Quick Thoughts on Messaging and Communicating for Health Physicists

Quick Thoughts on Messaging and Communicating for Health Physicists

Original Post HPS News

Steve Sugarman*, MS, CHP, SummitET® Vice President and Corporate Health Physicist, SummitET.com

Acknowledgements: Mark Basnight, SummitET® Vice President of Communications and Marketing; Holly Hardin, SummitET® Strategic Communications Program Manager

Words have meaning, and subtle shifts in the language we use can have a large impact on the message being delivered and the perceptions of the receiving audience. This is especially important when speaking about topics that may cause anxiety in people, such as radiation. Should the media report “radiation leaks” at some facility, a health physicist (HP) would know that radiation doesn’t leak, but that radioactive materials do if not properly contained. Many people don’t understand the difference between exposure and contamination. While the differences in various concepts may seem elementary to an HP, it’s an extremely important difference and can be a primary driver in emergency response. After the accident at Fukushima, there were numerous articles written about the “antiradiation pill,” yet one does not exist. These types of messages, coupled with a lack of understanding, shape people’s perception of radiation and radioactivity.

The importance of effective communication cannot be overstated. Radiation can be a scary word. A lack of knowledge and/or not understanding how radiation works can lead people to make decisions they may not have made had they been more aware of the true nature of the potential hazard. As HPs, we play a key role in providing information and guidance to various stakeholders to help facilitate good decision-making.

Camden County Hazmat Vehicle

Camden County HAZMAT vehicle outside Haddon Township High School, 1-8-21. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

A recent example of an overreaction based on a lack of understanding of the relative hazard happened on 8 January 2021 in Haddon Township, New Jersey. A student brought a uranium-glazed plate (Fiesta® ware) and Geiger counter that he had been given for Christmas to school to show a teacher. As a result, Haddon Township High School was evacuated over radiation concerns. Agencies that responded to the scene included local law enforcement, fire, HAZMAT, and even representatives from the county prosecutor’s office. Unnecessary responses of this nature draw resources from areas where they may be needed, are expensive, negatively impact the involved institutions, create concern/fear for the public, and unintentionally increase risk to evacuees—not to mention the overall risk associated with just responding to an incident.

It can be difficult to take a complicated topic and simplify it into easily understood terms while maintaining factual integrity. The implications of effective communications are far reaching—whether it is helping an individual who has radiation-related concerns about an anticipated medical procedure or affecting the public’s willingness to accept emergency-management recommendations during an incident involving radioactive materials. We should all hone our communication skills to help educate others about what radiation can and cannot do.

Let’s consider how we process risk. According to the late Dr. Dennis Mileti, who specialized in disaster communication, people pick the messages they want to hear. For example, in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, people will select what they want to hear about the need for masks, about the timeline for a vaccine, about social distancing, etc. Messages that motivate behavior change must consider emotion, social networks, and group identity—all important things to consider. We must understand people’s fears before we tell them what to do; make all public directives as specific, consistent, and clear as possible; and ensure messages come from many different sources when trust is rare. The pandemic has highlighted the distrust that mixed messages and mixed respect for experts can generate. These are not necessarily new issues, but they are certainly contributing to the complexity of the current information ecosystem.

Remember who your information consumers are—what modalities they use and what their preferences for information consumption are. While society evolves and we try to understand the vast diversity of culture, we can all agree that communication can be complex. Understand the emotional status of your audiences and tailor messages to address their fears and/or perceptions. Strong emotions are not likely to be overcome by simply providing facts. When addressing fear and concern, the person giving the information and how it is perceived will oftentimes overshadow what has been said. Set up information expectations and stick to what you know—and be forthright with what you don’t know. Remember that the people you are talking to may have fears and preconceptions that as an HP you overcame long ago, and your empathy when dealing with a situation will likely go as far—or farther—than the facts you are providing.

For information on communication workshops for your organization or agency visit the Strategic Communications Institute for Preparedness.

