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While reading the Nieman Guide to covering pandemics, specifically, "coming to terms with uncertainty" I was interested in what was said regarding this:

"The facts and the scientific basis for each of these is the same, and the uncertainty is the same. But scientists have the luxury and also the duty of reserving judgment and not making strong statements until they
know, or think they know, what’s going on. Communicators and responders
have to act whether or not they can be certain. They use the same data,
but they use it in a different way.

Early responders, particularly those like WHO and CDC, must have a different standard of evidence, a
sort of guilty until proven innocent standard. Action has to be taken
before all the evidence is in. The reasons are obvious: There are delays
in getting samples to labs, delays in getting results, delays in
getting enough data/samples to be certain, and delays in performing analysis on those data. Waiting until those delays pass loses time.
Beyond that, once the tests are done, there is still some uncertainty.

Therefore, if first responders want to have some hope of containing an outbreak, they will have to respond to false alarms. Unfortunately,
perhaps, this same group of people that is supposed to be responding
intentionally to false alarms also has the duty of trying to maintain
public understanding and public calm.

What I found most interesting is the idea that these response groups will receive word that there may or may not be a pandemic and they then have to go and tell everyone, just in case. These response groups also carry the heavy burden or keeping people calm when that's exactly the opposite of what most people do--especially when in groups. If you are a student of Feud you know that deep down humans are irrational creatures. This irrationality however makes us very predictable. Example, in the recent Boston water crisis it was predictable that people would run to stores buying up water, that stores themselves would overstock their water supplies--even raise prices. Predictability allows for replanning. What these response groups should be doing, if they aren't already, is before they make an announcement--get everything ready. If because of this new threat everybody is going to have to have to wear masks, then before you make the announcement, mail masks to everyone. That way people feel secured by the fact that the people in charge are taking immediate and tangible steps to ensure everyone's safety.

Views: 74

Comment by Michele Baron on May 10, 2010 at 5:18am
good evaluation and knowledge share, wintermute. thank you for the post.


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