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Communication and Public Health Emergencies: A Guide for Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Corina Sole Brito; Andrea Morrozoff Luna; Elizabeth Lang Sanberg
Date Published
August 2009
72 pages
One of three documents developed by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) on the law enforcement response to public health emergencies, this report identifies issues that law enforcement executives should address in their public health communications plans.
The public health communications issues addressed cover both internal communications (those that remain within the agency) and external communications (those that go to other agencies or the public). The guide summarizes the goals, principles, and strategies for developing a communication plan, with an emphasis on communications that convey information about a threat and risk for the purpose of influencing individual behavior. This information includes a discussion of the factors that influence an individual's perception of risk and how officials can manage fear and provide useful information to concerned residents during a public health emergency. The guide also outlines anticipated community expectations of law enforcement during a public health emergency, notes the value of communicating about threats prior to an emergency, and indicates how this communications role integrates with existing community policing practices. Six sections of this report identify factors that law enforcement executives should consider in advance of a public health emergency, as well as how to activate these plans once a public health emergency has been declared. An overview of risk communication in the United States is followed by a section that discusses the use of communication planning in preparing the agency for a public health emergency. Communications with other agencies and strategies for communicating with the public before and during a public health emergency are discussed in two other sections. Working with the news media and incorporating lessons learned into agency policy and practice are also considered. Appended supplementary information, a resource list, and sample communications

Date Published: August 1, 2009