________________

*Steve Sugarman, a member of the Health Physics Society Public Information Committee has responded to numerous radiation events throughout his career. The importance of good communications cannot be overstated. Steve subscribes to the idea verbalized by Sydney J. Harris—The two words “information” and “communication” are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.

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All organizations are faced with workplace violence threats or incidents. Most organizations, however, do not know how to quickly resolve threatening behavior and reduce the risk of a serious incident from occurring. Not having a trained and at the ready threat resolution capability can be dangerous for employees and visitors, and costly to an organization. Let us help you reduce risk.

SummitET’s workplace violence Strategic Threat Assessment Group (STAG) is an organization’s solution to identifying and resolving threats before they are acted upon. A STAG is a multi-disciplined team of employees with roles and responsibilities, processes, procedures, tools, and training who come together upon a potential threat to make quick factual determinations and timely recommendations for senior decision-making to obviate threatening behavior. We help build this capability within your organization to properly assess and reduce risk of workplace violence incidents directed against employees or the organization.

Friday, June 4, 2021

1pm – 4pm est

Location: Adobe Connect

This participatory workshop uses interactive engagement, group discussion, and scenario-based activities. Webcam use is preferred for all participants and microphones and reliable internet are required.

Public Event

Virtual, Facilitator Led

Three Hours

Please review the terms and conditions in the Course Agreement.  Please review Eventbrite’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for complete details.

Registration Deadline June 5, 2021

Register 4 or more attendees and receive a 10% discount.

Select 4+ Registrants in the eventbrite registration above.

Learning
Objectives

  • Learn how to implement the STAG concept of operations (composition, roles and responsibilities, process, and methodology)
  • Practice gathering information and applying an assessment tool
  • Practice developing recommended courses of action for decision makers
  • Gain familiarization of behaviors that may act as precursors to workplace violence
  • Discuss statistics, best practices/lessons learned , and strategies to reduce risk of workplace violence

The STAG is not intended to conduct high-level predictive analysis, but rather to provide sufficient information to support and defend commended courses of action to reduce risk.

Interactive
Engagement

Knowledge Checks & Polling

Case Study Exercises

Scenario-Based Interactive Exercises

Who Should
Attend

This course is open to anyone present in the United States at the time of the live event.

Corporate Leadership

Emergency Management

Employee Assistance Personnel

Facilities Management

HR Professionals and Managers

Legal/Compliance

Operations Managers

Security Supervisors and Managers

Victim/Witness Specialists

Workshop Facilitators

Our Workplace Violence STAG workshop is led by retired FBI Special Agents with decades of experience in gathering facts, conducting assessments, and providing supported recommended courses of action for risk reduction and senior level decision-making.

Questions?

This workshop is also available on request for organizations or angencies to help build your own Threat Assessment Group.

Contact our team at info@summitet.com or fill out the form and our experts will contact you directly. 

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The Stakes Are High! Risk and Crisis Communication for Senior Management Workshop

This interactive, virtual workshop is specifically designed for senior management, leadership, decision-makers, and subject matter experts. Risk communication principles, the psychology of messaging, and establishing trust and credibility strategies and practices are addressed using group discussion, interactive exercises, and case study analysis. At the end of the workshop, senior management, leadership, decision-makers and subject-matter experts will be equipped with tools and strategies for effective risk and crisis communications to address stakeholders and intended audiences. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

1pm – 4pm est

Location: Adobe Connect

This participatory workshop uses interactive engagement, group discussion, and scenario-based activities. Webcam use is preferred for all participants and microphones and reliable internet are required.

Public Event

Virtual, Facilitator Led

Three Hours

Please review the terms and conditions in the Course Agreement.  Please review Eventbrite’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for complete details.

Registration Deadline July 26, 2021

Register 4 or more attendees and receive a 10% discount.

Select 4+ Registrants in the eventbrite registration above.

Subscription packages: Purchase 4 workshops for $699.

Email HollyHardin@SummitET.com to enquire.

SHRM Recertification provider

SummitET is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit www.shrmcertification.org.

