June 1992

                           LIST OF CONTENTS

                       ON RISK COMMUNICATION

      INTRODUCTION / WHY BOTHER?                              PAGE

      •     The Seven Cardinal Rules of Risk Communication. Vincent T.        1
            Covello and Frederick W. Allen. (U.S. EPA 1988).
      •     Risk Communication Problems and Tasks, adapted from "Risk        7
            Communication (A Review of the Literature)", a report prepared
            for the Environmental Protection Agency, August 1987, by Vincent
            T. Covello, Paul Slovic and Detlof Von WinterfeldL

      •     Some Do's and Don'ts of Listening, from I Hear You, by            9
            Eastwood Atwater, from I Hear You. (Englewood & Clifts, New
            Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1981), pp.  110-115.

      •     Improving Dialogue with Communities: A Short Guide for           13
            Government Risk Communication. Caron Chess, Billie Jo Hance,
            and Peter Sandman (Trenton, N.J. Division of Science and
            Research, N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, 1987).

      •     Ten Reasons to Release  Information Early, from "Improving          47
            Dialogue with Communities: A  Short Guide for Government Risk
            Communication," written by Caron Chess, Billie Jo Hance, and
            Peter Sandman (Trenton, N.J., Division of Science and Research,
            N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, 1987).

      •     Letter, with attachment from EPA Administrator Lee Thomas to      49
            U.S. Representative Henry Waxman.  May 29, 1987.

      •     Differences Between Expert and Public Ratines of Environmental     57
            Problems. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pok'cy,
            Planning, and Evaluation.
      •     Draft Community Relations Plan, prepared for the Marjol Battery      61
            Removal Site in Throop, Pennsylvania.  Prepared by U.S.
            Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3.

            The Lethal Legacy of Risk. New York Times                      75


      •     Preparing for the Interview, written by Paul Lapsley of the            77
            Environmental Protection Agency. A piece written for the Risk
            Communication Workshop.

      •     Excerpts from a Presentation by Tom Vacor on the Role of the        79
            Media in Risk Communication.  Excerpted from Risk
            Communication:  Proceedings of the National Conference on Risk
            Communication. January 29-31, 1986. Edited by J. Clarence
            Davies, Vincent T. Covello, and Frederick W. Allen.  (The
            Conservation Foundation, 1987).

      •     Do's and Don'ts for Spokespersons.  Reprinted in the Risk            83
            Communication Student Manual, edited by Erin Donovan, Vincent
            Covello and John Slavick (Chemical Manufacturers Association,
            Washington, D.C. 1989).

      •     EDB: A Case Study in Communicating Risk. An article written by    87
            Harold I. Sharlin.  Risk Analysis. Vol6, No.l, 1986 pp 61 -68.

      •     What Do We Know About Making Risk Comparisons. An article      95
            by Emilie Roth, M. Granger Morgan, Baruch Fischoff, Lester
            Lave, and Ann Bostrom,. Risk Analysis. Vol 10, No.3, 1990 pp
            375 -386.

      •     What Should We Know About Making Risk Comparisons, an         109
            article by Paul Slovic, Nancy Kraus, and Vincent T. Covello. Risk
            Analysis. Vol 10, No. 3, 1990 pp 389 - 392..

      •     Explaining Environmental Risk: Some Notes on Environmental       113
            Risk.  Peter M. Sandman.  TSCA Assistance Office, Office of
            Toxics Substance, U.S. EPA, November 1986.

      •     Risk Communication Training Instrument, developed by Region K    143
            - Typical Questions and Responses at a Public Meeting.

            Ten Ways to Lose Trust and Credibility, from "Improving            165
            Dialogue with Communities: A Short Guide for Government Risk
            Communication," written by Caron Chess, Billie Jo Hance, and
            Peter Sandman (Trenton, N.J., Division of Science and Research,
            N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, 1987).

      •     Focus Group Technique, by Decision Research Corporation.          167

      •     EPA Title ffl Focus Group Results, adapted from material prepared    169
            for the Environmental Protection Agency by Elaine Arkin and
            David McCallum
      •     Focus Groups and Risk Communications:  The Science of            177
            Listening to Data.  An article written by William Desvousges and
            Kerry V. Smith.  Risk Analysis. Vol. 8, No. 4 1988 pp. 479-484.
      •     Planning Dialogue With Communities: A Risk Communication        183
            Workbook.  Caron  Chess, Billie Jo Hance, and Peter M. Sandman.
            Environmental Communication Research Program, Rutgers
            University.  1989
      •     Evaluating Risk Communication Programs: A Catalogue of Quick     227
            and Easy Feedback Programs. Mark Kline, Caron Chess, and Peter
            M. Sandman. Environmental Communications Research Program,
            Rutgers  University.  1989

          United States          Aonl
          Environmental Protection Agencv  '988
          Washington DC 20460      OPA-87-020

SEPA    Seven Cardinal

          Rules of Risk


               here are no easy
               prescriptions for
               successful risk
               However, those who
               have studied and
               participated in recent
               debates about risk
               generally agree on
seven cardinal rules. These rules
apply equally well to the public and
private sectors.
  Although many of the rules may
seem obvious, they are continually
and consistently violated in practice.
Thus, a useful way to read these
rules is to focus on why they are
frequently not followed.
Accept  and involve
the public as a legitimate

A basic tenet of risk communication
in a democracy is that people and
communities have a right to
participate in decisions that affect
their lives, their property, and the
things they value.
Guidelines:  Demonstrate your
respect for the public and underscore
the sincerity of your effort by
involving the community early,
before important decisions are made.
Involve all parties that have an
interest or a stake in the issue under
consideration. If you are a
government employee, remember
that you work for the public. If you
do not work for the government, the
public still holds you accountable.

Point to Consider:
• The goal of risk communication in
a democracy should be to produce an
informed public that is involved,
interested, reasonable, thoughtful,
solution-oriented, and collaborative;
it should not be to diffuse public
concerns or replace action.
Plan carefully and
evaluate your efforts

Risk communication will be
successful only if carefully planned.
Guidelines: Begin with clear, explicit
risk communication objectives—such
as providing information to the
public, motivating individuals to r
stimulating response to emergent
or contributing to the resolution o.
conflict. Evaluate the information you
have about the risks and know its
strengths and weaknesses. Classify
and segment the various groups in
your audience. Aim your
communications at specific subgroups
in your audience. Recruit
spokespeople who are good at
presentation and interaction. Train
your staff—including technical
staff—in communication skills;
reward outstanding performance.
Whenever possible, pretest vour
messages. Carefully evaluate your
efforts and learn from your mistakes.
Points to Consider:
•  There is no such entity as   the
public"; instead, there are many
publics, each with its own interests,
needs, concerns, priorities,
preferences, and organizations.
•  Different risk communication
goals, audiences, and media require
different risk communication

Listen to the public's
specific concerns

If you do not listen to people, you
cannot expect them to listen to you.
Communication is a two-way activity.

Guidelines: Do not make
assumptions about what people
know,  think, or want done about
risks. Take the time to  tmd out what
people are thinking: use techniques
such as interviews, focus groups, and
surveys. Let all parties that have an
interest or a stake in the issue be
heard.  Identify with your audience
and try to put yourself in their place.
Recognize people's emotions. Let
people know that you understand
what they said, addressing their
concerns as well as yours. Recognize
the "hidden agendas," symbolic
meanings, and broader  economic or
political considerations that often
underlie and complicate the task or
risk communication.

Point to Consider:
• People in the community are often
more concerned about such issues as
trust, credibility, competence,
control, voluntanness,  fairness,
caring, and compassion than about
mortality statistics and the details of
quantitative risk assessment.
Be honest, frank,
and open

In communicating risk information,
trust and credibility are your most
precious assets.
Guidelines: State your credentials;
but do not ask or expect to be  trusted
by the  public. If you do not know an
answer or are uncertain, say so. Get
back to people with answers. Admit
mistakes. Disclose risk information as
soon as possible (emphasizing any
reservations about reliability).  Do not
minimize or exaggerate the level of
risk. Speculate only with great
caution. If in doubt, lean toward
sharing more information, not
less—or people may think you are
hiding something. Discuss data
uncertainties, strengths and
weaknesses — including the ones
identified by other credible sources.
Identify worst-case estimates as such,
and cite ranges of risk estimates
when appropriate.
Point to Consider:
•  Trust and credibility are difficult to
obtain. Once lost they are almost
impossible to regain completely.
                                                        Coordinate and
                                                        collaborate with other
                                                        credible sources

                                                        Allies can be effective in helping you
                                                        communicate risk information.
                                                        Guidelines: Take time to coordinate
                                                        all inter-organizational and
                                                        intra-organizational communications.
                                                        Devote effort and resources to the
                                                        slow, hard work of building badges
                                                        with other organizations. Use
                                                        credible and authoritative

 intermediaries. Consult with others
 to determine who is best able to
 answer questions about risk. Try to
 issue communications jointly with
 other trustworthy sources (for
 example, credible university
 scientists, physicians, or trusted local

 Point to Consider:
 • Few things make risk
 communication more difficult than
 conflicts or public disagreements with
 other credible sources.
Meet the needs of
the media

The media are a prime transmitter of
information on risks; they play a
critical role in setting agendas and in
determining outcomes.
Guidelines: Be open with and
accessible to reporters.  Respect their
deadlines. Provide risk information
tailored to the  needs of each type of
media (for example, graphics and
other visual aids for television).
Prepare in advance and provide
background material on complex risk
issues. Do not hesitate to follow up
on stories with praise or criticism,  as
warranted. Try to establish long-term
relationships of trust with specific
editors and reporters.
Point to Consider:
• The media are frequently more
interested in politics than in  risk;
more interested in simplicity than  in
complexity; more interested in
danger than in safety.
Speak clearly and
with compassion

Technical language and jargon are
useful as professional shorthand. But
they are barriers to successful
communication with the public.
Guidelines: Use simple,
non-technical language. Be sensitive
to local norms,  such as speech and
dress. Use vivid, concrete images
that communicate on a personal
level. Use examples and anecdotes
that make technical risk data come
alive. Avoid distant, abstract,
unfeeling language about deaths,
injuries, and illnesses. Acknowle
and respond (both in words and
actions) to emotions that people
express—anxiety, tear, anger,
outrage, helplessness. Acknowledge
and respond to the distinctions that
the public views as important in
evaluating risks, e.g., voluntanness,
controllability, tamiiiantv. dread,
origin (natural or man-made),
benefits, fairness, and catastrophic
potential. Use risk comparisons  to
help put risks in perspective; but
avoid comparisons that ignore
distinctions that people consider
important. Always try to include a
discussion of actions  that are under
way or can be taken. Tell people
what you cannot do.  Promise only
what you can do, and be sure to do
what you promise.
Points to Consider:
•  Regardless of how well vou
communicate risk information, some
people will not be satisfied.
•  Never let your efforts to inform
people about risks prevent you from
acknowledging—and saving—th?

any illness, injury, or death is a
o  If people are sufficiently motivated.
they are quite capable ot
understanding complex risk
information, even it they may not
agree with you
This pamphlet was diatted bv Vincent T
Covello ami Frederick W  Allen, with the
assistance ami review ot numerous
colleagues in and out ot government
Covello is Director ot the Center tor Rt?k
Communication in Columbia University
iind is currently President ot the Society
tor Risk Analusis  iSRA)  The vieics
expressed here ao  not necessarily
represent the  I'leics ot Columbia
University or the  SRA  Allen is Associate
Director ot the Otncc ot Policy Analysis
at the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA)  The EPA has published this
pamphlet as a non-binding reference
document, recognizing that  the manner
in which  the guidance sliould be applied
will necessarily ; am from case to case
The authors imnte your comments


              Risk  Communication Problems and
      Risk  communication problems arise from (1) message problems
 (e.g.,  limitations of scientific risk assessments); (2) source
 problems  (e.g.,  limitations of risk communicators and risk
 experts);  (3) channel problems (e.g., limitations in the means or
 media by which scientific information about health or
 environmental risks is transmitted); and (4) receiver problems
 (e.g.,  characteristics of the intended recipients of the

 Message problems include:

        o   deficiencies in scientific understanding, data, models,
           and methods resulting in large uncertainties in risk

        o   highly technical analyses that are often unintelligible
           to lay persons.

        o   shear amount of complexity of the analysis.

 Source  problems include:

        o   lack of trust and credibility;

        o   disagreements among scientific experts;

        o   limited authority and resources for addressing risk

        o   lack of data addressing the specific fears and concerns
           of individuals and communities;

        o   failure to disclose limitations of risk assessments and
           resulting uncertainties;

        o   limited understanding of the interests, concerns,
           fears, values, priorities, and preferences of
           individual citizens and public groups;

        o   use of bureaucratic, legalistic, and technical
Adapted from Risk Communication (A Review of the Literature),  a
report prepared for the Environmental Protection Agency,  August
1987.  Covello, Vincent T., Slovic, Paul and von Winterfeldt,

Channel problems include:
       o  selective and biased media reporting that emphasizes
          drama, wrongdoing, disagreements, and conflict;
       o  premature disclosure of scientific information;
       o  over implications, distortions, and inaccuracies in
          interpreting technical risk information.
Receiver problems include:
       o  inaccurate perceptions of levels.of risk;
       o  lack of interest in risk problems and technical
       o  overconfidence in one's ability to avoid harm;
       o  strong beliefs and opinions that are resistant to
       o  exaggerated expectations about the effectiveness of
          regulatory actions;
       o  desire and demands for scientific certainty;
       o  a reluctance to make trade-offs between risks, costs,
          and benefits;
       o  difficulties in understanding probabilistic information
          related to unfamiliar technologies.

Some  Dos and Don'ts of Listening
by Eastwood Atwater
In a crisis situation, you will be faced with several different audiences requiring your
attention and ability to really "hear" what they are saying.
Here are some suggestions for improving your listening skills, but be reminded that mastery
of these skills requires repeated practice.
When listening, try to do the following:

1.   Become aware of your own listening habits.
     What are your strong points? What arc your faults? Do you judge people too quickly?
     Do you interrupt too often? A better awareness of your listening habits is the first
     stage in changing them.

2.   Shorn iespon$ib«!yfojtti0comfmirtcatton.
     Remember that it takes two to communicate — one to talk and one to listen — with each
     person alternating as the listener.  Whenever you are unclear about what a speaker is
     saying, it is your responsibility to let the speaker know this, either by asking for
     clarification or actively reflecting what you heard and asking to be corrected.

3.   Be puydk»ull/ attentive.
     Face the speaker.  Maintain appropriate eye contact.  Make certain your posture and
     gestures show you are listening. Sit or stand at a distance which puts you and the
     speaker at ease. Remember that the one who is speaking wants an attentive, animated
     listener,  not a stone wall.
4.   Concentrate on what the speaker Is saying.
     Be alert for wandering thoughts.  Being physically and verbally responsive will
     probably help you concentrate on what the speaker is saying.
"Some Dos and Don'u of Listening" from / Hear You. copyright 1986 by Eastwood Atwater. Prentice Hill. Englewood Cliffs SJ l'< v

5.    Listen for the total meaning, including feelings as well as information.
      Remember that people communicate their attitudes and feelings "coded" in socially
      acceptable ways.  Listen for the feelings as well as the content.

6.    Observe the speaker's non-verbal signals.
      Watch the speaker's facial expressions, and how modi he or she gazes and makes eye
      contact with you. Listen to the speaker's tone of voice and rate of speech. Does the
      speaker's body language reinforce or contradict the spoken words?

7.    Adopt an accepting attitude toward the speaker.
      An accepting attitude on the listener's part creates a favorable  atmosphere for
      communication.  The more speakers feel accepted, the more they can let down their
      guard and express what they really want to say. Any negative attitude OR the listener's
      part tends to malt* a speaker feel defensive, insecure,, and more guarded in
8.    Express empathetic understanding.
      Use active, reflective listening skills to discover how other people feel, and what they
      are really trying to say in terms of their own frame of reference.

9.    Listen to yourself.
      When you recognize the feelings stimulated in you by another's message, and can
      express those feelings, this clears the air and helps you to listen better.

10.   *Ck»eh^loop-of IWenir^bytok^
      Remember that people often speak with the purpose of getting something tangible
      done—to  obtain information, to change your opinion, to get you to do something  The
      acid test of listening is how well you respond to the speaker's message with an
      appropriate action.  In listening, actions speak louder than words.
•Some Dos and Doo'u of Lirteaing" from / Hear You. copyright 1986 by Eastwood Atwaier, Prentice Hall. Englewood Cbffs SJ I'M

 While emphasis should be on positive suggestions for improving listening habits, it is helpful
 to keep in mind some of the pitfalls of listening.
 Consequently, in listening, don't do the following:

 1.    Don't mistake not talking for listening.
      People who remain silent arm'r necessarily listening.  They may be preoccupied with
      their own thoughts. On the other hand, people can talk a lot and still process
      information and listen quite well.
2.    Don't fake listening.
      Whenever you try to fake listening, your disinterest or boredom inevitably shows up in
      your facial expressions or body language. More often than not, fake listening comes
      across as an insult to the speaker.

3.    Don't interrupt needlessly.
      People in positions of power tend to interrupt more often than those not in power
      without realizing it.  If you must interrupt someone in a serious conversation, tn to
      follow with a retrieval—helping the speaker to re-establish the train of thought.

4.    Don't pass judgment too quickly.
      Judgmental remarks invariably put others on  the defensive, serving as barriers tn
      effective communication.
5.    Don't moke arguing an 'ego-trip.'
      Even if you argue only "mentally" with what the speaker is saying, you tend to xt» >p
      listening and look forward to your turn to talk.  When you begin to argue verbulU  >> u
      become so preoccupied with justifying your own views that you often fail to hear the
      other's viewpoint  When you honestly disagree, you need to listen carefully in order t.»
      understand what you are disagreeing with.  Then state your point of view.
'Some Dos and Doo'ls of Listening" from / Hear You. copyright 1986 by Eastwood Atwater, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs

 6.    Don't ask too many questions.
      Closed questions that require a definite answer should be kept to a minimum.  Even
      open questions that encourage a speaker to elaborate on a point should be used with
      caution. Too many questions have a way of shifting control of the conversation to the
      listener, putting the speaker on the defensive.

 7.    Don't ever toff a speaker 1 know exactly how you feel/
      This remark serves more to justify your own efforts than to convince someone you are
      really listening. In the first place, it is difficult to know just how another person feels.
      Then too, such a generalized remark is likely to distract the speaker  from further efforts
      at self-expression, as well as  cast doubt on your own credibility as a listener.  It is
      usually more effective to demonstrate  you have heard with a reflective, empatheuc
      response such as "I sense that you are feeling disappointed," or "I get the impression
      you are angry about this."

8.    Don't overreact to emotional words.
      Be careful not to let yourself get so caught up  in the speaker's outburst of feelings that
      you miss the content of his or her message.  Be alert for loaded words and expressions,
      but listen also for the message that comes with them.  Your own feelings can  block
      your understanding of something you may really need to hear.

9.    Don't give advice  unless it is requested.
      Even when someone asks your advice, it is better to use reflective listening skills to
      determine what that person wants to know.

10.   Don't use listening as a way of hiding yourself.
      People may use the appearance of listening as  a way of avoiding emotional involvement
      and real communication.  The "listener" who uses silence as a personal retreat is
      inadvertently preventing effective communication, rather than furthering it.
'Some Dos and Don'ti of Listening" from / Hear You. copyright 1986 by Eastwood Aiwaier. Prentice Hall. Englewood Cbffi NJ

                            Submitted to:

               New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
                     Division of Science and Research
                          Contract #029444
                          December 14,1987
             (This report accompanies two related volumes: Improving
            Dialogue with Communities: A Risk Communication Manual for
           Government, and "Encouraging Effective Risk Communication In
              Government: Suggestions for Agency Management'*)
                           Carpn Chess
                          Associate Director
                          Billie To Hance
                          Research Associate
                         Peter M, Sandman
                         TNf »;*if uN
                               TABLE OF CONTENTS
               Hew Communities See Risk
                     Factors in Community Outrage
                     Yes. But
        n.     Earning Trust and Credibility
                     Yes. But .
                     Ten Ways to Lose Trust and Credibility
                     Yes. But
                     Ten Reasons to Release Information Early
        IV.    Interacting with the Community
                     Ladder of Citizen Participation
                     Yes. But
        V.     Explaining Risk
                     Yes. But
        VI.    Ten Myths of Risk Communication
"Improving Dulogne with Communities." wnnea by Caroo Chew. Bilbe Jo rhnce. »nd Peter Sandman of (he EovironmeDUl CommuiuuiiaD
Rewireh Progrkm a Cook College. Rutgers University, 1987.


             Agency representatives who deal with environmental health Issues often feel
       frustrated with communities that don't seem to listen and many times seem frightened
       of the "wrong" risks. In response, agency policy-makers and staff can choose to ignore
       communities (and In all likelihood face Increased hostility).  Or they can choose to
       Interact more effectively with the public. This guide was written for those who under-
       stand that they must deal with communities but need some help In doing so.
       •     understand public perception and more easily anticipate community response to
             agency actions:
       •     Increase the effectiveness of risk management decisions by Involving concerned
       •     Improve dialogue and reduce unwarranted tension between communities and
       •     explain risks more effectively; and
       •     alert communities to risk in constructive ways.

             CuiiuiiuiiiuiUng' about eiiviiuiuiieiitdl problems, however, cannot replace effec-
       tive risk management. This guide will not provide techniques to make environmental
       problems disappear. Although it might seem possible to sell "bad" policy with "good"
       communication, we doubt that communities will buy the result.


             "Improving Dialogue with Communities" was made possible by a contract from
       tYuf Division, of 5r^T% anA agency staff throughout. *fr» country.  These suggestions
       have undergone a review process involving both an advisory committee and those we
       interviewed.  The authors are grateful to all the people who agreed to be Interviewed:
       they are listed In the longer version of this guide, Improving Dialogue with Communities:
       A Risk Communication Manual Jar Government.

             Although based on extensive Interviewing and a review of the research literature.
      'this guide does not purport to be derived from quantitative analysis or entirely free of
       bias.  We attempted to distill the wisdom, judgments, values, and Intuitions of those
       whom we interviewed in ways that would be helpful to practitioners.


             This guide, which Is an abbreviated version of a longer manual, is useful to
_ those who wish a quick overview of how the public sees risk and how to Improve inter-
•Improving Dialogue with Communities.- written by Caron Chew. Bilbe Jo Huce. and Pewr Sandman of ibe Environmental Commuiuciuon
Research Program ai Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

actions with the public. As such, this guide may help orient new staff or those unfa-
miliar with strategies for dealing with communities. It may also serve as a reference for
more seasoned practitioners.

       Because most risk communication Issues are so interrelated, we suggest you
read the entire guide first. Pay particular attention to Chapter I. which lays the ground-
work for much of the guide.  When you are dealing with a particular communication
problem, you may wish to consult the longer manual for more in-depth guidance.  If the
suggestions, here strike you a*-a bit too "cut and dried.* also ***•*•«•*»••
longer manual for more substantiation. Although the guide you are reading
nearly all the "guidelines" In the longer version and sections entitled "Yes. But...." to
deal with the most likely concerns, we have omitted a variety of features:  (a) In-depth
explanations of the rationale for each suggestion; (b) extensive quotations from those we
interviewed concerning the suggestions: and (c) anecdotes and examples that illustrate
the suggestions. (The complete manual is available from NJDEP's Division of Science
and Research. 401 East State Street. CN 409. Trenton. 08625.)

       Finally, some of the suggestions may seem difficult to Implement without sup-
port from agency policy-makers.  This issue is discussed in a separate report. "Encour-
aging Risk Communication In Government: Suggestions for Agency Management." also
available from the Division of Science and Research.

       Many of the suggestions In this guide may seem common sense. Unfortunately.
these common-sense guidelines are routinely violated in agency practice, leading to the
all-too-common battles between agencies and communities. We hope this guide will
help common sense-become more omnium than the battle*.
 •Improving Dialogue with Commooiues.* written by Caron Qttu. Bfllie Jo Hince. ind Peter Sandman of the Environmental,.
 Research Program it Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987.

