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I'm not an expert on crisis management or epidemics, but I feel like I think logically and do have experience measuring risk in my own field. In this article, the speaker describes risk as hazard + outrage. While I understand the point he's trying to make about public perception being equally important as the hazard, I found his conclusions quite illogical.

Perhaps I don't understand his usage of the word risk, but he's described as an expert in risk communication, so I'm assuming he's talking about the risk of communicating information. If that is what he's speaking about the way I've been taught to define risk is to look at the potential exposure from each action. Your exposure would be the number of infections you save or add based on your action, which in this example would be communicating information.

In my opinion there should be some measure of the EFFECT that informing people of the threat would be. To me this is even more important than outrage. If spreading knowledge about the situation will help the outbreak from spreading or help people deal with it, then the risk of NOT getting the information out is high. If the propagation of knowledge is not likely to help, and might in fact might harm the population by creating panic then the risk of GETTING the information out might be high.

So in conclusion, I think risk of communicating sensitive information about an epidemic should be based almost completely on whether the effect of that communication would positively or negatively effect the situation.

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Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 13, 2010 at 12:49pm
The way I read it, he's talking about the risk of someone getting hurt, not anything about communication efforts. He's saying that it's dangerous when people's emotions get in the way of understanding, it makes it harder for everyone. Which is why it's so crucial to work with people's emotions, so that they can be contained in some reasonable way, so that things can more forward in a more rational way.
Comment by Nicholas Nagao on May 13, 2010 at 1:41pm
Turil, thank you for clarifying what he's trying to say. I think I understand, and would say risk is probably the wrong word for what he's describing...what do you think? Perhaps he means degrees of Hazard, but in 2 categories physical and psychological. I just don't understand what this risk is that he's trying to measure....risk of what? His usage of the word like "if you know a risk is deadly" just doesn't make sense with the way that people in other industries define the word.

As defined by dictionary.com, when used as a noun as he is:

risk - exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance: It's not worth the risk.

I use the financial definition of risk which makes it even more clear, but even in this standard definition it talks about the CHANCE (another word for probability) that there will be injury or loss. The way he is using the word is implying a risk is a disease or something, which doesn't make sense to me.
Comment by Chris Ke Sihai on May 13, 2010 at 2:03pm
Yup, very woolly thinking there in the way he defines risk. Not clear at all. Good post.

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