Learning
Objectives

Develop strategies for incorporating risk communication principles into policies, plans, procedures, and protocols.  

Develop strategies for identifying and addressing stakeholders and intended audiences.  

Understand the psychology of messaging and demonstrate the ability to develop key messages. 

Demonstrate the ability to implement strategies for establishing trust and credibility.  

Discuss lessons learned and best practices. 

Interactive
Engagement

Knowledge Checks

Polling

Breakout room activities

Scenario-based interactive exercises

Who Should
Attend

This course is open to anyone present in the United States at the time of the live event.

Corporate Communications

Decision-Makers

Emergency Management

Emergency Medical Services

Executives

Fire & Rescue Services

Government

Health Care

Higher Education

Human Resources

Law Enforcement

Leadership

Management

Public Health

Public Relations

Public Safety Communications

Public Works

Senior Leadership

Subject-Matter Experts

Meet the Facilitators

Mark Basnight Image

Mark Basnight

SummitET® Vice President of Communications and Marketing

As Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Mark is responsible for developing and implementing the long-term communication & marketing vision for Summit Exercises & Training®.

Mark is a John Maxwell Team certified speaker, trainer, coach, and a graduate of the Charlotte Leadership Forum. He is a member of the National Association of Government Communicators, and a U.S. Army Veteran. Mark is a founding member and a past Chair for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Virtual Social Media Working Group. He served as a Lead Public Information Officer during the 2012 Democratic National Convention and had a significant role in planning, coordinating and implementing the Joint Information Center for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Mark is an alumnus of the inaugural FEMA 389 Masters Public Information Officer Program and a former adjunct instructor for the Emergency Management Institute (Emmitsburg, MD). He has been a keynote speaker, trainer, and panelist for numerous conferences including the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) Communication School, National Information Officers Association (NIOA) Conference, National Emergency Manager Association (NEMA) Conference, National Radiological Emergency Preparedness (NREP) Conference, Government Social Media Conference, Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) Conference, and Great Lakes Homeland Security Conference. Mark has also been a speaker and trainer internationally for the governments of Seoul, Korea, Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Taipei, Taiwan.

 

Holly Hardin Image

Holly Hardin

SummitET® Strategic Communications Program Manager

As the Strategic Communications Program Manager at SummitET Holly manages, develops, and delivers public affairs, risk and crisis communication and emergency public information training, exercise support, and technical assistance. Holly also manages strategic communications research analysis, in addition to developing publications related to the enhancement of advanced communications systems for public safety and health.

Prior to joining SummitET, Holly served as an Emergency Management Communications Analyst at Argonne National Laboratory and co-established the Public Affairs Science and Technology Fusion Cell, as well as the National Public Affairs Academy. At Argonne, Holly was responsible for assisting government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector groups with plans, protocols, procedures, training, and exercises relating to internal and external affairs. Prior to Argonne, Holly worked for the Department of Justice in counterterrorism programs and was a first responder in the Department of Energy Oak Ridge Reservation Joint Information Center where she also managed a cadre of technical experts and provided risk and crisis communication and digital/social media expertise to Federal, state, and local government agencies, in addition to the commercial nuclear industry.

 

Questions?

Contact our team at info@summitet.com

All Together Now: Integrating Risk and Crisis Communication in NIMS and ICS Workshop

All Together Now: Integrating Risk and Crisis Communication in NIMS and ICS Workshop

All Together Now: Integrating Risk and Crisis Communication in NIMS and ICS Workshop

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to and recover from incidents, and the Incident Command Structure (ICS) has long been established by the NIMS as the standardized incident organizational structure for the management of all incidents. While these structures are well-established and a best practice for the management of incidents, we must update and adapt the way in which responders integrate risk and crisis communication principles into these structures and other communication processes.  

