National Academies Press: OpenBook

A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response (2014)

Chapter: Chapter 7 - Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22414.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22414.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22414.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22414.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22414.
×
Page 39
Page 40
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22414.
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Page 40

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35 C H A P T E R 7 Communication is always a challenge during a disaster, in part because it is more art than science. Crisis and emergency risk communication is the effort by experts to provide information to allow an individual, stakeholder, or an entire community “to make the best possible decisions about their well-being” within “nearly impossible time constraints” and help people ultimately to accept the “imperfect nature of choices” during the crisis, according to Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2012 edition pub- lished by the CDC, page i. During a pandemic, public health agencies will be the primary govern- ment agency communicating information to the public about the agent and its medical effects. However, it is crucial that transportation orga- nizations of all sizes provide clear, consistent messages to all stakeholders (e.g., employees, response partners, riders) in order to anticipate problems and mitigate confusion, fear, and the spreading of false information. Writing media releases, developing talking points, handling media and public inquiries, and preparing for and conducting media conferences are examples of activities that require knowledge, skills, and experience to perform effectively. Formal training and regular practice markedly improves the organization’s capabilities, capacities, and competencies. In small systems many of these functions may be executed by local units of government, the EOC, or public health agencies. This chapter outlines the actions all transportation organizations should take in order to prepare for the demands of communications during a pandemic. In addition, this chapter includes a Public and Media Relations Checklist (see Exhibit 28). The Message The actual message relayed by transportation agencies or their surrogates is important in the overall communications. Communicating during a crisis is different than routine com- munications and requires a more simplified message, as people are more distracted than normal (Exhibit 29). • Present a short, concise, and focused message with limited detail targeted at a 6th-grade reading and comprehension level. • Only include relevant information. • Give action steps in positives, not negatives. Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication This chapter outlines the actions all transportation organizations should take in order to prepare for the demands of communications during a pandemic. Exhibits in this Chapter 28 Public and Media Relations Checklist 29 Tenets of Emergency Public Information 30 Additional Resources for Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication

36 A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response • Create action steps in threes or fours, if appropriate. • Repeat messages frequently using many different delivery methods. • Use personal pronouns for the organization such as, “We are committed . . . ” • Avoid technical jargon. • Avoid condescending or judgmental phrases. • Promise or guarantee only what can actually be delivered. • Do not use humor as people rarely get the joke when they are feeling desperate. Emergency Public Information Is for Internal, as well as External, Audiences Too often, organizations spend most of their efforts reaching out to the public but not effec- tively communicating with their staff and allied organizations. An informed staff is a staff that is more likely to show up at work when and where needed, work safely, and best protect the organization and execute its mission. The issues of rumor control (aka rapid response) and social media also apply to internal audiences. Rumors Need to be Tracked and Responded to Rapidly Rapid response (rumor control) must validate and intervene when inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information is circulating. Rumors are the bane of emergency response. Rumors can divert resources and encourage individuals to respond to inaccurate information. Systems should be in place or tasks assigned to monitor all forms of communication, including social Right Decisions Right Format so that they can make the Right Time in the Right People at the Right Information to the The basic tenets of emergency public information are to get the: Exhibit 29. Tenets of emergency public information. Exhibit 28. Public and media relations checklist. This tool is included on page 52. Purpose: Provide a checklist of public information actions transportation agencies should address during the planning phase for pandemics. This checklist is designed to provide a starting point and is not exhaustive of all possible actions. Directions: Use this checklist to keep track of the organization’s progress.

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication 37 media, to quickly identify information, concerns, and trends, and to then rapidly and aggres- sively respond to those rumors. Consistency Is Important Public information officers should ensure that all messages that are released from all sources are consistent. A joint information center (JIC) can serve as a clearinghouse to avoid mixed messages and conflicts. Understand the Diverse Communication Needs of Constituents Persons with access and functional needs, including people with limited English proficiency are especially vulnerable during emergencies. Transportation organizations must understand how to address the communication needs of their constituents. TCRP Report 150, cited in Exhibit 30, provides guidance for reaching out to diverse populations. Do as Much Work Beforehand as Possible Having the public hear the same message in multiple forms and from multiple sources is a powerful means of maximizing penetration of the communication. For example, if during a media interview the local public health officer includes a message relevant to the transit organi- zation’s response during the outbreak, the credibility of the physician can have a positive impact on the effectiveness of the message’s content. When possible, coordinate public information efforts through the local EOC. Developing templates for media releases, fact sheets, and talking points based on reasonably anticipated topics will save time and effort during a pandemic. Public information personnel in like and allied organizations can be resources for developing communication materials in advance of a pandemic. The Messenger Transportation organizations must be the first to communicate transportation-related infor- mation in order for people to take appropriate actions. In many organizations the chief executive must approve all messages released to the public and only the chief executive is authorized to speak to the public. In rapidly evolving and labor intensive events such as an emergency, the approval process and limited persons available to interact with the media can become a bottleneck. Each organization should evaluate their public information processes to ensure that public information effectiveness is maximized. Delegation of approval authority, authority to quote, and developing a trained public information team are examples of ways to accelerate the timely release of information, if deemed prudent in the planning stages. Delivery Methods Traditional media, when combined with social media, provide powerful tools to disseminate information to key stakeholders regarding services and other changes that may affect them during a pandemic.

