Communication with the public is critical after a nuclear event such as Fukishima. The government and their partners have decided to notify the public what they want them to know through “well-chosen” technologies and organizational procedures. Although this document discusses advance fallout community preparation it does not expound on the situation currently at hand other than to mention that normal official warnings will be degraded. Public communication strategies that are being used are grounded in what is known about social and psychological processes that people go through when hearing the information NOT what they need to know to protect themselves and their families.
Communications for disasters such as Fukishima are being developed, pre-scripted, pre-vetted, and scientifically based and tailored for public consumption. This document discussed that fallout warning messages and proactive suggestions save lives but the current Administration and partners have failed to deliver this critical information to the public. Agencies are given a significant amount of money specifically ear-tagged for communications. Have the monies been siphoned off?
In our highly technical world it has been determined that proper education campaigns incorporating through a technical understanding of the community tailor unique communications. A pre-scripted generic message, generally from a template, is crafted to motivate one into action or apathy and then modeled for a specific incident. The first 72 hours of messaging is the most important. FEMA is currently developing short messages regarding fallout, better late than never.
The government is feigning “lack of procedure” on who is authorized and responsible for activating public warnings. Hence mums the word regarding Fukishima or so they want you to believe. From one who has worked in this field I can assure you that there is a clear chain-of-command with trained Public Information Officer’s (PIO) or JPIO for multi-jurisdictional statements. Furthermore, this structure and the pre-scripted messaging, has been written and is in procedure manuals at the federal, state, county, and even fire and police department levels. Prior to September 11 copies of these manuals could be found in your local library. I am not sure if that is still the case today.
This report also says that there could be a triggering mechanism for messaging for warning messages. This is not the case. In the Standard Operating Procedure Manual at the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) which can be in any jurisdiction are the written protocols for activation, who messages, and pre-scripted messages that are released when an area declares an emergency or disaster and receives an incident number. An event works its way up from city, to county, to state, and eventually to the President for federal assistance to …. Functions are divided into categories know as Emergency Support Functions. The ESF for nuclear incidents are found in the NRP-CIA with various ESF including #8. ESF’s tell who does what and when.
As was illuminated during WWII consistent messaging is key to get the public to act in the way you want them to behave. For messaging to be extremely effective the spokesman must be a trusted source of information. Hence, under normal situations you will receive messaging from a variety of telecommunications including: radio broadcasts, megaphones, 2-way radios, National Weather Service warning radios, amateur radios, loudspeakers, sirens, alarms, PA systems, cell texting, email, and TV.
It is doubtful that we will be seeing a hotline or call-in bank for acute health demands due to Fukishima. Hotlines provide information, direct people to resources that can help you and to monitor and dispel rumors for purposes of control. These hotlines are established to reassure public that are not in harm’s way even if that may not be the case. The government believes that messages must be meaningful, and authoritative. When calling into a hotline your call will be reviewed by emergency professionals who gather various types of information. The standard “old” media will be monitored as well as the alternative “new” media insert disinformation, correct misinformation, and refine public messages.
If you haven’t noticed this year the internet has begun intense surveillance operations. People tend to believe or not believe people they know and do not rely exclusively on official sources. They use social media to spread the news, credible or not. Social media includes social networking sites, Twitter, photo and mapping sites, personal blogs, public texting services. As we enter uncertain times public peer-to-peer citizen-generated communication stream flows will be monitored to enhance situational awareness.
Accurate and timely communications is critical in a radiological emergency. What we have witnessed so far is a government who has the infrastructure, has the capability, has the funds but refuses to information the public on the worse radiological disaster in world history.
What can you do?
Develop your own personal communications. Decide who you trust for accurate information. Take all official statements with a grain of iodized salt. In a disaster communications can make or break your chance of survival both with those whom you love and those who deal with emergencies who know that communication is the ultimate thorn in the flesh.