 Risk Communication  Problems  and Tasks
 Risk communication problems arise from (1) message problems (e.g.. limitations of scientific
 risk assessments); (2) source problems (e.g^ limitations of risk communicators and risk
 experts); (3) channel problems (e.g., limitations in the means or media by which scientific
 information about health or environmental risks is transmitted); and (4) receiver problems
 (e.g., characteristics of the intended recipients of the communication).
 Message problems Include:
      a deficiencies in scientific understanding, data, models, and methods resulting in large
        uncertainties in risk estimates;
      o highly technical analyses that are often unintelligible to lay persons;
      Q sheer amount of complexity of the analysis.
Source problems include:
      Q lack of trust and credibility,
      a disagreements among scientific experts;
      a limited authority  and resources for addressing risk problems;
      Q lack of data addressing the specific fears and concerns of individuals and
      Q failure to disclose limitations of risk assessments and resulting uncertainties:
      Q limited understanding of the interests, concerns, fears, values, priorities, and
        preferences of individual citizens and public groups;
      a use of bureaucratic, legalistic, and technical language.
Adtpud from Halt Communication—A Renew of OK iaraturt.'t report prepared for ihe Envffoameoul Proucuon Agency. August
ViDcem T Covello. Paul Slovic. tad Detlof Von Wmtafeldt

 Channel problems include:

       a selective and biased media reporting that emphasizes drama, wrongdoing,
          disagreements, and conflict;

       Q premature disclosure of scientific information;

       a over implications, distortions, and inaccuracies in interpreting  technical risk

 Receiver problems Include:

       Q inaccurate perceptions of levels of risk;

       o lack of interest in risk problems and technical complexities;

       Q overconfidence in one's ability to avoid harm;

       Q strong beliefs and opinions that are resistant to change;

       a exaggerated expectations about the  effectiveness of regulatory actions;

       Q desire and demands for scientific certainty;

       a a reluctance to make trade-offs between risks, costs, and benefits;

       3 difficulties in understanding probabilistic mfonnatkm related to unfamiliar
Adapud from Risk Communication-* Review of At Lueraairt. a repon prepared for the Environmental Protection Agency. Augiui l'»' h>
Vincent T. CoveHo, Paul Slovic, and Dedef Voo Winterfeldt

                    I.  HOW COMMUNITIES SEE RISK
            Agency scientists and policy-makers are particularly confused and frustrated by
      public reactions to environmental risk. Tempers flare at a public meeting concerning a
      risk that the agency estimates might cause considerably fewer'than one-ln-a-million
      Increased cancer deaths.  Yet people will smoke during the break and drive home
      without seat belts- risks far greater than those discussed at the public meeting. When
      agency scientists point out this apparent contradiction (ignoring the fact that smoking
      and driving, without a seat belt are risks that people choose, not an environmental risk
      that chooses them), people become even angrier.  Conversely, risks that the agency sees
      as serious—naturally occurring radon gas In homes, for example—can be met with
      relative Indifference by the public.

            In order to reduce the level of hostility between agencies and the public, those
      who work within agencies need to understand  better how communities perceive risk.
      Agencies sometimes respond to unexpected community reactions by dismissing them as
      irrational and concluding that the public is unable to understand the scientific aspects
      of risk. But when agencies make decisions that affect communities without involving
      those «*nmmnnm*MB they o*Vn fitftt even angrier responses.

            In order to break this cycle, agencies might begin by recognizing that communi-
      ties are quite capable of understanding the scientific aspects of risk assessment. "The
      public* includes doctors, chemists, and teachers, as well as persons with less scientific
      background, who understand many of the technical intricacies of risk.  In fact, while
      government personnel may change over the course of an environmental problem, rest-
      dents of affected communities often remember studies, reports, and agency actions with
      an Impressive amount of recall.  Too often government assumes that because communi-
      ties don't agree with an agency action, t'-.ey don't understand iL

            Because outbursts of citizen anger make agencies understandably uncomfort-
      able, they also tend to forget that public outrage can be extremely positive.  In fact.
      most environmental agencies and a significant number of the laws they enforce are the
      results of citizen campaigns, fueled by anger over environmental degradation.  Funding
      for these laws, and consequently for agency staff, also depends in some cases on tough
      legislative battles fought by citizens.  In addition, most agencies can admit to a number
      of environmental problems that wouldn't have been uncovered were it not for commu-
      nity action.

            On the other hand, agencies particularly resent anger directed at them  rather
      than at the environmental problem. Unfortunately, agencies tend to act (often unwit-
      tingly) in ways that provoke such anger.

            Admittedly, public fears are often not well-correlated with agency assessments
     While agencies focus on data gathered from hazard evaluations, monitoring, and risk
     assessments, the public takes into account many other factors besides scientific data
     Collectively, it is helpful to think of these non-technical factors as the 'outrage* dimen-
     sion of risk, as opposed to the "hazard*
     als. Because the public pays more attention to outrage than the experts do. public nsk
     assessments are likely to be very different from agency risk assessments. Ignoring the
"Improving Dialogue with Communities.' wnnen by.Caron Chess. Bilbe Jo Hince. and Peier Sandman of the Environment Gxnni.- ..  r
Research Program at Cook College. Ringers University. 1987

 variables that influence public perception- or worse, labeling them irrational and then
 discounting them- is guaranteed to raise the level of hostility between community
 members and agency representatives and will ultimately stand in the way of a success-
 ful resolution of the problem.

       Merely hammering away at the scientific information will rarely help. Most
 agency representatives can recall Instances when explaining the science made little
 difference- or made people even angrier.  While it may be tempting to conclude from
 this thai laypeople cannot understand risk assessment data, research in the field of risk
 perception, backed by much anecdotal evidence, strongly suggests that other factors
 are at work.  Below are some of the key variables that underlie community perception of

 a.     Voluntary rtsks are accepted more readily than those that are imposed.  When
 people dont have choices, they become angry.  Similarly, when communities feel co-
 erced into accepting risks, they tend to feel furious about the coercion. As a result, they
 focus on government's process and pay far less attention to substantive risk Issues:
 ultimately, they come to see the risk as more risky.

 b.     Rtsks under individual control are accepted more readily than those under govern-
 ment control Most people feel safer with risks under their own control. For example.
 most of us feel safer driving than riding as a  passenger. Our feeling has nothing to do
 with the data— our driving recant versus the driving recoid of others. Similarly, people
 tend to feel more comfortable with environmental risks they can do something about
 themselves, rather than having to rely on government to protect them.

 c.     Rtsks that seem fair are more acceptable than those that seem unfair. A coerced
 risk will always seem unfair. In addition, a community that feels stuck with the risk
 and little of the benefit will find the risk unfair- and thus more serious. This factor
 explains, in part, why communities that depend on a particular industry for Jobs some-
 times see pollution from that Industry as less risky.
d»     Risk' tnfut inatton thutwuwfromtrttstwm ttiu wurceftrifiuie
than tnformattonjrom untrustworthy sources. If a mechanic with whom you have quar-
relled in the past suggests he cant find a problem with a car that seems faulty to you.
you will respond quite differently than if a friend delivers the same news. You are more
apt to demand justification, rather than ask neutral questions, of the mechanic. Unfor-
tunately, on-going battles with communities erode trust and make the agency message
far less believable.

       While the above factors are those most frequently stumbled over by government
agencies, social scientists have Identified additional variables that are also likely to be
relevant to agencies dealing with the public about environmental health issues:

e.     Risks that seem ethically objectionable wOl seem more risky than those that don't.
To many people, pollution is morally wrong. As former EPA Assistant Administrator
Milton Russell put It, speaking to some people about an acceptable level of pollution is
like talking about an acceptable number of child molestera.
1 Baruch Jlachhoff. Paul Slavic, and Sarah Uchtenstetai conducted much of the grouad-breaktng
        Dulogue with Cbmnniaibef." wntten by Csron Chen. Bilbe Jo Hiaee. and Peter -<••*•«• of the Environmental Conunuoicjiioo
 Research Program at Cook College. Ruigen University. 1987

      /.      Natural risks seem more acceptable than artificial risks. Natural risks provide no
      focus for anger a risk caused by God is more acceptable than one caused by people.
      For example, consider the difference between the reactions to naturally occurring radon
      in homes and the reactions to high radon levels caused by uranium mine tailings or
      industrial sources.

      g.     Exotic risks seem mare risky than familiar risks. A cabinet full of household
      cleansers, for example, seems much less risky than a high-tech chemical facility that
      makes the cleansers.

      ft.     Risks that are associated with other, memctrible events are considered more
      risky. Risks that bring to mind Bhopal or Love Canal, for example, are more likely to be
      feared than those that lack such associations.

             The greater the number and seriousness of these factors, the greater the likelihood
      of public concern about the risk,  regardless of the scientific data. As government agen-
      cies have seen many times, the  risks that elicit public concern may not be the same
      ones that scientists have identified as most dangerous to health.  When officials dismiss
      the public's concern as misguided, moreover, the result is controversy, anger, distrust.
      and still greater concern. None of this is meant to suggest that people disregard scien-
      tific information and make decisions- based only on the other variables— the outrage
      factors. It does suggest, however, that outrage also matters, and that by ignoring the
      outrage factors, agencies skew the balance and cause people to become still more
      outraged. This is the logic that leads to the guideline that follows.

      Pay as much attention to outrage factors, and to the community's concerns, as to
      scientific variables. At the tame time, don't underestimate the public's ability to
      understand the science.

             Agencies tro often focus on the scientific data and Ignore the outrage factors.
      They pay the price for doing so. Insistence on dealing with the "right* risks, the "right"
      way. may seem to many outside the agency as arrogant at best. If you fall to attend to
      the outrage factors and  people's concerns from the outset, you will often be forced to
      attend to them later, after you have angered  the public—a far more difficult situation.

             For example, communities which were not  consulted during the decision-making
      process more readily fight agency decisions.  Similarly, agency representatives have
      sometimes been shouted down when trying to present data because communities have
      felt their concerns were  not acknowledged, much less addressed.

             Nonetheless, there are examples of agency  successes. The New York Department
      of Health asked office workers their concerns and  gave them opportunities for input
      following a fire that contaminated their office building with dloxln.  Trust was built in
      the process. NJDEP listened to— and responded to— community concerns in Clinton
      where extremely high radon levels were found, leading to a community response to
      NJDEP that seemed far  more positive than in many other instances. In Virginia, a
      developer Involved the community in the risk assessment process, building sufficient
      credibility that when the risk assessment showed negligible risks, the results were
      believed. In most of these instances of success, communities that were consulted about
      their concerns were also helped to understand the science, and their understanding
"Improving Dialogue with Communities.- wntleo by Cargo Chess. Billie Jo Haoce. aad Peier Sandman of the Environmental Conunuucu.
Research Program it Cook College. Ringers University. 1987

       In short, response to risk is more complex than a linear response to "the facts.*
This does not mean that people dont need to know— or want to know—the facts. It
means rather that agencies need to take into account other factors as well.

•      Our Job is to protect public health. That means relying on data, not deal-
ing with outrage/actors.

       There are basically three responses to this point:

       First, if you merely run with scientific information and ignore the outrage fac-
tors, you will outrage the public. As a result, risks the agency deems minimal will
become battlegrounds. Agencies will have less time for serious risks. In short, one way
or another agencies wffl have to deal with these factors.

       Second, in a democracy controversial issues are not merely determined by those
with technical expertise. For example, the experts in the Pentagon have great technical
expertise in weaponry, but few people, regardless of their political beliefs, feel that
American defense policy should be determined solely by the Pentagon.

       Third, data are not always complete, and management options are rarely perfect.
The public's raising other concerns can lead to better technical solutions.

•      {fit were not for activist groups, there would be no outrage.

       As anyone who has tried to organize a community can attest, it is hard to create
outrage when none exists. Advocacy groups can focus or direct the community's anger.
but rarely create it. In fact, most environmental activists count on government to create
the outrage. In many cases where environmental officials blame public-interest groups
for blocking solutions, the blame needs to be shared by the officials themselves, who
amrtttmgty goaded the outrage by neglecting from the outset to listen to community
concerns.  Instead of blaming citizens for not understanding risk, in short agencies
might spend more time trying to understand citizen concerns.
•Improving Dialogue with Communiuej." written by C«ron die*. Bilbe Jo Huce. tad Peier Sudrau at the Environment*] Commucuciiion
Research Program it Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987.


           Agencies achieve trust. In large part, by being consistently competent, caring.
     and honest. If you communicate with honesty and fairness, your audience will often
     respond in kind. On the other hand, slick packaging with a veneer of honesty is easy to
     see through and more likely to undermine trust than to build it.  Jim Callaghan. who
     spent many years advising industry as senior vice president of the public relations firm
     of Hill and Knowlton. puts it this way: The only way to achieve credibility is to 'be

           Of course, acting trustworthy is no guarantee that people will ultimately trust
     you. But if you fail to "be credible,' you will virtually guarantee community opposition,
     in the form of both disagreement with the science and resentment of the agency.

                  Bruce Bentley. citizen participation specialist at the New York State
           Department of Environmental Conservation, points out that a key to building
           trust can be involving people in decision-making. A controversy over what to do
           with PCBs In the Hudson River was fueled by the lack of trust resulting from the
           agency's failure to ask people about disposal of the PCBs.  Bentley says. "We
           failed to involve people In determining what the criteria for a site should be and
           then went ahead and selected the site.... By that time, people were not willing to
           buy into the criteria and certainly, therefore, not willing to. buy into the site.*

                  Conversely, trust can be built by dealing with the public forthrtghtly.
           When a flre contaminated a Blnghamton office building with dloxln. the New York
           State Department of Health decided to make all working sessions of the technical
           risk assessment committee open to the public and the media. The committee.
           which consisted of people from the city, union members, and technical people
           unafllllated with the health department struggled with difficult questions openly.
           Although the meetings were not public information meetings, there was time
           allotted for questions at the end of each session. As Faith Schottenfeld. commu-
           nity relations specialist at the department, pointed out. 'It was really helpful for
           people to »ee the kind of Interchange that went on betaken time expert* when it
           LHIIK to rmkliig difficult decisions.*

           The guidelines In this chapter provide a framework for the more specific recom-
     mendations in other chapters.

     1.    Be aware of the factors which Inspire trust. Trust in an agency depends, in
     large part, on whether the agency: (a) seems competent; (b) seems caring: (c) encourages
     meaningful public involvement: (d) seems honorable and honest; and (e)  takes into
     account the "outrage factors* which Influence perception of risk.  (See Chapter  1.)  In
     essence. Instead of pushing the public to trust them, agencies should strive toward
     acting consistently trustworthy.

     2.    Pay attention to process.  In many cases citizen opposition focuses not only on
     agency action (or inaction), but also on the manner in which the agency proceeded
     toward that action. Try. whenever possible, to involve affected communities In agency

     3.    Explain agency procedures. Communities need to understand government's
     Internal workings, a"d "gr™**^ ™"*i to show U*^ they ppcrattt in some icigft'^ manner.
     Indicate* how public input fits Into the process.

"ImproviDg Dulogue with Communities." written by Caroo Cheii. Bilbe Jo Hiacc. ud Peiet Stndmu at the Environment!) Comnuio,*ji,. n
Research Program ai Cook College. Ringers University. 1987

   "People nod the agencies and thetr actions more care/uUy than they read the details of
   the studies.... That's what we have generalized skill at"  Baruch Flschhoff. leading
   researcher on risk perception, Carnegie-Mellon University.
 4.    Be forthcoming with Information and Involve the public from the outset. If
 you fall to disclose Information or Involve people early, the public is apt to mistrust the
 agency. The agency will then be put on the defensive. (See Chapter III.)

 B.    Focnt oa building trust as veil as generating good scientific data. As
 explained In Chapter I. people's risk judgments are seldom based solely on scientific
 information, but rather on a combination of the data, their perception, of the risk due to
 other variables, and their feelings about the agency.

 6.    Follow up. When your promises fall through the cracks, you might not notice.
 but those to whom you made the promises usually do. Make every effort to get back to
 people and check to see if your promises are becoming reality. In particular, consider
 making sure that notes are taken at public meetings regarding commitments. Then
 write follow-up memos and take follow-up actions to make the promises happen.

 7.    Uake only promises you are sure you can  keep. It is often tempting to make
 unrealistic promises when pressed by the public, or to promise something you genu-
 inely expect to deliver, only to find out later you cant. Consider explaining goals and
 the process  leading to them rather than promising firm dates. Providing regular prog-
 ress reports, even when progress is slow, can be very helpful.  If you find you cant
 follow through on a promise you have made, explain fully as soon as possible rather
 than hoping people will forget.  They probably wont.

 8.     ProvtdB iafonDattoB tint BMta pcopIt'fcBMda* *>i*t<**ii%te what people want
 to know— and what they win need to know even if they dont ask for it. Take some time
 to develop a list of problems, issues, and needs people might have, and prepare re-
 sponses that address them.  Keep in mind that different organizations and types of
 people will have different needs— a pregnant woman may have different concerns than
 the Chamber of Commerce. (See Chapter V.)

 9i     Get the facts straight.  Although agency representatives work hard to provide
 accurate information, sometimes facts get Jumbled or key information is left out so
 people later feel misled. Try to spot areas In advance where confusion might occur and
 make an extra effort to be clear.  If the effort fails, correct the misimpresslon as quickly
 as possible.

 10.    Try to coordinate with other agencies. When communities get mixed mes-
 sages, they are apt to feel confused and distrustful.  To the extent possible, coordinate
 agency messages. When agencies have honest differences, acknowledge them.

 1 1.    Blake sure to coordinate within your agency. Lack of coordination within the
agency creates, confusion, and an. impression of agency ineptness. Responses to various
acknowledged and explained.
 •laproviag Dialogue with Communiuw." writtea by tira Chen. BOUe Jo Hioee. ud Pete* Sandman of the Eovironma.ul Commuoicauoa
 Research Program u Cook College, Rutgen University. 1987.

     12.    Don't give mixed messages. Risk Issues are sufficiently confusing that any
     Inconsistencies— or seeming Inconsistencies- can make matters worse. For example, if
     you tell a community that risks are minimal and then take samples wearing protective
     gear, to reduce confusion, explain the seeming contradiction before you take the action.

     13.    Listen to what various groups are telling you. Try to foster mutual respect
     and consideration with all stakeholders in an Issue. Avoid offending any group, includ-
     ing activists.  Agencies tend to overestimate the power of activist groups. These groups
     can't create outrage; they can only nurture existing outrage.

     14.    EnlUtthc help of orfndcfttioin? tint bra credibility with communities.
     Groups that have focal credibility (not merely organizations which agencies believe
     should have credibility) can be Involved In helping explain risks.  However, this ap-
     proach can't replace forthrightness or more extensive community Involvement.

     15.    Avoid "closed" meetings. While casual meetings- the routine turning of gov-
     ernment wheels-are rarely suspect, private meetings-those closed to the public- are
     more likely to cause distrust. The meetings agencies feel they can't afford for the public
     to know about are the very ones the public will probably eventually hear about. You
     may avoid many problems by keeping meetings open.

     16.    If yon are dealing with a tf tnation In which trust IB low, consider taking the
     following steps:

     a.     Review the outrage factors in Chapter I and the guidelines in this chapter.
            Consider which ones may have been violated.

     b.     Acknowledge the lack of trust: "I know you may feel I cant be trusted because
            the person who handled this case before me delayed In giving you the informa-

     c.     Indicate what steps you plan to take to prevent the trust-eroding actions from
            happening again: "In order to make sure you get information as quickly as
            possible. I am going to send you bi-weekly updates about the status of the
            situation.  These updates will include all new data."

     d.     Ask those  who distrust you what they feel would make them more likely to trust
            you. To the extent possible. Implement their suggestions.

     e.     Respond on a personal level, when appropriate (see Chapter rvj".

     f.      Try to reduce reasons for distrust by sharing Information and involving the
            public In developing solutions (see Chapter IV).

     g.     Be patient. Dont expect all the people to trust you all the time, even if you feel
            you are totally trustworthy.

            Because it may take a lot of effort to recoup trust, expect to go out of your way
     for people. If you are the person who aroused the distrust, acknowledge your mistakes.
       "Because communities don't trust us they forget what ts loglcaL The reason they don't '
       tru*u» to tt&uxdOrtttiwoto* them tn the decisions.* Bruce Bentlcy.CtttenParttci- .
      patlon Specialist. New York Department of Environmental Conservation.	
"Improving Dialogue «iih Communities'.- written by Cafoo Chess. BilUe Jo Hince. and taa Sandman of the Envronmeoul Commueuc-.on
Research Program at Cook College. Ruigeri University. 1987

YES, BUT....
•     ft seems that no matter what we do, some people will never trust us.

      True. However, the fact that you can't earn the trust of aD the people all the
time does not imply that you should forgo the effort. Check to make sure that— despite
a basic commitment to trustworthiness—you have not violated some of the basic prin-
ciples in this guide. The agency may also be confusing trust with agreement; people
can trust each, other's integrity and f**H disagree on fundamental matters.

        Take a good look at most risk communication 1101101' stories" and you'll
 probably find a major breakdown In trust between government representatives and
 the public they are supposed to serve. The next time someone comes to you with a
 sob story about communicating with the public, you might want to hand them this
 tongue-in-cheek list.  Or better yet. hand it out before the damage is done.

 1.     Don't Involve peep** tn decisions that directly affect their lives. Then
        act defensive when your policies are challenged,

 2.     Hold onto information until people are screaming for It. While they are
        waiting, don't tell them when they will get it. Just say. "These things take
        time." or "It's going through quality assurance."

 3.     Ignore peoples'feelings. Better yet. say they are Irrelevant and irrational.
        It helps to add that you can't understand why they are overreacting to such
        a small risk.

 4.     Don't follow up. Place returning phone calls from citizens at the bottom of
        your to do" list. Delay sending out the information you promised people at
        the public meeting.

 5.     If you make a mistake, deny ft.  Never admit you were wrong.

 6.     If you don't know the answers, fake it. Never say "I dont know."

 T.     Dsrft speak plain English. When explaining technical information, use
        professional Jargon. Or simplify so completely that you leave out important
     .   information. Better yet, throw up your hands and say, "You people could
        not possibly understand this stuff."

 8.     Present yourself tike a bureaucrat. Wear a three-piece suit to a town
        meeting at the Jocal grange, and sit up on stage with seven of your col-
        leagues who art dressed similarly.

 9.     Delay talking to other agencies Involved- or other people involved within
        your agency- so the message the public gets can be as confusing as pos-
 IflU'  fern* ofymir trhiif luff has- trouble relating to people hates to do it.
  -   *  and has begged not to, send him or her out anyway. It's good experience.
       Dialogue with Commaahies." wnnea by Cvon Chess. Bilbe lo Hiace. ud Peter Sudmu ef the Environmental
Research Program u Cook College. Rittgen University. 1987.

             Perhaps no other aspect of agency communication of environmental risk is so
       closely related to the agency's credibility as Its decision about when to share informa-
       tion with the public.  Agencies fear that releasing Information early may lead to undue
       alarm or lead to disclosure of incorrect or misinterpreted data. Agencies also hold onto
       information while developing risk management options rather than going to the public

             But what agencies view as responsible caution, communities are apt to see as a
       "cover-up" or as bureaucratic intransigence.  When health risks are Involved, regardless
       of the level of risk, communities find it difficult to accept any Justification for withhold-
       ing information. Therefore, community anger over agency process may block possibili-
       ties for constructive dialogue over the risk itself. Moreover, waiting to release  informa-
       tion until the agency has made its management choices reduces the chances for com-
       munity participation In the risk management process, and thus lessens the chances of
       a solution acceptable to the agency and the community.
                    Fox ^U^IPP^I Susan ^an^rtft, fonnftrfy mttK ti»» jsti|p^y|i[]pr^ PTQAF&IH in
             EPA Region I and currently manager of the Risk Assessment Group at E.C.
             Jordan Company, was once in a position where the release of test results was
             delayed for three months while the agency analyzed an additional round of
             samples. Interpreted the data, and decided whether EPA or state government
             should take the lead.  By the time the agency let the community know the level of
             contaminants in their wells, residents were so upset with the agency that com-
             munication was extremely difficult. if not impossible.

                    On the other hand. Bruce Bentley. citizen participation specialist with
             the New-York Department of Environmental Conservation, tefls* of • county
             health department going door-to-door sampling wells for TCE and explaining the
             potential risk as soon as there was any reason for suspicion of contamination of
             private wells. Results of the tests were sent by mall, informing residents of times
             for •availability sessions* with state and county representatives to answer ques-
             tions.  People were alerted to each step of the process before it happened, and as
             a result discussion with the community centered on the risk Itself, not on the
             way people were treated.
             The following suggestions provide guidance about deciding when to communi-
      cate and steps to take If you decide to delay release.

      1.     If people are at risk, do not wait to communicate—and to act on—risk In-
      formation.  If a hazard Is putting people at immediate risk, the agency should follow its
      mandate to protect public health without hesitation.

