Bacillus Anthracis Decontamination: Effectively Communicating Risk During Crisis




Billing, McArthur Jr.

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Ineffectual risk communication during crisis has led to confusion and distrust of authorities and incident managers by the public and other stakeholders. To highlight this critical aspect of crisis response, the actions of public agencies and private entities during five recent incidents of Bacillus anthracis contamination and decontamination were studied. Four models of risk communication—the mental models approach, the messagecentered approach, the bootstrapping approach, and the professional judgment approach—were used to evaluate five anthrax incidents—three from the 2001 Amerithrax case, and two cases from 2006 that occurred naturally. Tests of criteria developed for each model reveal that the professional judgment approach to risk communication is the most widely used approach and currently is the most effective means of communicating risk of this nature. The results emphasize the importance of having a structured risk communication strategy during crisis events.



Biodefense, Risk communication, Sabre Technical Services, Amerithrax