process of explaining risks to the public have become major public issues. The mention of Bhopal or Love Canal can provoke emotional arguments--not only about the hazards themselves but also about how they were explained to the public. As new laws, the threat of AIDS, and other factors make risk communication more crucial, officials in government and industry are seeking guidelines on how to communicate effectively and responsibly.

This volume offers an approach to better quality in risk communication. The combined insight of experts from government, business, and universities, Improving Risk Communication draws on the most current academic and practical information and analysis. Issues addressed include why risk communication has become more difficult in recent decades, what the major problems are, and how common misconceptions often hamper communication campaigns. Aimed especially at top decisionmakers in government and industry, the book emphasizes that solving the problems of risk communication is as much about improving procedures as improving the content of risk messages.

Specific recommendations for change include a Risk Message Checklist and a call for developing a consumer's guide to risk. Appendixes provide additional details.

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