      2.     1C the agency la Investigating a potential risk that people aren't aware of.
      tbat affeBcyrafeflnldF aflriootfjF consider rrraklnf fcnowv vttatnTis) tfofatf and why.
      When an agency announces findings from an investigation people have not been aware

'Improving Dialogue with Communities," written by Cvoo Chew. Billie Jo Hince. tod Peter Sandman of the Environmental Commurucu^n
Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

 of, the agency Is forced to defend Its delay tn announcing the investigation, and to
 justify the possibility that people were exposed to a risk longer than necessary. The
 public, In Its anger over not being told. Is more likely to overestimate the risk and far
 less likely to trust any recommendations that the agency makes concerning the risk
 3.     If It seems likely that the media or someone else may release the informa-
 tion before yon are ready, release it yourself. When information is leaked, agencies
 lose the ability to shape the issues and are Instead engaged in playing "catch up" at the
 expense of their ci edibility ondt the accurate portrayal of information.

 4.     If it is likely that the media will "fill in" with information concerning an
 ongoing story while they are waiting for yon to speak, speak first.  When you wait
 to communicate about an issue that is already news, the press will shape the issue
 without you.  You may spend more time defending your views or your credibility.

 5.     If you really don't trust your data, talk to the public about your procedures
 but don't release the data.  Obviously, hold onto data for which your preliminary
 review shows serious quality euntiul ormethodologtcal flaws. However, be op-front and
 tell citizens what has happened and when they will be able to get some results,

 6.     If the preliminary results do show a problem—and yon are fairly confident
 of the results—release them and explain the tentativeness of the data. If you are
 fairly confident that the data show a problem, then holding onto data for any length of
 time for any reason is likely to be considered unconscionable. You will leave the agency
vulnerable to charges of cover-up later on and risk creating a great deal of anger.

 7.     Before deciding to wait to communicate—especially if the newt is bad-
consider the effect on the credibility of the agency representative dealing with
 the public. Because credibility can be a scarce commodity, difficult to replace, you
might make it a major variable In your decision about timing the release of Information.
 In particular, take into account the effect of your decision on those staff who are dealing
with the community.

8.     Release information while the risk management options are tentative.
rather than waiting to develop solutions. If they are not consulted during the deci-
sion-making process, people are likely to resent decisions that affect their lives. Con-
sider, instead, giving people risk management options, not decisions, when you release
the data. Then work with them to develop risk management decisions.  (See Chapter IV.)

9.     If yon feel the information will not make sense unless released with other
relevant information—and yon don't have all the information yet—wait to release
  'When you're designing an Investigation or a regulatory strategy, the communication
     iM Kpg/n_ft|gf r^
                  Thuuiaa.Burfce. Deputy Conimtsalener; New Jeraey Department of
  -Improving Dialogue with CommuniUei.* wntteo by Caroo diets. Bribe Jo Haoce. and Peter Sandman of the EnvironineDUl Communion...n
  Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

        "We get a. great deal of criticism because people don't know what we're doing.... There's
        always going to be delay: there's always going to be problems. But at least we can tell
        them what we're doing.' Gary  Sondermeyer, Acting Bureau Chief. Bureau of Solid
        Waste & Resource Recovery Planning. NJDEP.
      it all at once. But explain to the public why you are waiting, and get the Informa-
      tion as toon as you can. If piecemeal release of information would seriously disrupt
      the agency's program or the public's understanding, then consider delay. But take a
      hatrf Inrft at wh^H^r gaplaTWiinrte r^aHy twrf tn n«tt nr 1m farf n*vA tn Tu» hanriUrf
      better. If you wait, be sure to be clear about your reasons, and say when the Informa-
      tion will be available.
      10.    If yon wait until the data are quality-assured to release them, use the
      time—and the preliminary data—to develop management options and advise the
      community on interim actions, if necessary.  While the agency may choose not to
      release data until it is fully confident, it can still use those preliminary results to guide
      discussions about the^ possible mitigation efforts.

      11.    If yon are waiting to communicate data or Information for some other
      reason, don't say you are waiting for data to undergo quality assurance.  Use this
      rationale only when It is the real reason. Agencies lose credibility when they tell half-
      truths or remain silent and let others fill in the information gaps—often incorrectly  If
      you need to delay release of Information, you will generally do better by being forthright
      and not using quality control as an excuse.

      *Z.    u yotr uWVoecTQCO; cnrr yw cuz s coBiBBxrcYtvrfgTiT iwvyavotn tne risk,
      talk to the public about the process yon are going through to get the information.
      etc.  Don't merely remain silent. In the absence of information from the agency.
      people may fill In the blanks of missing Information themselves, or they may become
      more fearful thinking that the truth is too awful to be told.


      YES, BUT....
      •      Releasing information early, while data are still preliminary and we don't
      have a clear game plan, leaves the agency vulnerable to criticism.

             This guide is not suggesting releasing information without forethought and
      planning.  We are suggesting that you consider releasing the data if you trust them, a.-.d
      if you have developed some management options or a process leading to development of
      options. Although the agency is obviously vulnerable to criticism, you may be more
      vulnerable if you hold onto information.  You will be taking a gamble with your credibil-
'Improving Dialogue with Communities." written by Caron Chess. Bilue Jo Hance. and Peter Sandman of (he Environmental Cornier.,
Research Program at Cook College. Ruigen University. 1987

•      By releasing information early, we may cause undue alarm.

       You may cause greater alarm, compounded by resentment and hostility, if you
hold onto Information. When people are not given information, they may think that the
truth is too awful to be told, or they may consider the agency uncaring. Instead, con-
sider releasing information In context and with caveats, if necessary.

•      We run the risk of legal liability if we release information early.

       The number of cases in which ttabfltty is a primary concern—rather than a
convenient lattoxiale is questionable. Xan we do this?'wiB probably etett a different
response from a lawyer than "We want to do this, so can you help us deal with any legal
concerns?' If. in fact, there might be a liability problem, vulnerability to legal action
should be weighed against the ten reasons given below for considering early release of

        Decisions about when to release information depend, in large part on the
 situation. However, agencies should seriously examine the Implications of holding
 onto Infonnatian. The next time you contemplate whether to make mfi
 public, consider some of the reasons to release information early:
   1.   People are entitled to information that affects their lives.

   2.   Early release of information sets the pace for resolution of the problem.

   3.   If you wait the story may teak anyway. Wheattdoex* van are-opt to lose
        trust and, credibfltty,

   4.   You can better control the accuracy of information if you are the first to
        present it.

   5.   There is more likely to be time for meaningful public involvement in decision-
        making if the information is released promptly.

   6.   Prompt release of information about one situation may pi event similar situ-
        ations elsewhere.

   7.   Less work is required to release information early than to respond to inquir-
        ies, attacks, etc. that might result from delayed release.

   8.   You are more apt to earn public trust if you release information promptly.

   9,   If you wait, people may feel angry and resentful about not learning of the in-
        formation earlier.

   10.  People are more likely to overestimate the risk if you hold onto information.
•Improving Dialogue with Communities." wimen by Caron Oxen. Bilbe Jo Huce. and Peter Sudmu of the EDvironmenul Cofiununjcai,.
              Agency staff and members of the public are apt to feel equally frustrated by
        stormy interactions. Both get weary of arguments that revolve around "who said what
        to whom when." rather than issues that contribute substantrveh/ to solving environ-
        mental health problems.

              In response, some agency representatives feel that the best Interaction with the
        public is no Interaction. They fervently hope that risk communication techniques will
        make the public go away and leave the agency to make decisions in peace.  However.
        there is a strong consensus among experienced practitioners that the solution to the
        problems described above is more, rather than less interaction.

              Two cases illustrate this point and contrast markedly with the battles that
        sometimes characterize agency interactions with the public:

                     In Tacoma. Washington EPA was confronted with a difficult policy
              question: How should the agency regulate an arsenic-emitting smelter that
                                           aa* tnr »K» «r.nmiiiiliy> The pTObletR Involved
              (as environmental health problems often do) Issues of equity, economics, and
              community values In addition to technical concerns. EPA decided to open the
              process to the public, enabling the community to grapple with some of the
              uncertainties and judgment calls that often face agencies. While making clear
              that the final decision rested with the agency, EPA demonstrated by word and by
              action genuine Interest In the community's concerns and values. For example.
              EPA staff who lived In the area by the smelter critiqued presentations so that the
              agency better addressed community needs.  To demonstrate EPA's commitment
              to soliciting input, informational presentations were followed by questlon-and-
              answer sessions in smalt group*, facilitated  by people from outside the agency.
              Because the smelter clused. a decision was iieiiei1 required: Bur the experiment
              in Tacoma is an example of an agency respecting community values and attempt-
              ing to involve people outside the agency meaningfully In the decision-making

                     Lois Glbbs of the Citizen's Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes (and
              previously a key citizen leader at Love Canal) relates a story In which a private
              developer was confronted with high levels of arsenic In groundwater. In the
              Interests of selling homes and avoiding litigation, he provided potential homeown-
              ers with funds to hire a technical consultant agreeable to both sides. The
              consultant or the community members themselves were Involved in every step of
              the risk assessment process. Including developing sampling plans and determin-
              ing the assumptions on which the assessment was based. When the risk assess-
              ment showed negligible risk, people trusted  the results sufficiently to purchase

              When Interacting with the public, consider the following guidelines.

       1.     Recognize the importance of community input. Citizen Involvement is
       important because: (a) People are entitled to make decisions about issues that directly
       affect. their lives; (a) Input team, the community can help the* agency make better deci-
       sions: (d Involvement in the process leads  to greater uiufei standing' of— and more
       appropriate reaction to- a particular risk; (d) Those who are affected by a problem bring

"Improving Dialogue with Communiues." wnaeo by Caron Chess. Billie Jo Huce, tod Peter Sandman of (he Environmental Commutu.u. n
Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

   "The community is the expert about possible routes of exposure and what they are most
  concerned about * Raymond Neutra, Chief, Epldemiological Studies and Survefllancc
  Section, California Department of Health Services.
 different variables to the problem-solving equation; and (e) Cooperation Increases
 credibility. . Finally, without community input, battles that erode public confidence and
 agency resources are more likely.

 2.     To the extent possible. Involve the community In the decMon-nuking
 pieces*.  Agencies typically spend considerable effort developing a risk management
 strategy, announce it to the community, and then defend the strategy against the
 onslaught of opinion- often a reaction to the agency's failure to Involve those affected.
 Instead, particularly with issues which are apt to provoke controversy, consider involv-
 ing the public In risk management decisions.  Some practitioners and academic experts
 also suggest public involvement in the risk assessment process, as Illustrated by the
 story at the beginning of this chapter.

       As illustrated by the "Citizen Participation Ladder" on the following page, citizen
 involvement takes a variety of forms from fairly minimal participation ("Government
 Power) to citizens taking the lead ("Citizen Power"). Consider placing agency tnterac-
 ttonswtth theccagnuntty at a higher rung on the ladder. Propose a higher level of
 Involvement from the outset rather than being pushed by the community to the next
 rung.  Increasing the level of public participation is particularly important when: (a)
 controversy exists: (b) feelings run high; (c) the agency genuinely needs Input: or (d)
 citizens request It.

 •      Involve the community at the earliest stage possible. Meaningful input is
 easier before agency staff feel committed to a course of action. Communities are also
•      Clarify the public's role from the outset. In other words, clearly define your
position on the Citizen Participation Ladder. For example, dont promise the public
Input and then essentially ask for ratification of agency decisions.

•      Acknowledge situations where the agency can give the community only
limited power In the decision-making. Present legal or other constraints (resources.
time, staffing, regulatory limitations, etc.) from the outset, but avoid using them as false
excuses. Consider community suggestions for ways to deal wife these constraints.

•      Find out from communities what type of involvement they prefer. Different
communities win want different types of interaction and should be consulted about
these preferences.

3.     Identify and respond to the needs of different audiences. Although the term
the public" is used throughout this guide, in fact there are many publics, each affected
differently by an Issue. Depending on the Issue, the agency may need to communicate
with industry representatives, environmental groups, cMc organizations, sporting or
recreational associations, local government agencies, local elected officials, local busi-
ni SMI r jimpi i Ij ..... mil • n iilliati ftr Ttif n Inlr rr ila nhmilrt hr trtrntlflrrt imrt ipnlrrn
with about thetr concents.

"Improving Dialogue with Commuoiiiet.' wnnea by Caroa Oiesi. Bilbe Jo Huce. ud Peter Sudmu of the Eoviromnenul Commumuiioo
Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987.

                          THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY
                     Environmental Communication Research Program
                      A program of the Agricultural Experiment Station
         Cook College • 122 Ryden Lane • New Brunswick • New Jersey 06903 • 201/932-6795
        Citizen Power
  Citizens act without
  communicating with
• volunteer fire department;
• citizen investigation;
• dtizen development and
 implementation of programs
Citizens and government
 solve; problems together
      Government Power
 1 funding of dtizen groups to
 hire technical consultants
 and/or implement projects;
 • citizen oversight and
 > meetings called jointly by
 government and dtizen groups
                           Government asks citizens  • dtizen advisory committees;
                           for meaningful input and  * infoimal meetings;
                           _                      • most public hearings;
                           Government asks citizens  . mos, requests for responses to
                             for limited input and     formal proposals;
                           would prefer not to listen  • pro-forma meetings and
                                                   advisory committees
                              Government talks;
                                citizens listen
                       • some public meetings;
                       • press releases and other
                        informational strategies:
                        newsletters, brochures, etc.
Government acts without       .-   „  u
         .   .     ...     • some investigations;
  communicating with    . Icga, and enforcement actions
"Improving Dialogue wiih Communities.' wniteo byCaioo Oieu. Bilbe Jo Haoce. aad Peter Sandman of the Enwoomeoul Coir-nu-iK.ii. «
Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

  'People have to identify with people as human betngs.... Rapport 1s the key." Vincent
  Covello, Director. Risk Assessment Program. National Science Foundation
 •     Try to Identify the various interests In a situation at the beginning and
 meet with them informally. This Involves a networking process: (a) Make a list of the
 aspects of the issue and types of organizations that might be interested; (b) Contact
 groups with which you are familiar; and (c) Ask those groups, for the names of others.
 Then contact the affected groups.  Keep working' to* expand the range1 of ctiiisUlueiitles
 to ensure that yon hare consulted those affected by the Issue.

 •     Recognise the strengths and weaknesses of elticen advisory groups. Define
 the role of the group from the outset.  Such groups work most effectively if they
 represent the affected public and Involve people in meaningful ways, rather than dis-
 tance the agency from concerned citizens. Before developing a citizen advisory group,
 consult the full-length version of this manual (see Introduction).

 •     Deal with everybody equally and fairly.  For example, don't give one group in-
 formation that you refuse another. Be especially careful not to favor industry or local
4.     When appropriate, develop alternatives to public hearings. In particular.
hold smaller, more informal meetings. Large public meetings often lead to posturing
on both sides rather than problem-solving or meaningful dialogue. Instead of waiting
until a formal meeting Is necessary, consider other options for exchanging information.
such as drop-in hours at the local library for questions, newsletters, telephone hot
lines, information booths, advisory «*M*»»*iH»»3_ ftc. Most <™p«**nn»iy attempt to hold
informal rnfftfr|fl* with *TttOTrtttflrt part*** 81*4 matnfafo, ^/yi^y^ on a> routine ****** The
more controversial the issue, the wiser it is to meet with the affected groups frequently.
separately, and Informally.

•      If yon cannot avoid a targe public meeting, the logistics should be devel-
oped so that both the agency and the community are treated fairly. For example.
structure a meeting so that people do not feel upset by having to wait a long time to

•      Consider breckhtg larger groups Into smaller one*. This approach can be
helpful for questlon-and-answer sessions or discussion groups.

•      Be clear about the goals for the meeting. If yon cannot adequately fulfill a
citizen request for a meeting, propose alternatives. Prepare so that you can attain
the goals of the meeting and meet citizen concerns. If you do not know or cannot
address those concerns, meet informally to discuss community needs and to develop a
meaningful process to address those needs.

•      In certain situations one-to-one communication may be best. When sam-
pling, it Is critical to prepare technicians to respond to people's questions, or provide
them with literature to hand out and a phone numbg for residents, to calL Also, leave
(line after meetings to respond to personal concerns.

 "Improving Dialogue with Communities," written by Caroo Chew. Billie Jo Haoce. and Peter Saodmaa of (be Environmental Conur.uoiuiiuo
 Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

     5.     Recognize that people's values and feelings are a legitimate aspect of envi-
     ronmental health Issues, and that such concerns may convey valuable Informa-
     tion. Feelings are not only an inevitable part of environmental health issues, they often
     contain valuable Information about: (a) what is Important to people; (b) technical as-
     pects of the problem, such as the frequency and duration of an odor, and (c) creative
     approaches to solving the problem.

     •      Provide a forum for people to air their feelings. People will become more
     frustrated when an agency attempts to squelch their saying how they feel.  Provide
     mechanisms for expression of feeling, such as telephone hotlines, small meetings, and
     one-to-one communication.

     •      Listen to people when they ei.pi ess their rateea said fecHng*. When people
     do not feel they are being heard, often they will express their concerns more loudly.

     •      Acknowledge people's feelings about an Issue. Try restating what people have
     said so that they know you have heard them: "I can tell that you are angry about this
     proposal because...."

     •      When people are speaking emotionally, respond to their emotions. Do not
     merely follow with data. Do not use scientific data in an attempt to refute feelings or
     concerns.  Instead, acknowledge the feelings and respond to the concerns in addition to
     •      Show respect by developing a system to respond promptly to calls from
     community residents. Put calls from community residents toward the top of the
     priority list and develop mechanisms for your program to handle them efficiently.

     •      Recognise and be honest about the values Incorporated In agency deci-
     sions.  Communities sense when there is more going on than science, and the agency
     loses credibility unless It acknowledges those Issues.

     •      Be aware of your own wfoe* and feeling* about air Issue and the effect they
     have on you. Agency representatives also become invested In positions or feel strongly
     about Issues. Recognize when your own feelings cause you to resist modifications of a
     project or to react strongly to a community group.

     6.     Prepare responses to personal questions about risk.  Agencies develop poli-
     cies to protect public health generally, but Individuals are usually most Interested in
     how a risk or poHcy specifically affects them and their families. Anticipate and prepare
     honest responses to such individual-level questions. Including those asking you what
     you would do In a similar situation: "Would you drink the water?" Personal responses
     are particularly Important when the situation Is not clear-cut and people need some
     context for their own decisions.

     •      When yon speak at a public meeting, tell people who you are. what your
     background Is, and why you are there. Give people a sense of why you are qualified
     to discuss a topic and what you can and cant do for them.
       "You realize that people need a Jorum to get those emotions and questions out and that
       If you can do that outside a large meeting which ts Impersonal... It can be much more
       eJJecUijf,m  Susan &*******  Managrr Risk Assessment Group. G^C. Jordan. Company.
       fouueily with EPA Region I Superfund program.	^^^^_^^
"Improving Dialogue wiih Communities." written by Caron Chess. Bilbe Jo Haoce. aad Peter Sandman of the Environmental
Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

 •      Let people tee yon are human. People win treat you as a person if you act like
 one.  If you act like a bureaucrat, you will be treated accordingly.

 •      When speaking personally, pnt your views Into the context of your own
 Talnes. and urge your audience to do the same. If you tell people how you might
 handle a situation, put your response into context (such as whether you smoke, exer-
 cise. etc.) so they can do the same.
                       •M^MftAAuBMk Jt^^^^ ^k^^b ^Mfl^^B^ ^^ftA^B «^^^^^^^» ^^KtA^^w A^ ^k^^b - *— • --- »
                       |WIBII HOT UIMpV UUl •JJIBC WIUE Uf/tlUfj |IU1HJ» QB- Bill BuHCKCk
 the community. Instead, try modifying the agency position or having the task reas-
 signed. Or find a way of acknowledging the lack of consensus within the agency. Mis-
 representing the situation or dodging questions about your position will obviously
 reduce your and the agency's credibility.

 •      If speaking personally makes yon uncomfortable, work on It until It gets
 easier. If you Just dont think it's appropriate, dont do it
7.     Use community relation* staff to amplify community conceimi wtthbr the
agency. Instead of acting as buffers between the public and agency technical staff.
community relations people should make community concerns heard before the public
feels a need to shout.
8.     Choose carefully those who represent the agency and provide appropriate
support. Because agency representatives can give an impression of the entire agency.
they should be carefully chosen and given the time and training to do the job
adequately. People who «*"*™* copt with **""Trm«nfa»att»T» »«QI»« rfmnifj ^Kfr \^f reouired
to do* so.

•      Technically qualified people should have a major role In communicating
with the public about risk.  Communities usually want to talk to people who are
directly Involved in problem-solving.

•      Make sure that representatives are appropriate to the situation. Send
people who have the expertise and authority to respond to people's concerns.

•      The agency lepteseutatlfc should be consistent throughout the life of the
project or situation, If possible. Trust takes time to build.

•      In some situations a non-agency communicator may be more useful than
someone from Inside the agency. Consider using academic experts, local community
people, and representatives of civic organizations (such as the League of Women Voters)
to present information. This needs to be done with care so that such groups are not
perceived as "agency fronts."
        Dialogue with Communities." written by Cvoa Cheu. Billie Jo Haacc. ind Peter Sandman of (he Environment*! Com™ an
 Research Program tt Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

       YES, BUT....
       •     As an agency, we are supposed to protect health— not deal with feelings.

             As explained In Chapter I. protecting health will be quite difficult if you do not
       take Into account community concerns.  Ignoring such concerns will not only lead to
       stress on the part of the community, but ultimately will also undermine the agency's
       ability to implement ztsk niaiiugeuieiit decisions.
       •      Communities worry about the 'wrong" risks. Involving them In decision-
       making will lead to poor policy.

             Public response to risk Is not merely a function of the numbers but also involves
       other considerations, explained in Chapter I. such as equity. In many cases agency risk
       management decisions are also based on values, not merely technical factors. Agencies'
                               V. EXPLAINING RISK

              Agency representatives sometimes believe that If they could only find a way to
       explain the data more clearly, communities would accept the risks scientists define as
       minimal and take seriously the risks scientists see as serious. However, simply finding
       ways to explain the numbers more clearly is not the panacea practitioners might hope
       for. While searching for the magic formula that will help people calm down about the
       small risks and wake up about the big ones, agencies may overlook key variables that
       influence public perception of risk. (See Chapter I.)
              story of attempting to explain the additional risk of a resource recovery facility to
              a community that had little chance for Input before the permit was granted.
              Instead of responding to Information about the minimal risk posed by the facility.
              the members of the audience jeered. Although scientists felt the Increased risk
              was negligible, the agency's process spoke louder than the risk numbers.  It was
              unlikely that any magic combination of words explaining the risk would have
              reduced the hostility caused, in part, by the community's lack of power.

                    On the other hand. Susan Santos of the E.C. Jordan Company, who
              formerly worked for EPA Region I. spent considerable effort dealing with commu-
              nity concerna when she served a* EPA rcpresentauve on a. Superfund stte with a
              history of unsatisfactory Interaction between the community and the agency.
              During her first meeting to update community residents, they essentially shouted
              her down, accusing her of being another EPA employee who would not listen to
              them.  They suggested that before she spoke with authority she go through their
              flies of information, which she did.  Santos "got very Involved In finding out what
              their concerns and fears were-whether they were real or not—and Initially not
              worrying about whether to confirm or sway their fears, but Just letting them
              know that someone was out there to listen to what their concerns were...."
              Santos' obvious Interest In community concerns helped to turn the situation
              around so sone memtngnii dialogue could occur between her and *M*tf*'iff
              to take the time at the outset can cost the agency more time in the long run.

             Although "explaining" skills are also relevant, the moral of these stories is that
       the agency's attitude toward and Interaction with the public are key variables in ex-
       plaining risk.
       1.     Consider the outage factors when explaining risk. In order to avoid upset-
       ting people you must first understand what upsets them. (See Chapter I.) Although
       some of the factors that contribute to community anger are not susceptible to agency
       control, the agency can influence others, such as how fair a risk is or the extent to
       which citizens can exert control over the risk. If the agency is forthright In Its commu-
       nications and Involves the public, public perception of the risk Is more likely to be on

       •      Be prepared to give people's concerns as ranch emphasis as the numbers.
       Give as much consideration as possible to community concerns and feelings.  Many
       people make their decisions based on their feelings, their perception of the agency, their
       sense of justice, etc. Numbers alone will rarely sway them.
                                   .information about th*aitaatkaa from theovtset.
      (See Chapter HI.)

