Implementation of a Risk Communication Plan

Modified: 4th Sep 2017
Wordcount: 1618 words

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Following the reported deaths of hundreds of birds in Esperance in Western Australian between December 2006 and March 2007, it was discovered that lead being transported through the town’s port were responsible for their deaths. However, much of the community was unaware of this until it became public as part of the investigation into bird deaths in the local environment. Esperance saw itself as an idyllic rural community, with a sound economic basis, but removed from the problems associated with cities, such as pollution. Once the lead problem was identified, residents became very concerned about their children’s health and demanded immediate action.

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In order to address the concerns of the affected parties, a risk communication plan is essential so as the risk assessment team is able to improve risk understanding among target groups, disclose information about hazards to people whom might be exposed, legitimise risk-related decisions in favor of acceptance or rejection of specific risk sources. It also has the role to breakdown the risk management process to the target audience so that assessors can build up trust in the risk fairness of the management process while at the same ensuring that there is enough individual risk reduction information to improve public protection. Finally the risk communication plan promotes support towards the communicating agency as it provides guidelines for emergency situations and educates decision-makers about public concerns and perceptions. (Sue Lang, Lorna Fewtrell and Jamie Bartram, 2001, p.320)

There are multiple stakeholders involved in this crisis, starting with the residents of the community, governmental departments such as the department of water, environment and planning, local businesses, the companies exporting the metals, the port authorities and media.

A risk communication (RC) needs assessment was run prior in order to identify the major stakeholders involved in the in this crisis and to identify the issues of concerns of for each group, the goals from the interaction with each group and be able to choose and adequate technique of approach to each type of stakeholder. The RC needs assessment had led to understand that various stakeholders had different issues of interests and concerns and that whether their concerns were, the techniques of approach to them may overlap. The key stakeholders were identified to be the residents of Esperence, health department, water department, port authorities, tourism operators, business owners, the media, local authorities and department of environment, local government and department of planning.

The key issues noted during the assessment were the risk to the health of the residents, risks to local businesses such as tourism, relocation of locals, and panic within the community due to health hazards.

The table below identifies the issues that meant to be addressed in a risk communication plan and how they are link to the plan’s goal together with the activities needed to be carried out so as to reach the goals. It should also be noted that descending order of the issues representative of the priority given to each individual issue. (R Brian Pickard, Risk Communication Plan Guidance,  2013 p.24)

ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED

PLANS’ GOALS

ACTIVITIES

Local residents’ concerns regarding the hazards

Provide the residents necessary  and adequate information to address their concerns

Provide information to the residents by activities such as distributing information on physical or electrical mediums.

Develop and maintain relationships and supports two-way communication with public community groups, and the news media.

Concerns of the health department regarding crisis

Provide them with the outreach of the crisis; how many people are affected and to which extent.

Maintain direct communication for health persons via phone, email or in person. So that they received necessary data as they require it.

Level of information between assessors and Department of water

Share findings obtain through research to concerned department so it knows where they stand and how they can mitigate the situation

Ensure that they receive  tangible information in terms of documents and findings which they can consult and base action plan upon

Concerns about treat to local businesses.

Assess impact of contamination on local businesses.

Hold meeting with the concerned stakeholders and discuss ways by which they are being affected and try find solutions.

Department of planning

Provide the department expected outcomes in case of an imminent crisis

Ensure that they receive  tangible information in terms of documents and findings which they can consult and base action plan upon

Nature and types of information being released by the media

Audit the quality of information being released to the press.

Monitoring of information released through various media outlets; websites, newspapers, television and radio by appointing media trackers

Threat to port activities and jobs at stake

Assess situation and find possible links between issues and port. Minimize potential risk of activities shutdown.

Meet with responsible of activities and discuss

Communication at all stages of the program is important. People need to be informed about key developments so they will be able to make the most of the program. Information should be disclosed to community members throughout the program, especially before starting key activities, before making changes to the program and upon encountering delays. The order/timing in which information is disclosed to the various stakeholders depends upon who they represent in the community and the value of their feedback so that when a wider public is informed, the risk assessment plan has already been revised to that it understood by the majority of the stakeholders.

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The resources to be deployed for the risk communication plan relies greatly on the budget allocated to the assessment. While a great part of the resources remain man power which favors easier communication, builds up trust among the community, provides for skills for data collection and analysis depending upon the budget communication methods such as mass media and dedicated can employed, else inexpensive methods inexpensive, such as sharing information at community meetings, working with community and committees creating simple posters can be used.,

There are various challenges that might hinder the implementation of this; unwillingness for stakeholders to cooperate, coordinate risk communication messages among multiple communicators who are communicating about the same issue or time constraints. (Cabinet Implementation Unit Toolkit, 2013, p.3).

The roles and responsibilities in order to implement the risk communication plan correctly are as listed below.

ROLE

RESPONSIBILITIES

Public Information Officer

  • Implement risk communication plan and directs information disclosure
  • Provide information to stakeholder through various mediums
  • Create and uphold two conversation between all stakeholders
  • .Maintains current information summaries and/or displays on the incident.
  • Responsible to communicate information to  pertinent staff
  • Develop presentations for utility executives
  • Prepare responses to constituent inquiries.

Content and Message Coordinator

  • Develops pathways to receive information rapidly from various institutes regarding public health emergencies and works with available subject matter experts to create situation-specific fact sheets and updates.

Media Coordinator

.

  • Assesses media needs (e.g., briefings, statements) and bridges the gap between the public and sources

Direct Public Outreach Coordinator

  • Responsible for public service announcement and initiates telephone information line

Partner/Stakeholder Coordinator

  • Sets up communication protocols based on agreements with identified partners and stakeholders.

Media Tracker

  • Monitors available internally and externally identifies misinformation, provides, assess the quality of communication, takes action to amend wrong information, tracks press releases, monitors news outlets and web sites, and drives away (stories that may or may not be true)

 

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