38 A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication The CDC’s Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2012 edition, is an essential guide for those needing to learn how to communicate effectively with the public during a crisis. Additionally, they provide webinars and on-demand training based on this document at no charge. Access these resources online at: http://emergency.cdc.gov/cerc/ Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information TCRP Synthesis 91: Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information documents the state of the practice in the use and deployment of real-time transit information on mobile devices. Access the document online at: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_syn_91.pdf Communication with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit Varied trusted messengers—people with established community leadership relationships—should be enlisted to carry information to isolated or mistrustful members of the community. Relationships with trusted messengers should be established and fostered well in advance of an emergency. TCRP Report 150: Communication with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit provides step by step guidance and tools to help accomplish this. Access the document online at: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_rpt_150.pdf Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation TCRP Synthesis 99: Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation outlines how transportation organizations are currently using social media to connect with their customers. Access the document online at: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_syn_99.pdf Exhibit 30. Additional resources for crisis and emergency risk communication.

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication 39 Use communication channels most appropriate to the organization’s target audience. Using only radio, television, and the newspapers will not suffice in today’s culture, especially when the information is time critical. Reverse 911, hot lines, texting, social media, billboards, and flyers are several examples that should be exploited in a coordinated effort to distribute information. If a JIC is established, transportation emergency public information messaging methods can be joined by other disciplines to get the word out. Public information personnel should not overlook the most basic of information dissemination tools including community leaders (e.g., civic and faith based), door-to-door visits; and those palettes within the transportation system itself (e.g., signage on the outside and inside of transit vehicles and signage at transit stations). An important part of communications preparedness is identifying which delivery methods should be used in which circumstance and in coordination with what partners. Traditional Media Traditional media encompasses print, radio, and television and still serves much of the cus- tomer base of rural and small urban transportation organizations. These media are still power- ful avenues to distribute information but are not the only ones. There are many ways to disseminate information directly to (and through) the traditional media including: • Press releases; • Press conferences or media opportunities; • Satellite media tours; • Press conferences by telephone and webcast; • E-mail distribution and broadcast faxes; • Websites, video streaming, and webinars; and • Response to media calls. Working directly with traditional media, especially during a crisis, is overwhelming and is most effective when those responsible for public information have had the benefit of training. If the transportation organization does not already have multiple individuals familiar with crisis and emergency risk communication, it is strongly recommended that a few personnel be selected and trained. The CDC Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2012 edition, is an essential guide for those needing to learn how to communicate effectively with the public during a crisis. Additionally, the CDC provides webinars and on-demand training based on this document at no charge. See Exhibit 30 to learn how to access these resources. Additional training programs can be found at the National Emergency Training Center and the Center for Domestic Preparedness. Social Media Social media is a powerful tool for delivering emergency public information. It involves many platforms and is constantly evolving. Web pages, mass texts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr are examples of platforms in current use that have shown to be powerful tools for delivering emergency public information. New technologies emerge and old ones fall away. It is important to be aware of the current technologies. Rural and small urban transportation orga- nizations will know whether social media is an effective communication tool in their service areas, taking into consideration possible lack of access, limited levels of service, and nonusers of the Internet and smartphone technology, as well as agency protocols on the use of social media.

40 A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response Notices on route changes, curtailed and additional services (e.g., transportation to medical services), rapid response, social distancing guidance, and other information can be effectively communicated using social media. Because social media can be an avenue in which rumors can spread rapidly, it is incumbent upon those responsible for emergency public media to con- stantly monitor traffic on the many platforms and to respond quickly and appropriately to misinformation. It is important to note that during a pandemic one segment of the intended audience may be persons from more densely populated areas that have temporarily relocated to the service area and for whom social media is their primary source of information. Accom- modations for that population should be anticipated and incorporated into emergency public information planning. Transportation organizations that already use social media regularly may be able to transi- tion from normal operations to pandemic response more effectively than organizations that do not. Organizations are recommended to develop depth in their personnel who have expertise in social media to account for increased need and potential absenteeism among staff. Additional Resources Several resources for crisis and emergency risk communication are available from the CDC and TCRP (see Exhibit 30).

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 769: A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response is designed to assist transportation organizations as they prepare for pandemics and other infectious diseases such as seasonal flu.

Addressing decision-making challenges in pandemic response in the transportation context is a multi-dimensional task, involving not only transportation/transit organizations, but health organizations, emergency management agencies, and communications outlets as well.

The guide is designed to outline broad guidance on dealing with pandemic preparedness planning, not detailed procedures. It provides information, tools, tips, and guidance on where to find up-to-date recommendations from federal agencies and other resources, prior to and during a pandemic.

In addition to the guide, a methodology report and a PowerPoint presentation describing the entire project are available online.

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