•Improving DUlogoe with Communities.* written by Caron Chess. Billie Jo Hance. and Peter Sandman of the Environmental Commuucanxa
Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987.

 •      Be sensitive to related Issues that may be more important to many people
 than the risk Itself. Expect different people to see the risk differently.  Sometimes the
 risk that practitioners are trying to explain is secondary to people's other concerns.
 such as property values. Regardless of whether the agency sees these concerns as
 Important or within the scope of the agency's authority, they can critically influence a
 community's views. Try to Identify and address these concerns. If you cannot address
 them, at least consider acknowledging them and explaining why your agency cannot
 deal with them.
 2.     Find out what risk Information people want and In what form. There may
 be differences between the risk infuimaUun scientists and regulators thmkcomnnmtttes
 should have and the Information communities actually want. Before presenting risk
 information, understand community concerns by meeting with the community or
 developing a checklist of likely concerns based on agency experience with similar situ-
3.     Anticipate and respond to people's concerns abont their personal risk.
Consider responding personally. Although agencies are concerned largely with risks to
populations, people are most concerned about their own risk and that of their families.
Prepare to respond to personal concerns? ("Can I drink the water?") and incorporate
answers In presentations and informational materials. Some practitioners suggest
speaking personally and giving an individual perspective on the risk, while making clear
the distinctions between agency policy and your personal opinions:  "The levels of con-
tamination in your water are low enough that the agency feels you can continue to
drink It without worry. Personally. I would drink the water. My sister, however, tries to
eat mainly natural foods and I suspect she would be concerned enough to consider
drinking bottled water- despite the fact that bottled water is not regulated."
Most people do not have the same frames of reference as scientists and need some
background to put the risk in perspective.

•      If you are explaining numbers derived from a risk assessment, explain the
risk assessment process be/ore you present the numbers. Some practitioners have
held risk assessment workshops to explain the process even before the risk assessment
was completed.

•      Explain and, if possible,  show In clear and simple graphics the routes of ex-
posure. Frequently, the issue is not whether a dangerous substance exists in relatively
high quantities but whether the routes of exposure put people at risk.

•      Put data In perspective.  Avoid dichotomizing risk. Agencies should avoid
fueling communities' tendency to see risks as "safe" or "dangerous." Instead of present-
Ing standards as a cut-off figure, attempt to explain risk numbers in ranges: 1-10 ppb
as "low risk." for example.  Also show how data relate to similar data. To provide con-
  'Health matters raise very strong fears, concerns, and emotions among people. To     \
  treat it as a technical analysts and not to recognize the extent to which people feel     I
  strongly, not (oocknoulet^ (heir coficern5ond/etzi^ and oUempllodeaJwanthe^   ;
  fr a fatal ntfrtate—* Vmcent CoreBo. Director of Risk Asjcjuuiuit. National Science ,
  Foundation                                                                   i
 "Improving Dialogue with Communities." written by^Caron Chen. Billie Jo Htnce. and Peter Sandman of the Environmental
 Resevch Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

        "(A slide comparing cancer risk from Industrial emissions wtth the risk from diet so/I
        drinks] provoked a lot of negative reaction. People said 7 eon choose to drink or not to
        drtnkdietcoke. butl can't choose not to breathe.' Nobodyis gotngtomake a decision on
        a smelter based on how the rtsfcstacfcsupapatnstt/ietngesttonrtsk/rom saccharin 
•      Give people background on the inevitable uncertainty of science.  Help
people understand uncertainty so that they do not assume something is amiss If the
agency says It doesn't know.

•      Be specific about what you are doing to find answers. In order to avoid
people thinking that you are hiding something or acting incompetently, explain the
process you are using to find the Information. Or explain why It Is not possible to find.

•      Consider Involving the public in resolving the uncertainty. It Is easier for
people to accept uncertainty If they can play a role in its resolution. This approach, not
Only Is HVHy IQ Q£ DCTCdved, 8S fa **•**" bill may
 •      Give people as much individual control as possible over an uncertain situ-
 ation. Give people something they can do other than wait. At a minimum, gtve them a
 telephone number to call for information or to report problems.

 •      Stress the caution built into setting standards and developing risk assess-
 ments. Even though people dont necessarily like the Idea that the agency Isn't sure.
 they are relieved to know that you are taking a protective approach in response to the

 •      If people are demanding certainty, pay attention to values and other eon-
 ceres, not just the science.  When people demand certainty, the underlying issue is
 often a question of values and process, not merely science. The demand for absolute
 certainty can result from frustration because agency representatives failed to Involve
 people, did not listen to their concerns, etc. When confronted by a demand for cer-
 tainty. back up and listen to the concerns behind the demand. Consider working with
 the community to address those concerns.

 •      Acknowledge the policy disagreements that arise from uncertainty. At-
 tempt to Mpfaiti and, clarify the nr»aa of HL^  When, thft
about Judgment calls or management options, rather than science, it is usually not
helpful merely to argue the science. In addition, agency credibility is likely to suffer
from highlighting limitations of "opposing" scientists. Arguing issues can be productive.
but attacking individuals is likely to elicit hostility from those who respect them.

7.     Recognize that communities determine what is acceptable to them, not the
agency. Agencies realize that even with unlimited funds they could not reduce most
risks to zero. While communities- need to appreciate this reality, agencies need to
appreciate that "acceptable risk" is a relative term. The more agencies try to impose a
definition of "acceptable" on communities, the more communities will resist that defini-
tion. (See Chapter I.)

•      Don't confuse people's understanding of a risk with their acceptance of It.
People can fully understand the nature of a risk but not want to live with it.

•      To the extent possible, build in ways for people to have control over the
risk. Because people feel more comfortable with risks over which they have control.
 "We succeeded In communicating that life's not perfect in the way government makes
 decisions ~. that there ore pressures to decide, inadequate fn/bnnatfQn. and uncertainty
 ~ butwhatwearediftngatamtiitmum ts sharing the entire pivUetn we face with the
 public."  Randall Smith. Chief, Hazardous Waste Policy Branch. USEPA Region X.
 •Improving Dialogue with Communities." wntten by Cafoo Chess. Bribe Jo Hance. ud Peter Sandman of the Environmental ConunutiKji
 Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

       •Value Judgments are part p/ the risk assessment process, but (f you are part of defining
       those Judgments and those decisions then the outcome of U ts something you can trust."
       Lois Glbbs. Executive Director. Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes
      consider giving people more control.  Community monitoring, oversight, and on-going
      feedback can be measures that help people exert some control over risks and thus feel
      more comfortable with them.

      •      Acknowledge that there are ether aspects of decision-making besides risk.
      and be prepared to listen and address people's concerns.  People will often argue
      about rtsk when they're as concerned about issues such as property values, because
      risk Is considered a more legitimate Issue by agencies. As said previously, it is usually
      helpful to recognize, acknowledge, and address these other concerns.

      •      Help people to help their neighbors decide what is acceptable to them.
      Sometimes people can better accept problems when they can talk them over with
      others. Encourage rather than discourage dialogue.

      8.     Take even greater care presenting technical Information than  presenting
      other Information. Many of the keys for presenting technical information are the same
      as those for presenting other rr"atV"\ but are often overlooked.

      •      Know your audience and gear your presentation to Its level. Think through:
      (a) what the audience already knows; (b) what the audience wants to know; and (c) what
      you want the audience to know.  When explaining technical information, It can help to
      Imagine that you are talking to an Intelligent but uninformed friend and speak at that

      •      Prepan sa> thoroughly M you can. Practice youc Tnr*>fTTtatlQT>3 Role-playing
      can also help.

      •      Consider which Information is most Important to convey. This often in-
      cludes: (a) the facts your agency wants people to know about a situation;  (b) the back-
      ground information they need  In order to understand the facts: and (c) the additional
      facts they need to know so they won't get misimpressions. Identify three or four main
      Ideas you want to convey and make sure the details support those points, rather than
      obscuring them by sheer volume. Finally, make sure to address people's concerns
      rather than, just gMng the facts.

      •      Be sure to give people sufficient background. Don't assume that condensing
      Information Is the same as making It clearer.

      •      Use as down-to-earth language as possible. Watch Jargon and acronyms.

      •      Beware of the tendency to oversimplify and give only data that support
      your point.  People know when you are using ammunition for your argument as op-
      posed to presenting information.

      •      Choose supporting graphics that illustrate your message clearly and simply.
                          tf thy wiPT gnipMcff 'i^t^t fry \ff hn*M>i tpidl* ITBS.  Hastily or ill-
                                    than none. Evmwen-exeeated» graphics win not go
      over well if they do not deal with people's concerns.
•Improving Dialogue with Communities." wrinea by Ctron diesi, Bilbe lo Hance. and Peter Sandman of the Environmental Commuoicjuon
Research Program at Cook College. Rutgen University. 1987

•      Be aware of body language and other signals your audience gives you that
they're lost. Slow down, back up, or ask questions:

•      Rave background material available at meetings.

•      Always have questlon-and-answer periods after presentations.

•      Critique your presentation afterward, to you can learn from the things you
did right as, well as. those yoa did wrong.
YES, BUT....
•      We still don't have a clear ways to explain very complex information. If
we did. It's likely the public would understand better.

       It ts true that further research is needed about how to explain environmental
health risks. EPA and DEP's Division of Science and Research are both funding proj-
ects In this area. However, regardless of our sophistication in explaining risk, people's
perception of the risk will be Influenced by far more than scientific data. If you con-
tinue to stress explaining data and fail to attend to these other variables, you will
probably create problems.
       It is extremely difficult to help people put environmental hearth risks In
            if Bweairt compare these risks fa other risks fn people's Hues.
       Comparisons can be used, but those employed by agencies are frequently not
helpful. Comparing voluntary to Involuntary risks and other comparisons that Ignore
the outrage factors are apt to make people angry. The section on comparing risks in
this chapter gives examples of some useful comparisons. Further research is being
done to develop and test others.
•      It Is difficult to tee why an agency should admit uncertainty when people
will use such admissions aoainst us.

       This chapter suggests that people are already alert to uncertainty. Falling to
disclose uncertainty is likely to undermine trust in the agency. As suggested, agency
representatives should not merely admit uncertainty and then drop the subject. The
uncertainty should be put in context in several ways, as suggested In this chapter.
 •Improving Dialogue wiih Communities." wnnen by Circa Chew. Billic Jo Hance. ind Peier Sandman of the Environmental Commuu.ji.
 Research Program at Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987


            As with most myths, myths concerning risk communication have an element of
      truth. But they should not be swallowed whole.  The following beliefs often interfere
      with effective risk communication and deserve closer scrutiny.
      1.     We don't have enough time and resources to do risk communication.  Risk
      communication, does take time and staff. But if yon dent devote efforts to interacting
      with the public, you may be forced to mop upcommmik-athjna disasters— which typl-
      cally takes more resoun
      Suggestion; Train the staff you have. Including clerical staff who answer the tele-
      phone, to communicate more effectively.  Plan projects to Include time to involve the
     2.     Communicating with the public about a risk is more likely to unduly
     alarm people than keeping quiet. Risk communication can be risky. But not giving
     people s chance to express their cuiicerns is likely to Increase rather than decrease
     Suggestion: Consider releasing information earlier rather than later.
     3.     tf we could only explain risks clearly enough, people would accept them.
     True, explaining risk is important.  But data are not the only factors which influence
     people's perception of risk.
                  Pay as much attentfon to your process for dealing with people as you do
     to explaining the data.
     4.     We shouldn't go to the public until we have solutions to environmental
     health problems.  Problems can seem easier to deal with when coupled with solutions.
     But falling to involve people in decisions that affect their lives may result In tremendous
     Suggestion:  Release risk management options, not decisions, and involve communities
     in discussions of risk management strategies in which they have a stake.
     0.     These issues are too tough for the public to understand. Environmental
     health Issues can be complex. But as demonstrated by citizen groups throughout the
     country, laypeople can grasp a great deal of the substance.

     Suggestion: Do not assume that the public's disagreement with your policies indicates
     a misunderstanding of the science.
•Improving Dialogue with Communiuej." written by Caroo Chew. Bilbc Jo Haace. aad Peter Sandman of the Environmental Communjcmon
Research Program it Cook College. Rutgers University. 1987

 6.     Technical decisions should be le/Hn the hands of technical people.  Tech-
 nical staff generally are better versed in the scientific aspects of environmental health.
 But many of the problems government deals with raise policy and values Issues that go
 beyond the technical realm.

 Suggestion: Develop mechanisms to listen to communities' concerns about policy and
 values issues. Inside the agency, involve staff with diverse backgrounds in developing
 7.     JMsfc communication is not my Job. True, you were probably hired because of
 other credentials. But as public servants, agency staff have a responsibility to deal with

 Suggestion; Learn to Integrate communication Into your Job and help others to do the
8.     f/utegJue the public on. inch, they'll take a mile. If the Interaction with the
community more closely approximates a battleground than a discussion, this may be
true.  But tf you listen to people when they are asking for Inches, they are less likely to
demand miles.

Suggestion:  Avoid the battleground.  Involve people early and often.
9.     If we listen to the public, we will devote scarce resources to issues that
are not a great threat to public health. In any public policy arena we can find such
inconsistencies. But dosing oat the public is likely- to cause distrust and farther skew
the policy debate.

Suggestion: Be sensitive to public concerns. Otherwise you will unwittingly create
controversy and contribute to raising the profile of issues of lesser significance.
10.    Activist groups ore responsibZe/or stirring up unwarranted concerns.
True, activists help to focus people's anger. But activists do not create the concerns:
they merely arouse and channel those that already exist.

Suggestion:  Deal with the groups and their concerns rather than merely fighting
 •Improving Dialogue with Commimiuei " written by Ciron Chess. Billie Jo Hiace. and Peier Sandman of the Environmental Commuaiciiu-o
 Research Program at Cook College. Ringers University 1987



                 Environmental Communication Research Program
                  A program of the Agricultural Experiment Station
     Cook College • 122 Ryders Lane • New Brunswick • New Jersey 08903 • 201/932-8795

      Decisions about when to release Information depend, in large part, on the
situation. However, agencies should seriously examine the implications of holding onto
Information. The next time you contemplate whether to make information public.
consider some of the reasons to release information early:
1.     People are entitled to information that affects their lives.

2.     Early release of information sets the pace for resolution of the problem.

3.     If you wait, the story may leak anyway. When it does, you are apt to lose trust
      and credibility.

4.     You can better control the accuracy of Information if you are the first to present

5.     There is more likely to be time for meaningful public Involvement in decision-
      making if the information is released promptly.

6.     Prompt release of Information about one situation may prevent similar situ-
      ations elsewhere.

7.     Less work Is required to release information early than to respond to inquiries.
      attacks, etc. that might result from delayed release.

8.     You are more apt to earn public trust if you release information promptly.

9.     If you wait, people may feel angry and resentful about not learning of the Infor-
      mation earlier.

10.    People are more likely to overestimate the risk If you hold onto information.
 Front C.  Chess, Hance, B.J., and Sandman,  P.M.,  "improving Dialogue With
 Communities:  A Short Guide For Government  Risk Communication,"  (Trenton, NJ,
 Division of Science and Research, NJ Department of Environmental Protection,


                      WASHINGTON D C  20450
                                             THE ADMINISTRATOR
 Honorable Henry A. tfaxman
 Chairman, Subcommittee on Health
   and the Environment
 Committee on Energy and Commerce
 House of Representatives
 Washington, D.C.  20515

 Dear Mr. Chairman:

      On March 24, 1987, I responded  to your  January  6  letter
 •pertaining to air toxics and gasoline marketing.   At that
 -time I said a response would be forthcoming  on  your  question
 •on comparative risk.   I am now enclosing  that reply.

      Thank you for your interest  In  this  aatcer.

                              1        «^M*^
                              Lee M.  Thomas



 Please provide  a  cable comparing risk  levels which have supported
 regulacory actions  under  *CKA, TSCA, che SDWA, Clean Air Section
 112,  and  other  provisions of the Clean Air Act.  Please explain
 any inconsistencies  in EPA's views on  the levels of acceptable
 risk  under different environmental statutes, or different provi-
 sions within  the  same statute.

      The  two  tables below provide comparative information about
 cancer  risk  in EPA decisions under  the Resource Conservation and
 Recovery  Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Toxic Substances
 Control Act  and Section 112 of the  Clean Air Act.

      Table 1  addresses che levels of population and individual
 risk  that led to regulation.  Table 2 gives information on the
 residual  risk remaining after regulation.  Although you asked that
 che cable include ocher CAA provisions, che pollutants addressed
 under them are not generally carcinogens and their risks are not
 readily comparable.

     The  tables are illustrative of EPA's risk management actions,
 rather than a comprehensive review of all such actions.  While
 chey  include  some information about che reasons for decisions, any
 judgment  about why EPA reached particular decisions without a
 thorough  examination of the decisional records would be incom-
 plete.  For example, some decisions not to regulate are made with
 che expectation of revisiting the issue later or are elections to
 use an alternative regulatory mechanism, rather than conclusions
 chat  regulation is unnecessary or that existing regulations are

      It is important co recognize chat uncertainty, often great
 uncertainty, generally underlies calculations of risk from chemi-
 cals  in the environment.  As a result, we attempt to be conserva-
 tive in estimating risk, preparing what are in effect plausible
 upper bound estimates.  That is, the true risk is not likely to be
 greater than estimated and could be much lower, even zero.

     Another uncertainty in the cables is chat population risk is
 based on where people live today.   Future risks may be quite dif-
 ferent, especially site-specific ones such as those from hazardous

     Sources for che estimates in the cables are generally the
 Federal Register documents for each decision, although you may
 have seen differing estimates of the risk from a given chemical
 or activity.   The estimates themselves span more than a decade and

 methodologies  for assessing  toxicity and predicting exposure have
 evolved  enormously  ever  this  time, as have  the assumptions and
 data  we  use  in applying  these methods.  Because exposure pathways
 differ among the environmental media, and for various program
 specific reasons, chere  are  also differences in methodologies,
 data  and assumptions across  programs.  As a result, one should be
 cautious in  making  comparisons among the estimates in the tables.

      Over the  past  few years we have moved vigorously to assure
 the quality  of our  risk  assessments, and their consistency.  These
 efforts  include creating institutions such as the Risk Assessment
 Forum to address technical issues, developing risk assessment
 guidelines,  developing consistent databases about risk and other
 activities.  For example, our newly developed Integrated Risk
 Information  System  (IRIS) will provide the Agency's current view
 of the toxicity of  any chemical in the system.

      While we are conducting a broad range of .research to  increase
 our understanding of environmental risk, much uncertainty will
 remain in  the short run  and  some will endure no matter how much
 research we  do.  We must inevitably make decisions to protect
 human health and the environment in the face of uncertainty.  This
 alone makes  it very difficult to conceive of using some "magic
 number"  of acceptable risk as a guide in our decisions about when
 and how  much to regulate.  Moreover, the very concept of accept-
 able  risk  in risk management decisions is a complex one.   Part
 of the complexity is shown in the tables:  we consider both indi-
 vidual and population risk,  rather than simply the individual risk
 you cite  in  your letter.

      A second kind  of complexity is implicit in your  question:  we
 must  consider how the environmental statutes differ in their
 treatment of risk.  For  example, both FIFRA and TSCA  explicitly
 provide  for weighing human health risk against the economic and
 other benefits of chemical use.  The Safe Drinking Water Act
 allows consideration of  costs and other factors in setting contam-
 inant levels (MCLs), but requires that goals (MCLGs)  be based on
 health risk alone.  Complexity arises not only from differences
 in the degree to which other factors can be considered with risk,
 but also in how and when such considerations can be included  in
 decisions under the various  statutes.

      Third, we seek to protect against many different risks:
 lead  poisoning, asbestosis.  a wide variety of cancers, damage to
 property and natural resources, reduced recreational  opportunities
 and many purely ecological risks.  It is very difficult to compare
 these quantitatively.  Our recent comparison of the risks
 addressed by EPA programs (Unfinished Business:  A Comparative
Assessment of Environmental  Problems) defines four broad cate-
 gories of risk (cancer,  non-cancer, ecological and welfare) rather
 than  attempting to weigh very different kinds of risks against one,
 another.                                      j/taLnriaV. Belong To:      ",
                                              °'^^fV-'^yF,7; (TS-793)
                                              A r\~\ T* 1 V i. V_ k» ' • ' ' ^  _ -_

      Our  ability  co  reduce risk can also be a factor  in deciding
 whether a given risk  is acceptable.  Where appropriate, we con-
 sider factors  such as  technical feasibility, control  costs and
 benefits,  and  the availability and impact of substitutes.  For
 example,  our decision  to phase down the amount of lead in gasoline
 from  the  standard of  1.1 grams/gallon s-et in 1982 was based upon a
 1984  comparison of increased refining costs with benefits in the
 form  of reduced vehicle maintenance, better fuel economy, reduced
 emissions  of HC, NOg and CO, lower levels of lead in  children's
 blood, and  improvements in adult blood pressure.

      In management decisions about environmental risk, EPA weighs
 considerations such as those above, and others which  apply to a
 given case.  We assess the risks as objectively as possible, using
 appropriate quantitative and qualitative information  and taking
 into  account the weight of the underlying scientific  evidence.  We
 do  this both to assure full understanding of the decisions facing
 us  and to provide some consistency among the Agency's actions.
 Nonetheless, risk management decisions will show variations in
 what  level of risk is accepted both because of the need to con-
 sider factors other than risk and because assessment  of risk
 itself is complex.

      Reviews of past risk management decisions can show how the
 risks addressed by those decisions vary, as do the tables here,
 but such historical reviews may not show which factors were deter-
 minative, how heavily they were weighed or even the full set of
 factors considered.  Nor can they answer the question of precisely
what  risk will be acceptable in the next risk management decision.
 There will inevitably be some application of judgment and, there-
 fore, limits to the usefulness of narrow decision rules or
 numerical risk targets.

     We are moving to make better risk management decisions by
 improving the quality of our risk assessments, advancing the
science on which they are based, and increasing consistency in
 interpreting scientific information and balancing it  with other
 factors.   We also seek to do better at informing the  public about
our decisions and how we reach them.



 1.  Maleic Anhydride
 2.  Fugitive

vinyl Chloride

I.  Emissions   from
  EDC-VCM plants

2. Emissions from
  ?vc plants

Inorganic Arsenic

1. Low Arsenic
  copper smelters

2.  Glass

Ethylene oxide


Not regulated
1984  (Risks do not
warrant Federal
reglatory program)


Mot Regulated
(Risks do not warrant
Federal regulatory
 1976 (Risks not
 explicitly considered)

 1976 (Risks not
 explicitly considered)

Regul ted

Intent to List

Intent to List

Intent to List
    Population  Maximum
    Risk        Individual
(cases/yr)   Risk

  .2 —.3










 in school  labs
Regulated (as
calculated in 1979)
Addressed by CPSC
 > 6X10-4
Listing of Haz-
ardous Wastes
Standards  for
Treatment, Storage
and Disposal
Used Oil
Corrective Action
Location Standards
Land Disposal Bans
Organic Toxicity
Subtitle D
Mining Waste
(Chemicals are added
to list based on risk)
(Risk information is
check reasonableness
solutions proposed)
Pending proposal
Pending proposal
Pending Proposal
Pending Proposal
Pending Proposal
Pending Proposal
Pending Proposal
Pending Proposal

used only to
of technological
> 10
> 10
> 10
< 5
< 5
< 5
10-4 — 10-7
10-4 — 10-8
10-3 — 10-8
10-3 — 10-8
10-4 — 10-8
10-4 — 10-8
10-4 — 10-8
10-5 — 10-8
10-3 — 10-8

   Table 2  Risk Levels for Regulatory Decisions
                                                       Residual Risk
                                        Risk       Population  Maxinu-
                                        Avoided    Risk         Individ.
                                      fcases/vr)(cases/yr)   Risk

A. Maleic Anhydride  Not to regulate
   '. Emissions        1984 (Risks do not
                     warrant Federal
                     regulatory program)
B.  Fugitive

vinyl Chloride
A. Emisssions  from
  EDC-VCM plants
B. Emissions from
  PVC plants
Inorganic Arsenic
A. Low Arsenic
  copper smelters

3.  Glass
Not to regulate
(Risks do nor warrant
Federal regulatory program)
 Regulated            .5
1976  (Risks not
explicitly considered)

Regulated            14
1976  (Risks not
explicitly considered)

2x10-4 —


Regulated (1979)
Recalculated with
new data
in school labs
Addressed by CPSC


 Differences  Between Expert and  Public
 Rankings  of  Environmental Problems
      D EPA published a report, Unfinished Business: A Comparative Assessment of
        Environmental Problems, in February 1987. The report examined the risks of
        cancer, non-cancer health effects, ecological effects, and welfare effects posed by 31
        different environmental problems. Stimulated by this report, the Roper Organization
        polled nationwide samples in December 1987 and January 1988 to find out how the
        public ranks the seriousness of essentially the same list of environmental problems.
      a The two groups addressed slightly different questions. The EPA experts only
        looked at the tangible aspects of the risks (cancer incidence, etc.), whereas the
        public was not similarly constrained and could consider intangible effects in ranking
        overall concern.


