EPA Publishes Risk Communication Study Results

EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC) has just published a new guide – Need to Know: Anticipating the Public’s Questions during a Water Emergency. The document is the culmination of numerous interviews with drinking water professionals and focus group discussions with the public about what they consider to be “practical information” that should be shared if/when there has been a contamination incident and what methods and messages should be used to disseminate that information.  Interestingly, both groups generally agreed that the following elements should be including as part of an effective risk communication strategy:

  •   Identification of the contaminant
  •   Expected duration of water service disruption
  •   Specific description of the affected area
  •   Possibility and consequences of exposure to the contaminant
  •   Possible uses of tap water
  •   Availability and logistics associated with alternative water supplies and
  •   Regularly updated information.

The groups also agreed that, “Following an attack and remediation, convincing the public that their water supply is again usable poses substantial challenges…Testing procedures are poorly understood by the public, and the use of many test descriptions and numbers could engender confusion.”

To learn more about the questions asked, their relevancy rankings by the public and the water professionals, and issues thought most likely to be misunderstood by the public, you can download a PDF copy of the report HERE  (click the document title under the “URL/Download” banner) or order hard copies from EPA using the document number EPA/600/R-12/020, 2012.



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