This interactive, virtual workshop addresses the integration of risk and crisis communication principles into the NIMS and ICS. The workshop provides an overview of NIMS and ICS functions and how to integrate risk and crisis communication into NIMS, ICS, and other communication processes. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

1pm – 4pm est

Location: Adobe Connect

This participatory workshop uses interactive engagement, group discussion, and scenario-based activities. Webcam use is preferred for all participants and microphones and reliable internet are required.

Public Event

Virtual, Facilitator Led

Three Hours

Please review the terms and conditions in the Course Agreement.  Please review Eventbrite’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for complete details.

Registration Deadline June 21, 2021

Register 4 or more attendees and receive a 10% discount.

Select 4+ Registrants in the eventbrite registration above.

Subscription packages: Purchase 4 workshops for $699.

Email HollyHardin@SummitET.com to enquire.

SHRM Recertification provider

SummitET is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit www.shrmcertification.org.

Learning
Objectives

Equip participants with a functional knowledge of the various forms of communication required in crisis and emergency situations, and provide an understanding of the skills, resources, and other requirements  encountered in managing the communication needs of a crisis/emergency. 

Describe the steps involved in building an organizational crisis communication capability. 

Explain how risk communication positively impacts community risk and vulnerability. 

Describe new strategies for integrating risk and crisis communication into the NIMS and ICS. 

Interactive
Engagement

Knowledge Checks

Polling

Breakout room activities

Scenario-based interactive exercises

Who Should
Attend

This course is open to anyone present in the United States at the time of the live event.

Corporate Communications

Decision-Makers

Emergency Management

Emergency Medical Services

Executives

Fire & Rescue Services

Government

Health Care

Higher Education

Human Resources

Law Enforcement

Leadership

Management

Public Health

Public Relations

Public Safety Communications

Public Works

Senior Leadership

Subject-Matter Experts

Meet the Facilitators

Mark Basnight Image

Mark Basnight

SummitET® Vice President of Communications and Marketing

As Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Mark is responsible for developing and implementing the long-term communication & marketing vision for Summit Exercises & Training®.

Mark is a John Maxwell Team certified speaker, trainer, coach, and a graduate of the Charlotte Leadership Forum. He is a member of the National Association of Government Communicators, and a U.S. Army Veteran. Mark is a founding member and a past Chair for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Virtual Social Media Working Group. He served as a Lead Public Information Officer during the 2012 Democratic National Convention and had a significant role in planning, coordinating and implementing the Joint Information Center for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Mark is an alumnus of the inaugural FEMA 389 Masters Public Information Officer Program and a former adjunct instructor for the Emergency Management Institute (Emmitsburg, MD). He has been a keynote speaker, trainer, and panelist for numerous conferences including the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) Communication School, National Information Officers Association (NIOA) Conference, National Emergency Manager Association (NEMA) Conference, National Radiological Emergency Preparedness (NREP) Conference, Government Social Media Conference, Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) Conference, and Great Lakes Homeland Security Conference. Mark has also been a speaker and trainer internationally for the governments of Seoul, Korea, Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Taipei, Taiwan.

 

Holly Hardin Image

Holly Hardin

SummitET® Strategic Communications Program Manager

As the Strategic Communications Program Manager at SummitET Holly manages, develops, and delivers public affairs, risk and crisis communication and emergency public information training, exercise support, and technical assistance. Holly also manages strategic communications research analysis, in addition to developing publications related to the enhancement of advanced communications systems for public safety and health.

Prior to joining SummitET, Holly served as an Emergency Management Communications Analyst at Argonne National Laboratory and co-established the Public Affairs Science and Technology Fusion Cell, as well as the National Public Affairs Academy. At Argonne, Holly was responsible for assisting government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector groups with plans, protocols, procedures, training, and exercises relating to internal and external affairs. Prior to Argonne, Holly worked for the Department of Justice in counterterrorism programs and was a first responder in the Department of Energy Oak Ridge Reservation Joint Information Center where she also managed a cadre of technical experts and provided risk and crisis communication and digital/social media expertise to Federal, state, and local government agencies, in addition to the commercial nuclear industry.

 

Questions?

Contact our team at info@summitet.com