      Q The most striking difference is that the public ranks active and inactive hazardous
        waste sites as #1 and #2, whereas the EPA experts ranked them medium/low in the
        various  risk categories listed below.

      Q At the other end of the scale, the public ranked indoor air pollution, including radon
        and consumer product  exposure, and global wanning very low, while the EPA
        experts ranked" them quite high.

      o Important points of agreement included pesticide risks and worker exposure to toxic
        chemicals (relatively higher risks and higher public concern) and contamination of
        drinking water as it arrives at the tap  (relatively medium in both cases).

      Q In general, EPA's legislative priorities correspond more closely  to public perceptions
        than to expert assessments of risk.

Why the differences?

      a The subject is vast, and it is hard for anyone to have full knowledge of it
"Difference! Between Expert and Pubic Rankings of Environmental Problems" prepared by the Environmental Protecuon Agency  Oif,^ of
Policy. Planning, and Evaluation

       Q Research has shown that people often overestimate the frequency and seriousness of
         dramatic, sensational, dreaded, well-publicized causes of death and underestimate
         the risks from more familiar, accepted causes that claim lives one by one.

       Q The public perception of hazardous waste is driven by drama and dread.  The
         intrusive, involuntary nature of the risk, the fact that slow-moving ground water can
         stay polluted for a very long time, the presence of an identifiable "scapegoat." and
         the difficulty many people have in seeing an overriding benefit to having a
         hazardous waste site nearby are also important. The EPA report noted that in
         certain locations hazardous waste does pose a very serious risk, but relatively few
         people live near enough to the sites to be directly affected; other environmental
         problems simply cause more damage to more people and ecosystems.

       Q Indoor air pollution, including radon and consumer product exposure, and global
         warming are risks to which everyone is exposed.  The risks are not dramatic  and
         come from familiar, diffuse,, generally accepted sources. It is usually difficult, if
         not impossible, in these cases to finger a "scapegoat"; and the benefits from the
         problem-causing substances  are clear.   Some of these problems are  also not well
         understood by many members of the public.


       Q Public policymakers and all those involved in discussing environmental problems
         and risks with each other and with the  public need to recognize how people may
         react to the. problems and risks, to understand why the risks have been assessed
         technically as high or low, and to tailor policies and communications to
         accommodate differing perspectives.  Experts should avoid thinking of the public as
         "wrong" or "irrational," when in fact the pubb'c may simply be following a different

       Q The  differences raise an important issue for a democracy. Put crudely, should j
         democracy focus  available resources and technology where they can have the
         greatest tangible impact on human and ecological health and welfare, or should  it
         focus them on those problems about which the pubb'c is roost upset? Put more
         pragmatically, what is the proper balance?

For Further Information

       Q Contact the Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation  or the Office of Policy
         Analysis (202-260-4012) or (202-260-4012).
'Differences Between Espen cod Pubbc Rankings of Environmental Problems" prepared by (he Environmental Protection Agency («:,.r
Policy. Planning, and Evaluation.

                            Perceived Seriousness of Some
                                 Environmental  Problems
   Active Hazardous Waste Sites
   Abandoned Hazardoos Sites
   W otter Exposure to Toxics
   »— J-   J-l tt,' .*__ tJtnliM*^
   UMflHfMi wawr j luuuuo
   Nuclear Accident Radiation
   Radioaoive Waste
   Underground T«nk Leaks
   Pesticides Harm to Users
   Pesticide Residue
   Industrial Accident Pollution
   Farm Run-Off W«« Pollution
   Tap Water ConiamiBauoe
   Indnsuia) Air PoDntion
   Ozone Layer Destruction
   Ocean, Coastal Water
   Sewage Plant Water Pollution
   Vehicle Exhaust
   Oil Spills: Tankers. Rigs
   Acid Raw.
   Urban  Run-Off;
   Water  Pollution
   Damaged Wetlands
   Genetic Alter. Damage
   Non-Hazardous Waste Sites
   •Greenhouse' Effect
   Indoor Air Pollution
   Indoor Radon Air Pollution
   Microwave Oven Radiation
V/V/A    37
20         40
  Don't Know
  Somewhat Serious
                                             80        100
                                       Not Too, Not at All
                                       Very Serious
•Difference! Between Eipert tad Public fUaluogj of Eavirounenul Problems' prepared by the Environment*] Proieaioa Agcno  (Office <.f
Policy. PlumiDg, and Evaluatioa.

         How EPA Experts Rank Environmental Risks—Highlights
Overall High/Medium Risk
a "Criteria" air pollution from mobile and
   stationary sources (includes acid
Q Stratospheric ozone depletion
a Pesticide residues in or on foods
Q Runoff and air deposition of pesticides
High Health; Low Ecological and
Welfare Risk
Q Hazardous/toxic air pollutants
Q Indoor radon
Q Indoor air pollution other than radon
Q Drinking water as it arrives at the tap
Q Exposure to consumer products
Q Worker exposures to chemicals
Low Health; High Ecological and
Welfare Risk
a Global warming
a Point and nonpoint sources of surface
   water pollution
Q Physical alteration of aquatic habitat
   (including estuaries and wetlands) and
   mining waste
Overall Medium/Low Risk
(Ground-Water-Related Problems)
a Hazardous waste sites—active (RCRA)
Q Hazardous waste sites—inactive
a Other municipal and industrial waste
Q Underground storage tanks
Mixed and/or Medium/Low Risk
a Contaminated sludge
Q Accidental releases of toxic chemicals
a Accidental oil spills
Q Biotechnology (environmental releases
  of genetically altered materials)
Source: Unfinished Busmen- A Comparative Assessment of Environmental Problems (EPA 1987)

                         DRAFT COMMUNITY RELATIONS  PLAN

                          MARJOL BATTERY REMOVAL SITE
                              THROOP, PENNSYLVANIA
                               TABLE OF CONTENTS

       SECTION                                                       PAGE

       A.   OVERVIEW OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS  PLAN                          1

       B.   CAPSULE SITE DESCRIPTION                                     2

       C.   COMMUNITY BACKGROUND                                         4

           C 1.  Comnunicy Profile                                     4
           C 2.  Chronology of Community Involvement                    5
           C 3.  Key Community Concerns                                6

       D.   HIGHLIGHTS                                                   g

       E.   TECHNIQUES AND TIMING                                       !0

       APPENDIX:  LIST OF  INTERESTED  PARTIES                           A-l

       LOCATIONS FOR REPOSITORIES  AND MEETINGS                         B-l
Prepared  by Environmental  Protection  Agency,  Region  3



     This community relations plan identifies issues of community

concern regarding the Marjol Battery Removal site in Throop, PA,

and outlines community relations activities to be conducted during

the removal action at the site.  In general, community concern

about the site is very high, and has been for more than ten years.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a very visible

presence in the borough in both a technical capacity and a community

relations capacity.  An effective community relations program for

this site should, therefore, benefit from past successes and provide

additional guidance for continued activity.

     This community relations plan has been prepared to aid EPA in

developing a community relations program tailored to the needs of

the communities affected by the Marjol Battery site.  EPA conducts

community relations activities to ensure that the local public has

input into decisions about Superfund actions and is well informed

about the progress of those actions.  These sections follow:

     --Capsule Site Description

     — Community Background

     — Highlights of Program

     — Techniques and Timing

     — Attachments:  List of Contacts and Interested Parties and

       locations for Administrative Record Repository and Public


     The information in this plan is based primarily on discussions

conducted in Throop, PA, during the summer and autumn months* of 1983.

Participants include EPA personnel, local officials and local citizens.

Additional information came from telephone interviews, published

news reports, correspondence and official state and federal documents.

     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region III has lead

responsibility for managing this removal action, and the EPA Region

III Office of Public Affairs will oversee all community relations

activities at the sji

     The Marjol Battery site occupies roughly 43 acres of hilly


                                                                .  -  .M| m  *
                                                                L* i J a  &
partially wooded land located in Throop, PA.  The landfill is

bordered on two sides by residential property;  on one side by the

Lackawanna River; and one side is bordered by woods.  In addition,

Sulphur Creek runs through the site and empties into the Lackawanna

River.  The site is located over inactive coal mines.

     For approximately 20 years, the llarjol Battery site was used

as a battery crushing and lead recycling facility.  The facility

ceased operation in April 1982.  Subsequently,  it was acquired by

Gould, Inc.  There are an estimated 65,000 cubic yards of lead

contaminated soil and broken battery casings in a landfill on the

site.   The southern end of the landfill is severely eroded and

piles of battery casings and lead are evident throughout the length

of an erosion gully which extends through the landfill and eventually

drains into the Lackawanna River.

     Since 1982, Gould, Inc. has attempted to clean up and stabilize

various portions of the site.  Lead and acidic sludge were removed

from a pre-treatment building; two other buildings and additional

structures that formerly housed battery crushing operations were

demolished; and part of the landfill was stabilized by covering

exposed battery casings with clean fill.

     In 1975, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources

(PADER) began investigating the site and surrounding neighborhoods

for lead contamination.  PADER took soil and air samples  and  the  state

Department of Health also cook blood tests  from several hundred

local children which revealed very high  levels  of  lead  in  the

12% of the blood samples.  FADER attributed the lead contamination

to the Marjol Battery and Equipment Company,  which was  still operating

at the site.  The Marjol Company was ordered  to remediate  the  lead

problem,  while it continued to operate.

     On June 5, 1987, EPA sampled soils  on-site, at nearby residential

properties, and in storm water channels  leading to the  Lackawanna

River.  Based on sample analyses, EPA determined that the  site

qualified for a Removal Action and began negotiations with the

Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) Gould,  Inc.  CPA and Gould, Inc.

signed a  consent agreement in April 1988 in which Gould, Inc.  agreed

to remove offsite contamination and stabilize contamination on site.


     1.  Community Profile

     The  borough of Throop is a small community of approximately

4500 people.  Ilany of the citizens are long time residents and some

families  go back two or three generations.

     Throop was incorporated in 1894, after separating from Dickson

City.  The borough took its name from Dr. Benjamin H.  Throop, a

Civil War surgeon who led the movement to have the borough incorporated,

                                                                   •.    .-•*
                                                                   'tf . i* •*
     Until Che Great Depression, Throop was closely associated with

 the coal mining industry.  At one time, there were six mines in

 Throop with rail lines running through the borough.  At the time

 of the Depression, Throop's population approached 8300 people, many

 of them immigrants from Poland, Wales, England, Czechoslovakia,

 Hungary and other European countries.

     The Depression brought the closing of the mines, and a snarp

 reduction in the population.  Subsequent years have seen the borough

 attract other industries to its industrial park.  The residents of

 Throop perceive che borough as a well kept town with a civic-minded


     2.  Chronology of Community Involvement

     Long term residents of the area recall the Marjol plant as

 being a nuisance while it was in operation.  Residents complained

of smoke, soot, and foul odors eminating from the Marjol plant.

They also complained of heavy truck.traffic in and out of the


     Although some people suspected the facility might be causing.

some environmental or health problems, uost of the citizens were

not concerned until PADER and PADOH began  testing  for contamination

during the mid 1970's.  In 1975, local residents formed a citizens

group called the Throop Citizens Association (TCA).   The group

petitioned the borough council and the state to close the plant.

Group members say they became less active following  threats of

litigation from the Harjol owner and a PADER report  that said  that

the lead levels would dissipate.

     The citizens group became active again in early Spring of 1988

following EPA soil sampling.  At that time, a new group was formed

by t>ome former TCA members and additional residents.  The new group

was called Halt Environmental Lead Pollution (HELP), and became

very active as EPA's removal action progressed.

3.  Key Community Concerns

     Currently, the level of community concern is very high.  This is

a result of numerous factors:

     —Residential contamination, sampling and excavation.

     —Long history of contamination problems at site.

     —Additional environmental concern over nearby landfill expansion.

     The following are concerns that were voiced during interviews

or public meetings:

     —Health Issues;   Residents are very concerned about  the

       adverse health  affects they may encounter due to the long

       term exposure to lead contamination.  Of greatest  concern  are

       the children, who are most susceptible to lead contamination.


—Property Values;  Many  residents  feel their properties are now

  worthless,  because of the contamination.  They are afraid to

  spend  time  in  their  yards.  They  cannot grow vegetable gardens.

  They cannot allow their children  to play in their yards.  They

  perceive  that  their  properties  have been taken from them.

—Long Term Site  Cleanup;  Local  residents are afraid that there

  will not  be a  cleanup of the  site itself, thereby posing the

  potential for continued contamination.  There is also a fear

  that EPA will  perform a partial cleanup.  Some also expressed

  concern that the present cleanup  activity will not be sufficient.

—Landfill Expansion;  Although it  is not directly' related to  the

  Marjol project, Throop  citizens are angry about  the expansion

  of  a nearby landfill.   Local  residents  feel  they are  being

  "picked on" by  government.  They  frequently  link the  two

  issues together during  interviews and meetings.

—Agency Credibility;  Many  local citizens are very mistrustfull

  of  EPA.   Some  feel EPA  is  withholding  information from citizens.

  Additional  concerns  involve EPA's technical  ability to  address

  the contamination.

—Community Image:  Many  people are concerned  about the

  reputation  of  the local community.  Some  feel  Throop  is

  viewed as a "garbage dump" because of  Che problems  at the

  Marjol site and the  landfill  issue.

                                                               " TT
                                                               Uhn!  1
     The mistrust and uncertainty have  lead  to a high degree of

 stress among the residents.  This has caused some friction among

 the citizens, their local elected officials  and agency personnel

 and contract workers.  Residents  have sought help from independent

 experts to evaluate EPA activity  on the project, and they have also

 sought help from the media and elected  officials to ensure EPA

 follows proper protocol.


     The Community relations program at the  Marjol site should be

 designed to allow the community to learn about and participate in

 the "clean-up" process.  To be effective,  the community relations

 program must be  gauged according  to the community's need for infor-

 mation information, and the community's interest and willingness

 co participate in the "clean-up"  process.

     The community relations program at the  Marjol site should cake

 the following approaches:

     1.  Sustain the support and  participation of local officials

 in coordinating  community relations activities.   Appropriate

officials  to involve in a community relations program are the

members of  the Throop borough council.   Many of these officials

are visible and  trusted leaders in the  community, and are therefore

a valuable  resource in EPA's iffort to  understand and monitor

community concern.  To maintain support of the local officials,

inform them regularly and fully of site activities,  plans,  findings

and developments.

     2.  Provide follow-up explanations about sampling and  test

results to area residents.  Concise and easily-understood information

should be available to all residents on the schedule of technical

activities, their purpose, and their outcome.  Where information

cannot be released to the public, either because of quality assurance

requirements or the sensitivity of enforcement proceedings, explain

clearly and simply why the information must be withheld.  Community

relations staff should, also attempt to identify special situations

or concerns where more specialized information may be required,  or

where certain types of information are needed by single individuals

or (jroups.  In particular, owners of property where samples are

taken should receive follow-up explanations of what was done and

found on their land.  Finally, to ensure that inquiries from the

community are handled efficiently and consistently, a single EPA

contact should be established for the site.

     3.  Educate area residents and local officials about the

proceedures, policies, and requirements of the Superfund program.

Local residents have some confusion understanding the difference

between a removal action and a remedial action.  Residents will

need help understanding the steps in the remedial process.



      The  following  activities are required for the Marjol Battery

 site  community  relations program.

      1.   Revision of Community Relations Plan.  If the Marjol site

 is placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites,

 this  community  relations plan should be revised to outline community

 relations activities that are appropriate for that phase of activity.

 The  revision of the community relations plan should:

      —Update facts and verify the information in this community

       relations plan prepared for the removal action.

      —Assess the community relations program to date and indicate

       if the same or different approaches will be taken.

      —Develop a strategy for preparing the community for a future

       role during the remedial action.

Community interviews should be held before the tlarjol Battery site

community relations plan is revised.

      In addition to the required community relations activities, a

number of additional activities will be undertaken to ensure that

the community is well informed about site activities and has the

opportunity to express its concerns.  Those activities are:

      1.  Establish and maintain information repositories: Fact

 sheets, technical summaries, site reports, community relations

 plan, and information on the superfund program will be placed in

 the information repositories.

 2.  Establish an information contact;  A community relations staff

 person will be designated to respond directly to public inquiries

 regarding site activities.  In addition, the Responsible Party may

 provide a community relations person to assist EPA's efforts.

     3.  Regular contact with local officials and citizens groups.

 Residents and the borough council members want to be informed about

 site plans and findings.  The council and the citizens group Halt

 Environmental Lead Pollution (HELP) should be contacted at critical

 milestones.  EPA may conduct bi-weekly meetings during off site

activity with HELP and council.

     4.  Prepare news letters.  EPA or the contractor should distribute

weekly newsletters to local residents during "clean up" activity.

The news letters should review activity and plans for upcoming activity.

The newsletters should also contain community relations contact

names and telephone numbers.

     5.  Provide news releases to local media.  Local media  should

receive notice of significant changes or milestones in the removal


     6.  Public meetings.  Public meetings should be held prior to

significant milestones or at the request  of the borough and HELP.

Previous meetings have not been productive means of answering

questions or providing information to the citizens in the past.

Nevertheless, EPA has agreed to hold public meetings if the council

and HELP feel it will be appropriate. It  is suggested that meetings

follow a prepared agenda to ensure they are orderly and productive.


 fhe  Lethal   Legacy  of  Lead  Poisoning
Long After a Battery Plant Shuts Down, Contamination Lingers in Soil and Bones
          •By MM* Jaffa
                        THROOP, Pa.

       From morning to night, for 14 hours
       straight, resident* of this oortbetst
       Pennsytvaiua community arrived at
       the local high school for medical
test*  .hey feared would uncover a kag-
bunt  pr^oicm.
  M , slowly from gymnasium to dass-
rcw.r, they filled out health histories, gave
blool  and were subjected to a  battery of
tests to measure such things as nerve re-
sponse and motor skills. The final stop was
a 35-foot-kxig Chevy van parked nearby.
Tuere. each resident slid his or her leg into
s new X-ray machine  that screened then-
bones for lead.
  After five days of testing, John Rosen,
one of the nation's f*y**>*g experts on child-
hood lead  pouonmg, announced the results:
One third of the 200 residents he tested had
elevated levels of lead in then bodies. Many
of them were children.
  cor  yean,  residents  had  wondered
    •her the old Marjol Battery A Equip*
    i Co.  was polluting their town. Black
wouds of smoke had belched from the bat-
tery recycling plant and wafted over nearby
neighborhoods. Aad mists had eaten hole*
through clothing hanging out to dry.
  Yet even when lead cormmmarinn was
found in nearby yards and streets in 1975
and again in. 1986. government  environ-
me-jtal officials had assured residents there
was no health problem.  Not trusting the
official assessment, they sought  the help of
Rosen, who  told them  near fears were
reahstk.  The problem. Rose*  cnrrtarlfri,
WBft MM pOttOODg, I QfQQEB ttn QDgcm(
problem that  might affect coontiess  chit-

  Lead is a highly  tone material Children
are particularrr snscrprihs* became  the
metal can damage the growng nervous sys-
tem, ueaunf nerve dunrtsrs and Inning
  Because many of the effects arc subtle
and difficult to detect and because the
threat of lead poisoning had lingered for so
long, residents  here were skeptical of gov-
ernment reassurances.
  "We had  a situation where our children
had been playing in a heavuy i uilniiinatfd
environment.' said Nicholas Mntos. a school
psychologist and  father of four  children.
"We wanted answers, and we didn't trust
tbc goTcnuDCflt.
  Threap's search for an answer led rewdeats
to an  ay^y"*""' technique mat  looks for
ksd • the bones. Tndnonaly, docton have
•neasured lead exposure in the blood, where
    substance i* most toxic  and may cause
    unent damage. But the metal  tmgen  in
  ^ blood only 30 to 45 days.
  "Ninety-five percent of the body burden
of lead is stored in the bone*.' said Andrew
Todd. a professor of medical physics at the
University OR  Mtryimd  XDQ
X-ny bone-tead studies. "So thst's when
you have to look;*                     *
  And that  is  where  the  residents  of
Throop,  including the  Schorues,  found
their answers. The Schorrs famihr moved.

Marjol site • 1979. "We did it because it
was suck a big place and we had a
family," Susan Scbortt recalled.
  They knew about Marjol's
the nust, about th* KH ***** *****' btm ("""it
in thftsoil of neighbors' yards back-in 1975.
But they also knew  that their daughters.
June and Diana, had been among the 200
children in town who, as part of the state's
assessment of Marjol • 1975,todreeeive4
blood tests tfastt revetted no prooliiD.
  As far  the lead-tainted soil. Schoro said.
the state Department of Environmental Re-
sources told us to cover our  lawns with
topsail and replant.  The  lead, they said,
would dissipate in 10 years,'
  In 1976, after  repeated vniaoons.  the
department ordered Marjol to shut down its
lead smeker. In 1982. the entire plant was
closed for good. That seemed to be the end
of Tbrooa's uuilikMiii
  But in 1986, the federal Environmental
Protection Agency came to town, tested the

that the yards of the Scfaortz home and 80
others were heavily contaminated.
  According to the EPA guideline, soil with
more than 50 parts per muboe, of lead might
be dsBgeroot. EPA found levels of 2,000 to
19,600 part* per million in Throe*. Schora
Maa-»*e«afS ef 8.000 parts per million in
her spacious, tree-shaded yard.
  The Marjol site and the surrounding area
were designated for cleanup under the fed-
eral Soperfuol law. Beginning in 1988,  the
yards of tbeftl homes were excavated to
ronov*  the «—•»-i"»t.d soil One house
watdedared touuy unsafe. Several months
ago. a contractor cleaned the interior of 60
house* to temove teed dust.
   Toe cleanup, now estimated at $18 mi.
boo. is besag paid for by the Gould Corp,
which bought the Marjol site after the plant
   But while  EPA officials  acknowledged
 that soil and hones had been contaainattd.
 they -"j-t.ii>*! there was no health prob-
 lem for  residents. And,  indeed, another
 rood of  tests appeared  to support that
 claim: Blood tests conducted on 300 ehtt-
 drea did not reveal any elevated exposure
 to lead.
   But this tune many people here refused
 to bekeve everything was all righL
   Throop, a  modest  mmmuniry of frame
 and brick homes  where traditional  values
 predominate, was not a likely candidate to
 dispute government expert*.
   But the shock of being declared a  Super-
 fund site a dosen  yean after the state had
 said there was no problem weighed heavily
 on many residents.
   Mntos.  Schora and 40  other
formed Halt Environmental Lead Pollution,
HELP, which persuaded several of the na-
tion's leading experts in childhood lead poi-
soning, including  Rosen, to counsel them.
The  group rented a van and m late  1989
started  ferrying   people  120  miles  to
Rosen's dink in the Bronx, where he was
conducting bone-lead studies.
  1 really didn't know what to expect." re-
called Rosen, "but 1 was shocked."  More
than a third of the  75 Throop residents
Rosen hid elevated levels of lead in their
bones. He decided to go to Throop.
  Last June. Rosen and five  whnirians
y-r^fi^fi an additional  125 residents here
and fffrf**'1 neurological and learning-de-
velopment tests.
  'The preliminary results indicate that a
highly significant  percentage  of  residents
across a wide age range have clear-cut ev-
idence of lead exposure that occurred ear-
lier ia their lifetime." he said.
  Those with the highest level of lead ex-
posure had grown up during the years the
Mark)!  plant was operating. Nearly two
third* of the teenagers who were tested had
high lead levels.
   Diana Scbortx. 16, is among them. Al-
though her mother said she has so medical
problems. Rosen's tests found  that Diana
 has 57 parta per million of lead in her bones.
   There are no standards yet for bow much
 lead in the bones poses a threat, but Diana's
 level dearly was remarkable.  Todd.  the
 University of Maryland  researcher,  has
 found an average of 30 parts per munon in
 lead-smelter workers m Europe.
   Lead particles are generally inhaled or
 ingested, then find their way into the blood-
 stream and  are finally absorbed by the
 bones. Once locked m the bones, they do
 not present an immediate threat. But the
 reserve of the toun can be released under
 certain circumstances.
   For enmpst, fesd is rrtesaed i a  bone i*
 broken, if the individual is faediridea for a long
 time or i he or she suffen bone disease.
   A serous release could occur if Diana
 were to have a baby, Rosen  warned the
 Schoraes. Because mothers' bones are the
 source of  calcium for the  fetus, there is a
 risk of "wntMity poisoning the fetus.
    Rosen advised the Schoru family to mon-
 itor Diana's  blood-lead levels and kidney
 function in future checkups,  because lead
 can easily impair the kidneys.
    Pennsylvania officials have  little to say
 about Throop.  "Our understanding of the
  problems of lead are  so much  greater now
  than when we initially looked at the problem
  in  1975," said Susan Wood, a spokeswoman
  for the  environmental resources depart-
  ment. "But it waa the state that suggested
  the EPA go back and take a second look.'
    Officials at the state Department of Heath
  say that the X-ray technique  a experimental
  and that the result does not demonstrate that a
  health problem  easts. There are no compa-
  rable studies to show  the bone-lead levels in
  the general p"r-jl"'""v department y**«Mi«
  Robert Fischer aid.                    •


                    Preparing  for the Interview
                           Paul Lapsley
1.  Learn who your audience is and what issues they're concerned
    about.  When the journalist or reporter calls to schedule the
    interview there are several items you should discuss with
    them in setting up the interview:

     o    Ask them how much they know about the issue.  Take this
          opportunity to give them a brief background or if they
          don't have time, offer to send them some written
          materials; if they don't have time to discuss it,
          you'll know that the only opportunity you'll have to
          inform them and their audience will be during the
          interview.  That information, by itself is important.

     o    Learn from the reporter what issues their audience is
          concerned about.  Often this will-give you an insight
          into what issues you need to be prepared to deal with.
          If the reporter doesn't give you any guidance, it's an
          opportunity for you to suggest areas that you will
          cover in the interview.  If the journalist has little
          knowledge on the topic they will welcome you outlining
          how the interview should go.

     o    Learn how much time you'll have to explain the Agency's
          position.  This will help you determine how to make
          your presentation.  If the journalist tells you that
          you're only going to have a ten second spot on the
          evening news, that will motivate you to get your
          message out clearly and succinctly.  On the other hand,
          if the interview will be a dialogue that will come out
          in a Questions and Answers session for the audience,
          then you'll have an opportunity to provide more
          extensive explanation to a series of key issues, which
          you will be able to frame for the journalist.

2.  Decide what it is you want to convey and how much time you'll
    have to do it.  Think through the logical explanation of how
    the Agency  arrived at its current position and what actions
    it's taking to deal with the situation, both now and in the
    future.  Be prepared to answer criticism that the Agency
    should have known the hazards earlier and taken action more
    quickly.  At the same time, be prepared to respond to
    criticism that the Agency is overreacting and that the hazard
    doesn't really exist.  You must present a dispassionate and
    reasoned approach to dealing with a hazard that has been
    established through credible information.

3.  Learn what others are saying about the risk so that you can
    defend the Agency's position.  We will frequently be
    presented with statements that environmentalists are making,
    or statements from the chemical industry, and asked to

    reconcile those statements with the Agency's action.   Be
    prepared to respond with a logical explanation of why the
    Agency's action is most appropriate in light of available
    information and why environmental or industry actions are

4.  Be familiar with the various exposure routes that could lead
    to risk, and state what exposures (e.g.,  groundwater,
    inhalation, homeowner,  etc.) present risks of concern and,
    just as importantly, those exposures which are not reasons
    for concern.  Know what assumptions have been used in the
    risk assessment.  Be prepared to explain that the Agency has
    used conservative assumptions in estimating risks and what
    they are.  It's important to comment that conservative
    assumptions are used as a prudent approach to protecting
    public health and the environment, however we expect that
    actual risks would be less.

5.  Know what the economic impacts will be.  Frequently the
    audience is more concerned about the impact on their economic
    situation then they are about the risk implications.   You
    must be able to assure them that the Agency has considered
    the economic implications, and believes its action is
    necessary in spite of those impacts.

6.  Prepare yourself to represent the Agency, regardless of your
    own position.  Your audience will be assuming that you are
    the spokesperson for the Agency.  Consequently, regardless of
    your support for the Agency's action, you must be prepared to
    present the Agency's position and defend it, without calling
    into question any aspect of the decision.  Any concerns you
    may have should be discussed internally.

                    AT THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE

      The point of  all this is that most of the information on
 risk assessment is funneled through the media - local news
 sources more than  national ones.  The national news has a half-
 hour every night to tell you everything of consequence that
 happened on earth.   Risk assessment is very rarely part of that.
 The nightly national news  broadcast is usually a recap of the
 hits,  runs, and errors of  the day.

      Most local reporters  have little or no knowledge of or
 background in technical matters.  Yet when something happens,
 they are sent out  on a story.  In 90 minutes or so they must
 become instant experts because they have got to make the air that
 night or the deadline for  the newspaper.  Most of them tend to
 parrot things that are told to them.  Very little local news is
 analytical, and when it is, it tends to be analytical in the
 sense of "this is  what one side says, this is what the other side
 says."  As I said,  we are  required to be instant experts, but we
 rarely investigate further the story of the day.  There are big
 incidents,  but there is very little follow-up.

      The media's posture with regard to risk is primarily
 reactive,  which is  to say  that we tend to come in after an
 incident involving risk.   We look primarily for victims: victims
 make good television,  good print.  We also investigate the
 aftermath of incidents, assisted by critics.  We like critics
 because they can look at some event and say that if something had
 happened or had not happened, there would clearly have been a
 different outcome.   Rarely do we take time to look in advance at
 things that might  happen.

     We also often  look for officials, for two reasons.  First,
 they are people in  authority, although they are in fact rarely
 authorities.   Indeed,  they are rarely capable of even commenting
 on  risk issues because of  their sensitive news nature.  Second,
 we  look for officials  because we want to affix blame.  If we need
 someone to  blame, we usually choose an official; he or she can be
 portrayed  as asleep at the switch, so to speak.

     After  interviewing officials, we do a thing called Man on
 the  Street  - "What  do  you  think about that?"  We go out and get
 three  or four interviews,  10 or 15 seconds from one person or
 another,  and that  is  the local news.

     Now if that sounds critical, it is meant to be.  We are
 reactive, and we are  allowed to be that way.  You have allowed us
 to go  off half-cocked  on a variety of issues.  You have not
 corrected us;  you have not given us advance information.  The
 result  is exactly what you see in the news media today.  What you
 see  is  reaction  rather than analysis.  When you do see analysis,
 it is not very good analysis.  The media are highly speculative.
 For  instance,  the media are now trying to figure out what

 From Risk Communication: Proceedings of the National Conference
 on Risk  Communication.  Edited by J. Clarence Davies, Vincent T.
Covello, and  Frederick W.  Ali^n (The Conservation Foundation,

 happened to  the  Challenger before  any of the experts have
 collected its  parts.   That is  what the public demands from us.
 We are always  trying  to  fix blame.

      The reality of the  situation  is  that most viewing or reading
 audiences are  not very attentive.   They do not pay much attention
 to what the  media are saying.   We  are generally background noise
 for dinner.  We  are required not to be terribly lengthy in our
 comments because we tend to bore people.

      Why is  that important? It is  important because it
 encourages us  to look for the  smoking government, the body count,
 or the rocket's  red glare.   You have  seen it all a hundred times,
 and you will see it a hundred  times again.  Therefore, you have
 to educate the media;  you have a responsibility to become a
 participant.   If you  let us keep going the way we are going,
 everybody is going to survive,  but things are going to become
 more difficult as our society  becomes more technological.

      You have  to understand the risk  that you are communicating,
 but,  more importantly, you have to understand the media.  You
 have to talk to  us in advance.  You have to involve the public
 early.   If we  do not  pick up on you information often enough,
 then you have  a  legitimate basis for  a complaint.

      Furthermore, you have to  speak to us in English.  What is 10
 to the minus seventh?  What is  one part per billion?  I may not
 understand the concept of a billion,  but when you explain that
 one part per billion  is  one second out of 32 years, that does not
 seem to be much  dosage or much  time to be exposed to something
 that is  considered to  be so awfully dangerous.  There are a lot
 of  extremely dangerous things  you  can be exposed to for one
 second out of  32 years and not  suffer any great consequences.

      So,  as  scientists,  regulators, and policy makers, you have
 to  figure  out  what the media do, how  they work, and how to make
 them work  for  you.  You  have to participate.  That means that you
must  be  aggressive rather than  reactive.  You must help people
understand things rather than  defending a company or an agency
 from criticism.  You  have to learn to deal with media inquiry, to
supply information in  advance  and  consider the medium.  If you
are  dealing with television, you do not want to have a group of
people  sitting up here talking.  You  want to be able to show
pictures.  If  you are  dealing with radio and print, you need to
paint  pictures with words.

      You have  to learn how to  be a source of information that is
trusted.   You  have to  decide who should talk to the media.  Very
often  the  media  contact  is  a public relations person who either
does not understand the  issue  or is allowed to speak only the
party  line.  When something bad happens, the person who made the
decision should  take  the heat  because the heat will go away that
much more  quickly.  It is crucial  to  understand how the system

works.   You  have  to know how the media format a newscast, a
newspaper, or  broadcast.  You have to understand who the players
are,  on  the  screen, on the air, in print, and even more
importantly, behind the scenes.  You have to understand how to
gain  access  to the nonnews media out there:  the feature editors
of the newspapers, the morning television shows that you would
never think  anyone would be interested in, although they have
vast  audiences and 8 or 10 minutes of unedited time that is
almost never utilized.  There are great media wastelands that you
are not  taking advantage of:  the weekends, for example.  In most
major cities,  the most watched newscasts are on Sunday evening.

      Finally,  you have to understand that if you have a news
event planned  on certain days or when certain types of events
occur, you must cancel it.  The situation with the Challenger is
a case inpoint:  if you have a conference or press briefing
planned  for  this week, you should reschedule it, because it is
unlikely to  be covered.

      If  you  understand how the media work and demand a higher
degree of participation in the system, everything will improve.
Then, if you see a pattern of abuse, you have a duty to make
complaints that may attack the broadcasting license that is
damaging your  industry or your profession.


                         Do's AND DON'TS FOR SPOKESPERSONS
       The following list contains a checklist of DOs and DONTs to review before you
    agree to an interview.
    1) DO  ask who  will be  asking the

    2) DO ask which topics they want 'to
DONT tell the news organization which
reporter you prefer to work with.

DONT  ask for specific  questions  in
    3) DO caution them that you are not
      the right person to interview if there
      are topics you cannot discuss (due to
      lack  of knowledge, litigation, trade
      secrets, etc.)
DON'T Insist that they promise not to
ask about certain subjects.
    4) DO ask how long the interview will
      be and what the format will be.
DON'T demand that your remarks not
be edited.
    5) DO ask who else will be interviewed.
DON'T insist the reporter not interview
an adversary.
    Prior to interview/news conference:

    1) DO obtain accurate information and
      be completely honest.

    2) DO decide what you want to say, and
      check to make sure you have the
      appropriate information.
DONT try to fool the reporters and the

DONT believe you know it all.
Reprinted in  Risk Communication Student  Manual, edited  by Erin
Donovan,  Vincent Covello,  and  John  Slavick  (Chemical                  83
Manufacturers Association, Washington, DC 1989).

During the Q & A:
1) DO be honest and  accurate.  Your
   credibility depends on it.

2) DO stick to your key points.

3) DO lead.  Take charge.
4) DO raise your key messages.

5) DO offer to find out information you
   don't have if a question is  raised
   about it.

6) DO explain the subject.

7) DO stress the facts.

8) DO explain the context.
DON'T lie.
DONT improvise.

DONT react passively, but DONT be
overly aggressive or rude either.

DON'T dwell on negative allegations.

DONT guess, because if you are wrong
your credibility will be shot.
DONT use jargon.

DONT discuss hypothetical questions.

DONT assume  the  facts  speak  for
9) DO be  forthcoming to  the  extent
   you've decided upon beforehand.
10) DO give a reason  if you can't talk
   about the subject.

11) DO state your points emphatically.

12) DO correct big mistakes by stating
   that  you didn't give an adequate
   answer and you would like a chance
   to clear up  the confusion.
DONT decide to reveal something that
is confidential  without  considering  its

DONT dismiss a question with "No

DONT ask reporters for their opinions.

DONT demand that a botched answer
not be used.

 13) DO remember the media are inter-
   ested in "what? when? where? who?
   how? and why?"

 14) DO stress  any heroic  efforts  by
   individual employees.

 15) DO emphasize  what is being done
   to correct the problem.
 16) DO state your conclusions first, to
   get'your  main points  across, then
   back them up with facts.

 17) DO have  available  information
   relating to company processes,  raw
   materials,   and   chemical   inter-

 18) DO try to be as open with the  me-
   dia as possible.
DON'T be afraid to say that you don't
have the answers  to  "who? how?  or
why? at the present time.

DONT stress any  individual errors  or

DONT estimate  monetary damages,
costs to the company,  insurance cover-
age or level of interference with compa-
ny activities.

DONT let  your message get lost in a
morass of detail.
DONT hesitate to refuse to give propri-
etary information.
DONT give one  reporter exclusive
After the Q & A:

1) DO remember, what you say is still
   on- the record.
DONT assume  the  interview/confer-
ence is over.
2) DO remember, it's all on the record.
3) DO be careful around microphones
   and tape recorders.
DONT insist that some comment will
now be put "off the record."

DONT assume that a microphone  is
ever off.

 4) DO correct any mistakes you made      DON'T let sleeping dogs lie.
   in the Q & A.

 5) DO volunteer 10 get additional infor-      DON'T refuse to talk any  further with
   mation reporters need.                  reporters.

 6) DO tell reporters to telephone if they      DONT ask "How did I do?"
   have any questions about something
   that you said.

 7) DO volunteer to  be  available  if a      DONT ask a reporter  to  show you  a
   reporter wants to go over something      copy of the story in advance of publica-
   with you.                               tion or broadcast so you can correct it.

 8) DO call reporters  if stones appear      DONT call the  reporter's boss to com-
   that  are  inaccurate,  and  politely      plain without first speaking  with  the
   point out what is wrong.                 reporter.

                      Five Most Frequent Interview Failures

 1) Failure to take charge.  The spokesperson must be a leader.  His/her role is not just
   there to answer questions, but to disseminate information.

2) Failure to anticipate questions.   Don't just concentrate on assembling the  factual
   details. Prepare for obvious questions.  Remember, the public wants to know "Is it

3) Failure to develop key message.  This is you opportunity to communicate with the
   public.  Make sure you can take advantage of it by having your organization's
   message prepared  and ready for use.

4) Failure to stick to the facts.  Speculating or answering hypothetical questions can get
   you into trouble.   Avoid "what if questions  by confining your answers  to what  is

5) Failure to keep calm. By not letting questions get under your skin,  you will  show a
   willingness  to cooperate with courteous journalists and convey an impression of
   candor.  Keep cool.

 Kak .'.:^vsa. Vol 6. No I. 1986
 EDB:  A  Case  Study  in Communicating Risk
 'Harold Issadore Sharlin
                          Rtctuxd Febnary 10, 1985. rtoatd May 9. 1985
                         This is a report on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) efforts to communicate
                         with the public about the risks of ethylene dibromide (EOB), what the agency said it was
                         doing about these risks and what information the public actually received through television
                         and newspapers. Although special in many ways, the EOB case illustrates the problems that
                         regulatory agencies have when they must take regulatory action and assure the public that the
                         risks in question are being dealt with adequately. It also illustrates issues that the press faces
                         Above all, it illustrates the barriers to communication presented by the different perspectives
                         of regulatory agencies and individuals  and the types of information they  each are most
                         interested in.
                         KEY WORDS: Regulating carcinogens, macrorisk and nucronsk assessment, media content analysis

     In  the short space of 6 months, during 1983-
1984, the American public was faced with fastbreak-
ing stones about the threat to public health from a
widely used, effective pesticide—ethylene dibromide
(EDB).  News stones reported that EDB was a potent
carcinogen and that residue of EDB was being found
in packaged foods  on  supermarket  shelves. A  tidal
wave of public anxiety swept the country. The public
wanted  specific, easily understood information about
the nsk and assurance that timely action was being
taken to eliminate the threat.
     This  paper is  a summary of a report on the
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) efforts to
communicate with the public about the risks of EDB,
what the agency said it was doing about these risks,
and  what information the public actually  received
through the press and television.01  The EDB case
illustrates the problems regulatory agencies encounter
when they must  take regulatory actions and assure
the public that the  risks in question are being dealt
'2X32 Northampton Street NW. Washington. DC 20015-1110
 with adequately.  It also illustrates the barriers to
 communioation presented by the  different perspec-
 tives of regulatory agencies and individuals and the
 types of information they each are often most inter-
 ested in sending and receiving.
     The specific question for this study was:  "What
 was EPA trying to tell the public about the nsk issues
 in the EDB case, and what information did the public
 actually receive about these risks?" The study covers
 the  period from September  1983 to April 1984, dur-
 ing  that time public  anxiety reached ,a peak  and
 rapidly dissipated.
     Two terms,  macrorisk  and nucronsk,  will be
 used throughout  this  article. One term,  macronsk,
 represents EPA's technical  assessment of the threat
 that EDB posed to the  public health. Micronsk, on
 the  other hand, is the individual  citizen's means of
 answering  the  unexpressed question.  "What does
 that mean to me, personally?"


      On September 30. 1983. the EPA  announced
 that it had ordered an immediate emergency  suspen-
 sion of EDB as a soil fumigant for agricultural crops

 and a cancellation proceeding against all other pesti-
 cide uses of EDB. The reason for taking (his action,
 the Agency  explained,  was that EDB  had  con-
 taminated groundwater  in  several states  and had
 been shown to be a carcinogen and mutagen in test
 animals. The EPA  news release went on to explain
 that a suspension was the most restrictive measure
 that the Agency could  lake against the use of the
 pesticide  under the law  and that the action would
 immediately halt the sale and distribution of EDB as
 a soil  fumigant, which represented 90% of  the pesti-
 cide use of EDB.
     The  second part of the announced regulatory
 action, the cancellation proceeding, was intended to
 end all other major uses of EDB as a  fumigant for
 stored grain, for spot fumigation, and for use in flour
 nulling machinery.  Because of  EPA's concern that
 EDB contaminated the food supply, the Agency was
 going to collect data to obtain a  better understanding
 of the risk to the public. The EPA action was also
 intended to phase out the uses of EDB as a fumigant
 for citrus and tropical  fruits. This phase out  was to be
 completed by September 1984.
2.1. The EPA Message

    EPA said thai the primary objective of the Sep-
tember 30, 1983 news release was to explain to the
public  that EPA  was taking forthright action  to
manage the nsk from EDB. The Agency did not have
sufficient  information to  take  emergency  action
against EDB  as  a grain  fumigant, but  there was
serious concern in September by the Agency and  by
the public about contamination of groundwater and,
therefore, the  immediate and swift action was justi-
fied. The public was also informed through this news
release that the first steps to eliminate the dietary risk
from fumigating grains were taken.
    The  sense  that  the  Agency  tried to convey
through action and through public information was
that there was cause for concern about EDB but not
for alarm; the Agency was moving quickly and  in an
orderly fashion to bring the situation under control.
The macronsks were serious, but EPA tried to convey
a sense that  the  risk  was chronic or long-range in
nature and that there was no cause for alarm. No
change in eating habits was called for. The Agency's
actions,  as explained in  the press  release,  were
managing the macrorisk  problem, but what of the
micronsk problem'' As one EPA professional said.
"the information conveyed by the Agency did not
answer the public's question: What does EDB ex-
posure mean to me, the average American?"
    For the moment, EPA turned its attention to the
immediate national problem of EDB's invasion into
the groundwater. But  for  the reporters  from the
press, the suggestion that  EDB  was in the  food
supply, affecting the very bread people were eating,
gave the reporters the local angle that they needed for
their newspapers. As one EPA public  information
specialist described it, there was an absolute frenzy.
after the September 30 announcement, of reporters
trying to obtain copies of press releases. They lined
the halls of EPA scrambling for copies of the techni-
cal Position Document #4 of which  400  to 500
copies were distributed to reporters.  What message
would these reporters transmit to the public?

2.2. Transmitting the Message

2.2.1.  Television

    The  major impact that the  television medium
had on the public  micronsk perception  was in the
creation of dramatic images.  During the course of
regular 7:00 news  programs and in news special
several images  were conveyed  repeatedly about the
risk from EDB. One sequence seen on all the major
networks showed two workers who had come into
direct contact with liquid EDB and were being washed
down with a  hose in  a  futile attempt to detoxify
them. The next scene showed  an  ambulance in the
distance rushing, the workers to the hospital where.
the viewing audience was told, they died soon after.
    Another repeated sequence shown was a close-up
of a grain elevator worker who had been exposed  to
EDB over a 30-year period and had succumbed to a
terrible, debilitating nervous disorder.  Both  of the
images, the siren-sounding  ambulance and the gnm
picture of a man who could not  control his erratic
movements, conveyed  a  microrisk aspect of  EDB
Individuals were harmed. The obvious message being
conveyed was'that EDB was toxic and, therefore, an
immediate danger to individuals,  whereas, the mes-
sage that  EPA conveyed was  the EDB was in the
food supply and was  a  chronic or long-range nsk
problem. The  news stories on television missed the
point and mistranslated the macronsk assessment
    The television images often lacked subtlety. One
network  displayed a  background of a  skull and

EDB: A Case Study
cross-bones every time a reporter discussed the latest
news about EDB.

2.2.2. Newspapers

     The Twentieth Century Fund Report, Science in
the Streets, states  that news  is not education but
'information, "... it provides acquaintance with, not
knowledge about dramatic events." The Report con-
tinues by saying that economic, social, and political
influences converge on journalists to shape the defini-
tion of what  is news.<2)  How was the information
that was released by EPA interpreted by the press?
  > National Press. If the hypothesis of this
study holds true, that there is a macrorisk as well as a
microrisk perspective; how would  that effect news-
paper  treatment of  the  EDB risk issue? Did the
national press, such as.  The New  York  Times.  The
Wall Street Journal, and The  Washington Post treat
questions about EDB differently from the local press?
If so, what was the difference?
     In September and October 1983, The New York
Times  coverage was  of  aggregates.  The paper  re-
ported,  among other things, that  approximately
100,000 residents in Florida were affected by EDB
groundwater contamination and that S3 companies
manufactured EDB.  In one article,  The Times  re-
ferred to the 'Emergency suspension" of EDB as a. soil
fumigant and noted that this was only the second time
EPA had  taken the emergency suspension action.
  •£  The Times  was consistently more accurate and
detailed  than local  newspapers on  technical ques-
tions, which was to be expected, since major news-
papers, like The Times, have specialized staffs of
science  writers, as well  as better access  to expert
information than do small local papers.'2'
    The national perspective can be seen in  viewing
EPA and  Occupational Safety  and Health  Adminis-
tration (OSHA) as  part of the national government
so that their  actions were seen as related to each
other and as pan of national policy.  The Times
frequently linked OSHA and EPA in the same article.
Although  OSHA's actions and EPA's  actions do
overlap, they do, indeed,  affect different publics, and
in the local press the two agencies are usually dealt
with separately.
   . So  the perspective of The Times as a national
newspaper was very much the  same as that of EPA.
Thai  perspective as  expressed in the newspaper's
articles  is at  the macrorisk   level.  When  100.000
Florida residents are affected, that is news for The
Times, but the threat to the individual in terms of
microrisk is rarely news to a national newspaper.
     The Wall  Street Journal also  had a national
perspective and combined coverage of EPA's actions
with those of OSHA. The technical competence, par-
ticularly in this regulatory  area, of  The Wall Street
Journal was somewhat lower than that of The New
York Times, as  evident from The Times  specific
treatment of laboratory tests and The Journals more
general reference  to "recent scientific evidence."
     The Washington Post, although it can be consid-
ered  a national  newspaper, has a  more narrowly
parochial approach  than The  Times or The Wall
Street Journal. One Washington Post  story in Septem-
ber  1983  dealt  knowledgably  with the  technical
aspects of EDB  risk from the  macrorisk point of
view. At the end of the article, the microrisk issue was
raised when  someone at the National Institute  for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was asked
by the reporter what the safe level  of EDB  in food
and  water  was. The answer by the  NIOSH scientist
was, "I'm a consumer, too.  I eat all those things. And
I don't know how to answer that question."
     Time  Magazine, in an October  1983   feature
article about  EDB, flippantly referred to  EDB as
" the chemical of  the month," saying that EDB along
with  other "once obscure substances, such as dioxin
and  PCB," .was suddenly catapulted into the public
spotlight. The article dealt more with the politics of
regulatory action in Washington and deprecated the
macrorisk aspect  and seemed to belittle the micronsk
view. Local Press. For most newspapers in the
United States, outside of the national press, reporters
must  translate  EPA information   into something
newsworthy and  find some handle that is  local in
interest. News articles in The Miami  Herald; Honolulu
Star-Bulletin,  The  Honolulu Advertiser, The Dallas
Morning News,  The Arkansas  Gazette,  and  The
Arizona Republic reflect a limited state-wide  perspec-
     The Honolulu  Star-Bulletin  and The  Honolulu
Advertiser earned a  number of articles, during the
early  EDB regulatory action, emphasizing  concern
that  the' regulatory  action  might  adversely affect
Hawaii's fruit growers. They gave some  space in
mid-September 1983  to  the so-called  7-year  EPA
delay in dealing with EDB. But, as time went on, the
newspapers minimized the EDB risk and, in the first
part  of  October, the report was that the amount of
 EDB in Hawaiian  wells  was only 0.09 parts per

billion (ppb) compared to Florida where the EDB
level in some wells was 800 ppb.
    Just prior to the September 30 EPA announce-
ment.  The Star-Bulletin and The Advertiser reflected
the growing anxiety in Hawaii about  the possible
effect  of an EDB suspension. Banning  EDB,  the
newspapers  reported, was  "a life-death matter" for
tropical fruit growers.
    The EDB threat to the public health in Hawaii
was minimized in the local press, and any severe
restrictions on the usage of the pesticide was consid-
ered unnecessary as well as disastrous to the economy
of  Hawaii.  The  Star  Bulletin and  The  Advertiser
reported views as expressed by tropical fruit growers
and the governor against a background of centralized
decision  making  in Washington.  The  Hawaiian
papers' reporting  typified the local view taken by
most newspapers in the country.
    There was a sharp contrast between local news-
papers and  national television news on EDB  in
groundwater. National televised news about Hawaii
showed viewers the beautiful  lush Hawaiian  forests
and sparkling brooks with  an announcer's voice-over
saying, ominously, that  EDB was poisoning this
paradise. The local view expressed  in the newspapers
was quite different. The argument was that, indeed,
Hawaii is different from the rest of the United States
and, if there was going to be a ban on EDB, it ought
not apply to Hawau.
    The  (Little   Rock)  Arkansas  Gazette  and
(Phoenix) Arizona Republic took up the EDB story
from the point of view of the consumers. The Gazette
came  out with us story on September 1,  before the
EPA soil fumigant announcement,  because the paper
was interested in the detection of EDB,  "a  potent
cancer causing agent" in subsurface water samples.
The Arizona Republic quoted  the  1977  National
Cancer Institute report on the "Unprecedented high
risk of cancer" from  EDB.
    Both The Arizona Republic and Arkansas Gazelle
used local sources of information to obtain the local
perspective  and  to  be  independent  of centralized
Washington-based information. The Republic,  for
example, used the University of Arizona Council on
Environmental  Studies,   the  state  Agricultural
Economist, and the  Arizona Department of  Health
Services Ambient Quality  Bureau.  The Gazelle  used
the Arkansas Pollution Control Ecology Department.
state Health  Department, and an enterprising reporter
contacted the president of the  Great Lakes Chemical
Company, one of the manufacturers of EDB.
    The Dallas Morning News and The Miami Herald
wrote the stories from the dual perspective of con-
sumers  and citrus farmers. The Morning News  re-
ported  that public pressure was  mounting  to  do
something about EDB in its October 1, 1983 story,
but tempered  their report by describing EDB as a
"suspected carcinogen" that was used on Texas citrus
fruit.  The  paper's sources of information included
both an environmentalist group and the Texas Citrus
Mutual  Organization.
    The Miami Herald began  its coverage of EDB
with two stories  on October  I and 3,  1983.  The
consumer perspective consisted of a complaint about
the slow manner in which the EDB issue was being
handled. That view was tempered  also. Although
EDB causes cancer in animals, there were no known
human cancer cases that would demonstrate a health
hazard in Florida. Farmers were not worried  They
neither  believed that a chemical that had  been used
for two decades  was  harmful nor  that  there was
serious  danger from EDB "if  it is used carefully."
The Herald used as its sources the Florida Depart-
ment of  Agriculture, industry  sources,  such  as
Monsanto  Chemical Company, and interviews with
    In  November  the problem  was seen as  con
lamination of some  Florida wells where. The S.
Petersburg  Times  said, "dangerous  concentrations"
were found. The  Miami Herald reported that EDB
had spread to " private wells beneath populated sub-
divisions into  kitchen sinks and now to the carefully
landscaped, tree-lined country clubs" that many say
symbolize the Flonda good life. The contamination
of wells near golf courses was the result of heavy use
of EDB on golf courses.
     But the state's efforts to do something about the
contaminated wells was hampered by public defiance
and disbelief.  The Miami Herald reported that home
owners  near  the  golf courses neither  trusted the
government's  warning nor  believed that EDB levels
represented a serious danger. A special Florida task
force on EDB received no volunteered information to
aid them in their investigation. The public was not
only  not interested in EDB. in spite of newspaper
reports, but were resisting government efforts to deal
with  the problem  by refusing to  supply necessary
     The NBC television program "First Camera"
tried to raise a clamor about EDB.  In one program a
reporter asked a Rorida  housewife what she  thought
about the government not warning her about  EDB in

EDB: A Case Study
the drinking water. The housewife looked more puz-
zled than angry and replied, "it upsets me."


    The situation changed drastically in December.
The Florida State Agriculture Commission, probably
prodded by criticism  from the legislature, began to
test grain  products on  food store  shelves on the
supposition that, since EDB was used as a grain
fumigant, there might be some residues in these prod-
ucts. The Commission found EDB in corn meal, grits,
and hush puppies. The Tallahassee Democrat asked
the question that was probably on everyone's mind:
"Should people be alarmed?". Florida Health and
Rehabilitation  officials,  the  Democrat  reported,
thought there was potential risk but did not want to
frighten  the public.  The extent  of  the  threat was
unclear, but a Health and Rehabilitation Service offi-
cial said, "We could be sitting on a time bomb." He
was right.
    No longer was EDB  contamination limited to a
few isolated wells in  Florida.  It pervaded to food
stuffs on grocery shelves  The news story had been
elevated  to the position  of  being a serious public
concern. People were  now asking: "What does this
mean to me? Am I in danger?".  The St. Petersburg
Times quoted a state agricultural inspector who said
that people should not be alarmed if they had eaten
the tainted products  and they need  not go to a
doctor. On the other hand, he said, "I wouldn't make
a diet of it  now, don't misunderstand." The inspector
said that  he  would  return boxes  from the con-
taminated  batches to  the store and  that it was not
their intent to scare people to death, because the level
of EDB was not dangerous. But even so, "We don't
want it to be there."
    Public  confusion rose, and growing anxiety
agitated  the public  in  spite of  the  general reas-
surances of no danger.  The very direct microrisk
questions, "Am I in danger?" and "What am I  to
do?"  could not be answered  in  a  straightforward
manner. There was not enough data to give authorita-
tive answers, bui without any official direction the
results were bound to be public confusion and a
rising anxiety, which was heightened by the sight on
television of local stores removing boxes of grain
products thought to be contaminated with EDB.
    The information  from  Honda about EDB res-
idue in food products made from grains called for a
change in EPA's risk management strategy. But how
was the Agency to respond to such headlines as the
one in the Tallahassee Democrat: "How Dangerous is
EDB? No One Knows For Sure." In  the San Jose
(California)  Mercury, the  headline read: "EDB:  It
Causes Cancer, It's in our Food, But at What Peril?"
Grain food products were nationally distributed items
and  soon after  the  Florida discovery, officials  in
Texas, Arizona,  North Carolina,  South Carolina,
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, Wisconsin,
Illinois, Massachusetts, and Georgia were contacting
government  officials  in Florida. In response to this
new development, EPA look steps in January to shift
strategy and convey to the public added reassurances
that the Agency was adequately managing the risk.

3.1. Risk Management—Grains

    The discovery of  EDB residue in food grains
came as no  surprise to EPA, which had noted EDB
residues in grain, flour, and finished baked goods in
Position Document #4 (page 58) issued on Septem-
ber 27,  1983. In 19S6, before improved instrumenta-
tion,  only parts per million (ppm) of EDB could  be
detected and no  EDB residues were found in grain
products at  that level of instrumentation. On the
basis of  that information,  EDB was given an exemp-
tion  from residue regulation. In  the early  1980s,
residues were detected by  instruments that  could
measure in  parts per  billion (ppb).  The  questions
remaining were: How large were the residues in grains,
both  raw and cooked? What  was the safe level of
    The sense of those involved in making the EDB
decision at EPA in January 1984 was that  "the data
available at  the lime  the decision must be made" was
inadequate  but the public concern was forcing the
issue. The dilemma  faces all regulatory agencies at
one time or another: "How can public officials make
policy decisions  on the  basis of complex,  poorly
understood, and controversial technical data?"
     The next question is directly pertinent to this
study: "And how can they (the public  officials) com-
municate such data  to  those  directly affected  by
policy decisions?".0'

3.2. The EPA Message

     On January  13.  1984, EPA announced through a
news release that William D. Ruckelshaus, Admmis-

 trator of EPA, was sending a letter to the governors
 of the SO states requesting data on food products that
 contained EDB residue. The letter said, in part, "We
 have to first assess the risk involved before we can
 act." Mr. Ruckelshaus was considering recommend-
 ing a national standard for permissible EDB residue,
 and he was considering whether further regulatory
 action was appropriate. There was an urgency to this
 request for data. Ruckelshaus was asking the gover-
 nors to reply within the week, that is, by January 20,
     In  addition to  the  information in the EPA
 January news release, the Agency tried to convey a
 message of candor. Mr. Ruckelshaus was quoted in
 The Dallas Morning News (January 8, 1984), "The
 truth is we don't know. We're operating in an area of
 enormous scientific  uncertainty. We  are operating
 with substances that the public is terribly afraid of. If
 they want absolute information, we can't give it to
 them." He added that EPA was "Trying to proceed
 as sensibly and rationally as possible. I don't want to
 unduly alarm the public nor do I want them not to
 know about it."

 3.3. Transmitting the Message

 3.3.1.  Television

    In late December 1983, the major networks were
 showing the same film clips of food store employees
 removing boxes of grain  products that were sup-
 posedly contaminated with EDB. Here was a visual
 and vivid portrayal. The carrying off of cake mixes
 and  other food gram products became a familiar
 scene on television news programs.
    The other side of the story presented on televi-
 sion during December and January was EPA's point
 of view.  But for  EPA to maintain  its aspect of
 candor, no guidance could be offered to those who
 were asking, "What ought  I to do?". Mr. Ruckelshaus
 appeared on television at the end of December 1983
 saying.  "If we thought  it (EDB) was a hazard,  we
 would  remove it." That same message was delivered
 on television at  the beginning of January, and then,
 near the middle of January, Mr. Ruckelshaus. in an
 interview, assured the  public that EPA was gathering
data and would set tolerance levels for EDB residues
according to "our best estimate/ The Administrator
had to admit  that the Agency's decision was being
 made  more  difficult  because  of  scientific debate
caused by scientific uncertainty. "We have." he said,
"a lot of speculation and few facts."

3.3.2. Newspapers National Press.  The New  York  Times.
during December 1983 and January 1984, maintained
its national perspective in reporting about EDB. First
of all, the paper's focus was on EPA in Washington
and much  of the information  reported in the news
articles was either a direct quote by a spokesman for
EPA or by EPA technical staff. One long article, on
January 31,1984, gave a good overview of the whole
EDB  situation  up to that point. Industry, environ-
mentalists,  lobbyists, and  EPA staff were  quoted
liberally. An editorial, under the headline, "EDB: A
Needless Cancer Scare," on January 21, 1984, ac-
cused the government of 10 years of foot dragging.
The Times  noted that Mr. Ruckelshaus faced a tough
decision in setting tolerance levels for EDB residues.
The editorial asked, "How did the  Government get
into so tight a spot? The law regulating pesticides is
impossibly  cumbersome."
    The Wall Street Journal expresses stronger opin-
ions  on  most  subjects  than  The  Times, and The
Journal concentrates more on issues that affect busi-
ness.  So one would expect to  find  an article on  if
pages, such as the one  that appeared February
1984; under the headline. "Consumer Fears on Ethyi
ene Dibromide Hurt Sales of Cereal, Bread and Other
Foods."  The Journal did a survey of supermarket
chains  around   the  country  and  reported that
customers were concerned about EDB and that sales
were affected, although not drastically.
    An article  in The Journal on January 13. 1984,
"Prefer Worms to EDB in Your CereaP", produced a
flurry of letters  from annoyed Journal readers The
author of the article was a former Dow Chemical
employee. The author began by asking, when  was the
last time the reader opened a package of cereal and
found it wormy? He then described the effectiveness
of EDB as a pesticide and its benefits  Pertaining to
nsk, the author questioned the validity of translating
the results oHaboratory tests on mice to an effect on
human beings, and raised again a long-standing sci-
entific dispute. (The bulk of scientific opinion seemed
to favor bioassays. A recent report by a group of
scientists concluded, "Although data from studies of
rats and mice may not always be predictive of ad-
verse  health effects in humans, the scientific validity
of this approach is widely accepted.")"1 The Journal

EDB: A Case Study
article concluded, "Certainly it is inappropriate to
allow highly problematic and miniscule risks to com-
pletely overshadow proven benefits."
     The Journal article was an explicit  micronsk
assessment. The author dealt directly with the ben-
efits to individuals and  placed the issue of risk in
individual  terms instead  of statistical terms.  Macro-
risk assessment that produces statistical results, such
as  3 cancer  deaths  in 1,000,  is less useful to an
individual  who wants to make a personal decision
about risk. The public has little patience  for a risk
evaluation  that concludes with EDB being 1,000 times
less risky than aflatoxin, or than smoking  a pack of
cigarettes.  Yet once a risk assessment arrives at a
statistical number (i.e., so many deaths per thousand
of those exposed) the inclination to launch into com-
parisons seems irresistible.
     The Washington Post published the starkest part
of the EPA nsk assessment. EPA scientists, The Post
reported,  said thai  EDB  was "the most  potent
carcinogen tested by that agency and that it rapidly
induces tumors on laboratory animals even at minute
dosages." In  addition, EDB was linked  to birth de-
fects. The Post said, and male sterility. The statistic, 3
cancer deaths in every 1,000 exposed to  EDB over a
lifetime, appeared a number of times  in Post articles.
The paper  reported that  this figure meant  that there
would  be three-quarters  of a million cancer deaths
from EDB by the middle of the next century and
added  that this estimate was a risk assessment, "as
they are called,"  and  they were subject  to scientific
dispute.  The  Post  did discuss  some of  the more
technical aspects of nsk assessment and of the scien-
tific uncertainly connected with the technique. Nev-
ertheless, the gnm figures about cancer  deaths were
given prominence. Local Press.  In Florida, one of the states
with legislative authonty for setting residue standards
on  food stuffs, the residue level for EDB was estab-
lished as one part per billion (ppb) and  for drinking
water 0.1  ppb. The  (Jacksonville)  Florida  Times-
Union  quoted the chairman of the  Department of
Entomology  and Nemotology at the University of
Florida as saying that 1 ppb was " ultraconservative."
On the other hand,  the  paper  noted that the  state
health officer thought that, "It is a bad chemical, one
of_Jhe worst." No absolute statement could be made
about  the  risk from  EDB  or, as  The Tallahassee
Democrat  wrote:  "Risk assessment was  a com-
plicated matter." Scientists examining similar situa-
tions can reach " wildly varying conclusions."
    The Tallahassee Democrat also  quoted a bio-
statistician at  EPA who said that the government's
risk assessments were not realistic. "There's too much
unknown. The scientific knowledge is not there to do
it." Another official at EPA was quoted in the Dem-
ocrat  as saying that EDB had  to be eradicated be-
cause the slightest exposure caused cancer. This offi-
cial said, "Any level of exposure entailed some risk."
    The more sources questioned, (the Democrat had
a wide variety of them), the more difficult it was to
state  the micronsk perception. The  Democrat con-
sulted with a  government epidemiologist  and ento-
mologist at the University of Florida, four officials at
EPA, representatives of the grain milling industry, a
representative of Dow Chemical Company (an EDB
manufacturer), and a 1978  test report in the Univer-
sity of  Florida library. No authority was willing to
give definitive answers, and  a  conflicting statement
could be found for any assertion. Public confusion
and consternation was on the increase all  during the
month of January 1984.

     In February 1984, EPA issued an emergency
suspension  against use of EDB in grain milling or
storage and, at the same time, established tolerance
levels for residue EDB in foodstuffs. This last action
answered the question: Can I eat the cake mix? The
answer was yes, if the residue falls within the recom-
mended levels. EPA started the process for removing
EDB from  the food chain altogether by a combina-
tion of actions. Public anxiety over  EDB subsided.
and EDB disappeared from the newspapers and was
heard no more on television.
     What should EPA have done?  As far as this
analysis goes, EPA did all that was possible with the
public  information  tools that were available.  EPA,
like so many other regulatory agencies, has a  dual
role. The first role is to make decisions about allow-
ing or  prohibiting and in setting standards. In that
regulatory process, the public's views and comments
must be taken into account. The other agency role is
public  information. Since the success  of  regulation
depends on public participation, in that process, part
of the agency's responsibility is seeing that public
participation is informed.
     The regulatory role is that of macrorisk assess-
 ment and management. The public information role
 is  that of micronsk assessment. The distinction be-

tween these two is extremely important and until an
agency  learns to manage both roles well it  will be
confronting crisis after crisis.


1 Harold Issadore Sharlin, EDB: A Out Study m the Communica-
  tion of Health Risk (unpublished report submitted  to Deny
  Allen. Associate Director. Office of Policy Analysis. U.S Er
  vironmental Protection Agency. January 9.1985).
2 Twentieth Century Fund. "Report of the Twentieth Century
  Fund Task Force on Communication Of Scientific Risk." Sci-
  ence in the Streets (Priority Press. New York, 1984).
3. Committee on the Institutional Means for Assessment of Risks
  to Public Health.  Commission on Health Sciences. National
  Research Council,  Rak Assessment in the Federal Government:
  Managing the Process (National Academy Press, Washington.
  D.C.. 1983).

Ruk Analysis, VoL 10, No. 3, 1990
What Do We  Know About Making Risk Comparisons?
Erailie Roth,1 M. Granger Morgan,2*3 Baruch Fischhoff,2 Lester Lave,2 and
Ann Bostrom2
                          Received April 5, 1990
                          The risks of unfamiliar technologies are often evaluated by comparing them with the risks of more
                          familiar ones. Such nsk comparisons have been criticized for neglecting critical dimensions of
                          nsky decisions. In a guide written for the Chemical Manufacturers Association, Covello « a/.1"
                          have summarized these critiques and developed a taxonomy that characterizes possible nsk com-
                          parisons in terms of their acceptability (or objectionableness). We asked four diverse groups of
                          subjects to judge the  acceptability of 14 statements produced by Covello et al. as examples of
                          their categories. We found no correlation between the judgments of acceptability produced by our
                          subjects and those predicted by Covello et al..
                           KEY WORDS: Risk comparison; risk communication; risk perception.
     A tempting way to describe the risks of hazardous
technologies is by comparison with other, better known "*
risks,'2'3) such as: the cancer risk of living at the bound-
ary of a nuclear power plant for 5 years equals the cancer
risk  of eating 40  tablespoons of peanut butter (due to
aflatoxifl).(3> Despite their appeal,1*' such comparisons
have come in for considerable criticism.(5~7) There are
two  major thrusts  to this criticism. One is that  these
comparisons reduce risks to a single dimension (e.g.,
loss  of life expectancy), whereas many risks are multi-
dimensional. As a result, risks are not fully represented.
The  second thrust is that risk comparisons are used not
just  to communicate how large risks are, but also to
persuade listeners regarding  how large risks should be
(e.g., if you are willing to eat 40 tablespoons of peanut
butter over the next 5 years,  then you should be willing
to live near a nuclear power plant). Such implicit rhe-

'Westinghouse Science and Technology Center, Pittsburgh. Pennsyl-
vania 15235.
"Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon Uni-
versity, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.
To whom correspondence should be addressed.
torical  arguments ignore  critical elements of people's
risky decisions, such as how voluntary the choices are
and what benefits they are expected to provide. Because
people perceive risks in multiattribute terms, the fact that
a risk has a low value on a single focal dimension (e.g.,
estimated fatalities in  an average year) does  not imply
its acceptability.(8) As a result of these logical and ethical
flaws,  it  should not be surprising that risk comparisons
have provoked anger  and mistrust (responses that can
only be aggravated by skepticism about how far the risks
estimates themselves can be trusted).
    In order to help chemical industry spokespeople avoid
these pitfalls, Covello et ol<» developed a manual ad-
vising plant managers on  how to present risk compari-
sons so that the public will perceive  them  as useful and
legitimate. Their manual has been published and distrib-
uted widely by the Chemical Manufacturers Association.
    The manual represents a significant contribution to
the nsk communication literature. It provides, for the
first time, an  analysis of the  different ways that risk
comparison statements have traditionally  been  em-
ployed, and offers a  framework  for evaluating them.
Covello et aL enumerate 14  commonly used types of
risk comparisons, which  they then group  into five cat-
egories, ranked according to their predicted acceptability
                                                                     vn-mvnnmwnmnn e ino Joooy ft* Run Amyw

                                                                                                        Roth a t
 to  lay  people (see Table I). The manual recommen'ds
 that spokespeople select the highest ranking risk com-
 parisons whenever possible, and use  low ranking  risk
 comparisons with caution, alert  to the possibility  that
 communications using them could backfire.
     Because the research base is thin, Covello ei aL 's
 ranking is  based on  their accumulated experience  and
 intuitions. Because of its potential significance for guid-
 ing risk communication, their proposal warrants empir-
 ical evaluation. The present study focused on how well
 Covello et aL's  ranking predicted lay people's judg-
 ments of the acceptability of risk comparisons. Its results
 provide us with  a point  of departure for a throretical
 analysis of Covello et al. 's proposal.

     The Covello et  al. manual  provides concrete ex-
amples of their 14 categories of risk comparisons, set in
the context of a specific scenario: A manager of a chem-
ical plant in a small town is faced with the task of com-
municating to the community about the risk of a chemical
produced by the plant (see Appendix). We asked several
groups of laypeople to evaluate the acceptability of these
     Such an evaluation requires an operational defini-
tion of "acceptability." The definition intended by Cov-
ello et al. is suggested by the  following quotation.
   The highest-ranking companions art assumed 10 be those that
   put the least strain  on the trust relationship between i plant
   manager and the public. These comparisons tend to strike even
   skeptical listeners as relevant, appropriate, and helpful infor-
   mation. The lowest-ranking comparisons, on the other hand,
   are those that have no intuitively obvious claim to relevance,
   appropriateness, or helpfulness. Such comparisons are more
   likely to be seen  as manipulative or misleading—that is, as
   efforts to preempt judgments about the acceptability of the risk.
Thus, there are several distinct elements that contribute
to acceptability.  As a result, we devised seven rating
scales that seemed to tap different elements of Covello
et al. 's definition of "acceptable." These scales appear
in Table  II.  Scale 1 asks about how clear  and  easy to
understand the statement is. Scales 2 and 3 consider the
perceived relevance and helpfulness of the risk compar-
ison. Scale 4  ask whether the risk  comparison seems
misleading, in the sense of underemphasizing or over-
emphasizing the risk. Scales S and 6 ask how the risk
comparison will affect public trust in the plant manager.
Scale *} provides an overall measure of acceptability, by
asking whether the statement should be included in the
plant manager's talk. Our subjects' response should  re-
veal how these alternative criteria are correlated with one
another as well as with Covello et aL's predictions.
2.1 Method

2.1.1. Participants

     Four groups participated in the study: (A) second-
year graduate business students  (N= 13); (B) members
(or their spouses) of a suburban garden club from a mid-
                           Table 1. Covello a al. Risk Comparison Categorization and Ranking System
First-rank risk companions
   1.  Comparisons of the same risk at two different lanes
   2.  Comparisons with a standard
   3.  Comparisons with different estimates of the tame risk
Second-rank risk comparisons (second choice—less desirable)
   4.  Comparisons of the risk of doing and DM doing something
   5.  Comparisons of alternative solutions to the same problem
   6.  Comparisons with the same risk as experienced in other places
Third-rank nsk comparisons (third choice—even less desirable)
   7.  Comparisons of average nsk with peak risk at a particular lime or location
   8.  Comparisons of the risk from one source of a particular adverse effect with (he risk Cram all sources of that same advene effect
Fourth-rank risk comparisons (fourth choice—marginally acceptable)
   9.  Comparisons of nsk with coat, or of cottMik ratio wiih cost/nsk ratio
  10.  Comparisons of risk with benefit
  11.  Comparisons of occupational with environmental risks
  12.  Comparisons with other risks from the same source, such as the same facility or the same risk agent
  13.  Comparisons with other specific causes of the same disease, illness, or injury
Fifth-rank comparisons (last choice—rarer/ acceptable—use with extreme caution!)
  14.  Comparisons of unrelated risks.                                        	

 Making Risk Comparisons
                                      Tablt II. Scales Used to Rate Covello a al. Sutements.

This statement is dear, easy
to understand.
This statement will help





This statement is unclear,
difficult to understand.
This statement will nor help
                   townspeople to better un-
                   derstand the risk.
                   This stitement gives infor-
                   mation needed by towns-
                   people in their personal
                   decisions about the nsk.
                   This statement's lone  un-
                   deremphasizes the nsk.
                   This statement is likely to
                   reassure the townspeople.
                   This statement is likely to
                   increase the townspeople's
                   trust in the plant manager.
                   This statement should def-
                   initely be included in  the
                   plant manager's talk.
    This statement's tone cor-
    rectly conveys the risk.

D     D     D    D    D





                                            townspeople  to better un-
                                            derstand the nsk.
                                            This statement gives no in-
                                            formation   needed   by
                                            townspeople  in  their  per-
                                            sonal  decisions  about  the
This statement's tone ov-
eremphasizes the risk.
This statement is likely 10
scare the townspeople
This statement is likely to
decrease the townspeople's
trust in the plant manager.
This statement should def-
initely  be  left out  of the
plant manager's talk.
 dle-to-uppcr income community (#=33); (C) members
 of a synagogue (#=28); and (D) members of a Prot-
 estant church (#=21) from middle and lower income
 communities in Pittsburgh. The 95 total participants in-
 cluded a  wide range  of  ages,  socioeconomic  back-
 grounds, religions, and both sexes. Participants were either
-paid 510 or had a  S10  donation made to their organi-
 2.7.2. Materials

      In order to  introduce the evaluation task, we con-
 verted the scenario described in the manual into a cover
 story which read as follows:

    Suppose that the manager of a chemical plant .that manufactures
    ethylene oxide in the small nudwestera town of Evanston has
    been asked to give a talk to a local community meeting about
    risks posed by his plant. The local newspaper plans to reprint
    the speech in its entirety and make it widely available. People
    in the town are concerned about the possible risks posed by the
    plant, but there is no crisis situation or serious confrontauonal

      The plant manager has been a friend of yours for many yean.
    He is concerned about making this speech and, as an ok) friend,
    has asked you  for your candid advice about some things he is
    considering saying.

      Before starting, here is some background information: Eth-
            ylene oxide is used in almost all hospitals and other medical
            facilities aa a disinfecting agent. However, it can cause cancer.
            A nsk assessment has shown that the cancer risk that (he Ev-
            asion pnm poses for citizens living in the town is about two
            additional cancers per year for every million people exposed
            (there  are in  fact only 3500 people in Evanston)  The  plant
            manager is looking for appropriate and acceptable ways to com-
            municate this risk to  the public  and to compare it with other

              He wants to give a clear honest picture of the risks. He feels
            that this is both his ethical responsibility and that if he were to
            misrepresent the situation, eventually that would be discovered
            and hurt his credibility. He is concerned, however, thai even
            an accurate statement can come out sounding wrong or have
            the wrong impact. He also wants to keep the talk fairly short
            and simple, while still doing the topic justice.

              The following are 14 dfflotra pieces of text that the plant
            manager is considering using in his talk. Some of them overlap
            a bit in content. Assume that he will edit them  so lhai they fit
            together well without much overlap. For each statement, please
            give your advice on the following questions.

              This cover  story appeared on the front  page of a
         booklet  that contained the 14 statements.  There was one
         statement per page. Each statement appeared on  the left
         side of its page, while the seven rating scales appeared
         on the right.
              As indicated in Table n, each rating scale had five
         points with endpoints labeled. These were  coded 1-5

                                                                                                        Roth el a'
 from left to right. With the exception of scale 4 (tone of
 statement), a lower number indicates a more favoraBle
 value. In the case of scale 4, both endpoints of the scale
 represent unfavorable values (1 = underemphasizes the
 risk; 5 = overemphasizes the risk).
     The order of presenting the 14 statements was var-
 ied across participants. Fifteen of group B received the
 statements  in Covello et a/.'s original order, while the
 remaining 18 received the statements in the  reverse or-
 der. Two random orders of the 14 statements were also
 generated. Approximately half of the participants in each
 of the other three groups received the statements in each
 of these orders.
     Groups A, C, and D completed the questionnaires
 in a group setting at the site of their organization or class.
 Group B members received brochures by mail.
2.2. Results
2.2.7. Results Across Groups

     Table III shows mean responses for each statement
on each scale for all 95 participants! With the exception
of scale 4, Covello et al.'s proposal predicts that each
successive group of statements will have higher means
than its predecessors.4 This was not found.  Spearman
rapk-order correlations were computed between the mean
ratings of each of the 14 statements and the rank order
of the class to which it belongs. Table IV presents these
correlations, both across all 95 participants and for each
of the 4 groups.3 None of the seven scales was signifi-
cantly correlated with  Covello et al's. order in the di-
rection  predicted. For all participants  combined,  the
correlation with scale 7 (whether to include the statement
in the plant manager's talk) is close to zero (r =  -0.13).
The only significant correlation (r = 0.51, p  < 0.05)
is that with scale 1  (clarity of statement). However, its
sign is opposite to that predicted by Covello et al. Each
of the four groups produced a similar pattern  of results,
described more fully below.
     Friedman two-way analyses of variance computed
on the rank sums across the 95 participants were signif-
icant for  all seven  scales (p  < 0.001).  This nonpara-
metric test indicates that there are reliable differences in
•On scale 4 i "3" wit the most favorable value. Because all mean
 responses for scale 4 were less than 3, higher ratings indicate more
 favorable responses.
'Analyses were also performed on the rank sums for each statement.
 The rank sum for each scale was computed by determining er
 participant's rank ordering of the 14 statements. The rank sums acr
 the 95 participant! were highly correlated, with the mean scores a|>
 pearifig  in the table (all correlations above 0.85). The results using
 (his measure were essentially the same as when mean scores were
                  Table III. Mean Responses for the 14 Sentences on Each Scale (Avenge Across all 95 Participants)




emphasizes risk
Should be
•For sales 1 through 3 and 5 through 7.1 is the most favorable response. For scale 4.1 - underemphasizes risk, 5 » overemphasizes risk
The statements are listed in decreasing favonbibry, according to Covello a aL'i predictions.

 Making Risk Comparisons
                           Table IV. Spearaun Rank-Order Correlation with the Covello a al. Ranking'
Aids understanding
Information needed
Over/underemphasizes risk
.increases trust
Should be included

All groups
AT- 95
Garden club.
N-* 33
MBA students
N - 13
AT- 28
N - 21
 .jTAIl correlations at or above .46 are significant at the .05 level. Correlations at or above .65 are significant at the .01 level.
 the ratings among the 14 statements (not just the differ-
 ences that were predicted).
      Table V presents Pearson correlations among the
 seven rating scales, computed on mean ratings over all
 95 participants. As can be seen, these means tended to
 be positively and significantly correlated,6 indicating that
 statements judged  positively in one respect were also
 judged positively in  others. These results  indicate that
*the weak correlations between scale ratings  and the Cov-
 ello et al. ranking cannot be be attributed to their being
 such poor measures that they cannot correlate with any-
thing. Although all scales correlated with subjects' judg-
• 'merits of whether a statement should be included (scale
~-7), the strongest predictors were how reassuring it seemed
 "and whether it seemed likely to increase trust.
'\,   The statements tended to be rated positively on all
 scales, with a rating of "1" given in almost 40% of all
 cases. One possible explanation is that the  verbal labels
 anchoring the scales  were too moderate (so that 1 con-
 notes good rather than excellent performance). The re-
 sulting "ceiling effect" would reduce differences between
 statements, even though there were still statically relia-
 ble  differences in acceptability (see  Section 2.2.4). A
        Table V. Correlation Maine for the Seven Scales
 1 Canty               1.00
 •*2 Aids understanding      0.28   1.00
•3 Information needed      0.22   0.88  1.00
 A Over/underemphasize risk 0.32 -0.52 -0.66   1.00
 5 Reassuring            0.56   0.66  0.55-0.091.00
 « mat          0.29   0.74  0.72-0.490.821.00
 7 Should be included      0.53   0.71  0.75-0.360.900.911.00

 'As mentioned, higher ratings indicate more favorable responses on
  Kale 4, so that the negative correlations (but we consistent with the
  positive correlations on the other variables.
                                    second possibility is that most statements were actually
                                    pretty good,  even though  some were intended to rep-
                                    resent seriously flawed risk comparisons (see  Section
                                    2.2.2. Breakdown'by Group

                                        The results are similar when the four groups are
                                    considered separately. For  three groups, there was no
                                    significant correlation between mean  scale ratings and
                                    the  Covello et al. ordering. For group B, there was a
                                    negative correlation (-0.60; P < O.OS)  between  Cov-
                                    ello et o/.'s ranking and subjects' clarity  ratings.
                                        Eveiycorrelation between mean scale ratings of the
                                    different groups was positive, indicating a consistent de-
                                    gree of agreement.  Correlations  ranged  between  0.23
                                    and 0.88 with a mean, using Fisher's  Z-transformation,
                                    of 0.63..
2.2.3.  Effects of Order of Presentation

     Mean ratings were computed separately for each of
the four orders of presentation. Three of the four groups
were highly similar to one  another and to the overall
averages. These were the two groups receiving random
orders and the group rating the 14 statements in the order
predicted to show decreasing acceptability. These means
were all unrelated to Covello et al.'s prediction order.
The ratings of the IS participants who received  state-
ments  in Covello et al.'i original order were signifi-
cantly  correlated (P < O.OS) in three cases. Two were
in the  predicted direction, scales 4 and 6 (-0.57 and
0.52, respectively); while one, scale 5 (-0.52) was in
the opposite direction. Overall, the weak and inconsis-
tent pattern with this small group does not shake  the
general conclusion that order of presentation did not af-
fect subjects' ratings.

                                                                                                     Roth err
 2.2.4. An Ordered Categorical Response Model
     An ordered categorical response model, specifically
 a three-level ordered probit model, was used to clarify
 the differences in ratings among the 14 statements.'9-10'7
 The model included the 14 statements, 7 scales, 4 orders
 of presentation, and 4 groups as predictor variables and
 the ratings as the dependent variable. Ratings were re-
 coded into three categories, where 0 was "best" (rating
 "3" on scale 4; "1" and "2" on other scales), 1 was
 intermediate ("2" and "4" on scale 4,  "3" on others),
 and 2 was "worst" ("1" and "5" on scale 4; "4" and
 "5" on  others).* The model was estimated in LJM-
 DEP,(11> using maximum  likelihood estimation. The base
 case (represented  by the intercept) was item 14, scale 7,
 order  1,  and group 4 (D).  This analysis characterizes
 predictors by beta coefficients that indicate changes in
 the underlying dependent variable, all else being equal.
 According to Covello et al. hypothesis, the beta coef-
 ficients for statements 1-13 should all  be negative  be-
 cause each is contrasted  with  statement 14, which was
 predicted  to be the worst. The coefficients should  be
 increasingly negative as the statements become more at-
 tractive and statement number  decreases. The  beta coef-
 ficients for the 14 statements and  their  95% confidence
 bands  are presented in Fig. 1. They  show reliable dif-
 ferences in ratings among the 14 statements that are not
 captured by the Covello et al. ranking system, even when
 effects  of scale,  order of presentation, and  group  are
 statistically controlled. The beta  coefficients typically
 had the wrong sign (positive). There was no  consistent
 trend over the five ranks.
     The  analysis yielded significant coefficients for scale
 and group, but  not for order of presentation. The  lack
 of an order effect with this more sophisticated analysis
 strengthens our inclination  to discount the weak differ-
 ences reported in Section 2.2.3. The overall fit of the
 model is moderately good. The Xs statistic from the log-
 likelihood ratio test is highly significant (727.5, 24 df,
p < 0.001) and the model correctly predicts 55% of the
'An ordered probii model assumes tint the observed ratings are discrete
 •ad have ordinal properties (i.e., no interval relation between rating
 points is assumed), but that the underlying (uoobservable) dependent
 variable (i.e., statement acceptability) b continuous and normally
 distributed, conditional on the predictive variables.
The original five-point ratings for all scales, except 4, were alto fit
 with an analogous model as was an alternative 3-point set of collapsed
 ratings (0 • 1; 1 • 2.3.4; 2 •  5 tat ill scales except 4. which was
 collapsed as above). Similar results were  obtained and are available
 upon request.
                                                                       — M-
                                                                       •a —
                                    OS      04
Fig. 1. Estimated beta coefficients for the statement dummies from
the ordered probit regression model, with 95% confidence intervals
marked (based on the  coefficient's estimated standard deviation).
Statement 14 is the base case (intercept).

     Our subjects' ratings reliably distinguished among
the statements, but not in the way predicted by Covello
et al. This section discusses why Covello et al's pred;
tions might have fared so poorly and offers some altt
native perspectives on risk comparison statements.

3.1. Risk: Comparisons Deviating From  Predictions

     One place to look for insight is at those statements
whose ratings deviated the most from the Covello et al.
predictions. As can be seen in Table III, three statements
at the top of Covello et aL *s list were near the bottom
of our subjects' ratings, while three of the four worst
statements according to Covello et al. were rated among
the best here.
3.1.1.  Comparison* of Risks Across Domains Fared
Better Than Expected

     According to Covello et al. and others/11 risk com-
parisons are particularly problematic when they involve
risks with very different features. As a result, the ex-
amples that Covello a al. identify as worst involve risks
from different domains. Their statement 13 (representing
comparisons that invoke other specific causes of the same
consequence) compares  the risk  of cancer from the
chemical ethylene oxide to the risk of cancer from x-
rays. Their least favored statement (14)  compares et
ylene oxide with other hazards whose consequences d.

 Making Risk Comparisons
 not include cancer (e.g.,lightning). Nonetheless, both
 statements were in the top half of the set for six of the
 seven scales. Indeed, they were the highest ranked state-
 ments on scale 2, how much a statement would "help
 townspeople to better understand  the risk."
     Covello et a/.'s critique of cross-risk comparisons
 applies most strongly to cases where they are advanced
 with a  rhetorical purpose—of the form "if you accept
 Risk A, then you ought to accept  (equivalent) Risk B."
 Such comparisons have, however, no logical force  un-
 less the two risks are equivalent on all their risk features
 (not to  mention their associated benefits and control op-
 tions).  A more  modest use  of risk comparisons is to
 convey a feeling for the magnitude of a risk,  with no
 claim of acceptability. Such magnitude comparisons might
 focus on either the probability of negative consequences
 (e.g., as likely as being struck by lightning  during an
 equivalent exposure  period) or on their intensity (e.g.,
 as painful as a root canal without anesthesia). Given their
 more limited ambitions, magnitude comparisons should
 be  easier to make appropriately than acceptability com-
     Conceivably, Covello a a/.'s own sensitivity to these
 issues kept them from creating truly bad risk compari-
 sons, particularly ones containing indefensible accepta-
 bility arguments. As a result, our subjects were able to
 focus on the magnitude comparisons in the statements.
 These were, in turn, executed relatively well. If that is
 the case, then, in effect, Corvello et al. foiled their own
 prediction when they created  the illustrative statements.
5.7.2. Comparison of Occupational with Environmental
Risks Fared Better Than Expected

     A second unexpected success was statement  11,
which was intended to exemplify comparisons between
occupational risks and environmental risks. Rather than
emerging near the bottom of the ratings,  statement 11
appeared in the top half of all seven scales.  It was ranked
best on scale 3 ("gives information needed  by the towns-
people in their personal decisions about the risk") and
was one  of the top 3 statements on scale 2 ("will help
townspeople to better understand the risk") Covello et
al. do not explain why they expected such comparisons
to be received particularly poorly. One possible reason
is that the assumption of occupational risks often implies
the  acceptance of risk-benefit tradeoffs that seem quite
inappropriate outside of working life.
    However, although Covello e af s statement 11 does
refer  to occupational and environmental risks, h does
not invite risk-benefit comparisons. Rather, its main thurst
is that the risk to employees is very small, implying that
the risk to the community will be even smaller. Again,
the example may have fared unexpectedly well because
it lacked the particular feature of its category that people
find objectionable.
3.7.5. Comparison with a Standard and Comparisons
with Different Estimates of the Same Risk Fared Worse
Than Expected

     Covello et al. stressed the importance of being hon-
est and forthright in  providing risk  information. Ele-
ments of such frankness include indicating uncertainties
or disagreements regarding the size of the risk, discuss-
ing worst-case estimates as well as best-guess estimates,
and noting how a risk compares to various proposed
standards of acceptability.
     Statements 2 and 3 were intended to exemplify this
principle. Statement 2 compares the focal risk to five
different emission standards, while statement 3 provides
six alternative estimates of the size of the risk, based on
different data, different assumptions, and different orig-
inating sources.  Both statements should have been at-
tractive.  However, each was ranked in the bottom half
of the set on six of the seven scales. They were among
the worst tfeee items on scale 1, measuring how "clear,
easy to understand" a  statement was. This last result
suggests that these statements may have been ranked so
poorly because of the quantitative and probabilistic in-
formation that they contained. The price paid for such
candor may have been confusing recipients. Statement
3 may have been particularly difficult because it included
small probabilities presented in decimal form (e.g., 0.007
cancers per 3500 persons). The  Covello et al.  manual
itself explicitly warns against this format.  Statement 8,
which was designed to  reflect a  more effective way of
communicating small probabilities, had  some of the worst
ratings on  the clarity scale. Apparently, we still have
much to learn about presenting such information.
     A second possible source of confusion in  these
statements  was the need to integrate  the multiple  per-
spectives that they presented. For example, what are
recipients to make of a risk that meets one of several
standards,  especially when  they know  little about the
organization that  set each standard or the purpose for
which it was set? Similarly, how are they to recocile
competing  scientific estimates of a particular risk with-
out understanding the underlying science (and scientists)
producing those estimates?  Offering multiple perspec-
tives may be a meaningless gesture unless recipients can

                                                                                                  Roth et r'
put them into context. Gearly, more research is needed
here as well.
3. 1.4. Comparisons of Risk of Doing and Not Doing
Something Fared Worse Than Expected

     Statement 4, which was intended to illustrate com-
paring the risks of doing and not doing  something, re-
ceived unexpectedly poor evaluations. It ranked in the
bottom half of the set on six of the seven scales, faring
particularly poorly  on scales 1 (clarity),  5 (reassuring),
and 6 (increases trust). It shared the bottom in the or-
dered probit analysis (Fig. 1). Here, too, presenting small
probabilities in decimal  form may have  been problem-
atic. In addition, statement 4 notes that the risk could
be  reduced (by a  small amount)  by purchasing new
equipment, but without indicating whether the plant in-
tends to  do so. Silence  on that issue may  have raised
suspicions and reduced ratings related to trust.
3.2. Explanations for Failure of Predictions

     Reviewing our results in  the light of these argu-
ments suggests three reasons why Covello et a/.'s pre-
dictions may have failed.
3.2.1. Flaws in Measurement
                                                         3.2.2. Flaws in the Examples

                                                              A second possible source of failure is that the  14
                                                         statements did not capture the essence of the categories
                                                         that they were meant to represent. Section 3.1. raises
                                                         some such possibilities (e.g., avoiding the risk  accept-
                                                         ability arguments that can make some categories offen-
                                                         sive, burdening relatively  sound comparisons with
                                                         unfamiliar decimal probabilities).  The fact that recog-_
                                                         nized experts of this Geld might encounter such problems
                                                         suggests the limits to our understanding of risk compar-
                                                         3.2.3. Flaws in the Underlying Theory

                                                              A third possibility is that the theory underlying the
                                                         ranking system is flawed. It is always difficult to falsify
                                                         a theory when there is uncertainty about how it should
                                                         be  implemented and  evaluated. Nonetheless, it should
                                                         be troubling to find failures with statements produced by
                                                         the theory's creators and evaluation scales adapted from
                                                         their stated objectives.
                                                              In Covello et a/.'s theory, there are  two obvious
                                                         places to work on: its classification scheme and the p
                                                         dieted rankings of its categories. Covello et a/.'s cl.
                                                         sifiOBtion  scheme sorts risk comparisons primarily
                                                         according  to what risks are being compared, and  only
                                                         secondarily according to the purpose of the comparison
                                                         or the specific information  that it contains. Elaborating
                                                         these features may be a way to improve our understand-
                                                         ing of risk comparisons.
     The first possibility is that Covello et a/.'s theory
is correct, but our rating scales failed to measure what
they intended by "acceptability." As mentioned, we used
a variety of rating scales in an attempt to  capture the
diverse elements of the complex notion of "acceptabil-
ity" advanced by Covello et al. It is, of course, possible
that none of our rating scales  was related  to  the lay
notion of "acceptability."  However, the fact that so di-
verse a set of scales failed to correlate with Covello  et
a/'s predicted ranking indicates the need to clarify the
goals of risk comparisons as well as to study  how  to
reach them.1
                            m procedure night also be oiled
'Any other future of our mean
into question. For example, ID their thoughtful response to this article,
Slovic et «/."» wonder about what would have happened had we used
another cover story. Progress here requires accounting for both those
patterns that did emerge in previous studies at well as for those that
did not.
3.3. Toward a Systematic Classification of Risk

     One significant contribution of the Covello et al.
proposal is describing the variety of features of a  risk
that comparison statements can highlight. Indeed, each
category in their system deals with a different aspect of
risk. For example, statement 1 describes trends over time,
while leaving the communication of absolute and relative
magnitude to other statements. It seems unlikely that any
criterion of acceptability could apply to messages having
such a variety of purposes. Each is legitimate for some
purposes and  flawed for others, with  its acceptability
depending heavily on the quality of its implementation.
     One way to conceptualize the potential purposes of
risk comparisons is according to the roles that they may
play in helping people to make  decisions about risk'
From a decision theory perspective, a decision invoh

 Making Risk Comparisons
 a choice among options, each of which can be charac-
 terized by a vector of attributes, representing its possible
 consequences.  With risky decisions, at least  some of
 those  attributes involve  uncertain negative conse-
 quences. When considering decision options (risky or
 otherwise), one needs to go through three stages: iden-
 tifying the set of relevant attributes (i.e.,  the ones that
 might  matter when one makes a choice), characterizing
 each option in  terms of each attribute, and determining
 the relative importance of each  attribute (in this set of
     Risk comparisons have a  legitimate role to play in
 supporting each of these stages. That is, they  can help
 people to determine:

     1. what attributes merit consideration;
     2. how each option rates on each relevant attribute;
     3. how those attributes should be weighted.
3.3.1. Evoking Attributes of a Risk

 -    Risk perception research has found that people are
capable of rating risks on a large set of attributes (e.g.,
voluntariness, equity, dread), which are relevant to their
judgments of risk acceptability.(13>U) The fact that these
attributes are  recognized when  they are presented  ex-
plicitly carries, however, no assurance that will be re-
called spontaneously when  a risk is mentioned. Indeed,
the great number of possible attributes means that it would
be  hard to bear all in mind at once. A risk comparison
might be able to help people by evoking decision-rele-
vant attributes that they might otherwise neglect. Doing
so  in an unbiased fashion will pose a challenge to the
design of communications. Considerations that are out
of sight tend to be out of mind.(ls-1S) Conversely, those
comparisons that are made may powerfully  shape the
attributes that people do consider (e.g., "This  is the next
dioxin"  or "They tell  us this is safe, but that's what
they said about cigarettes and Agent Orange" or  "They
are just like tobacco company scientists").
3.3.2. Determining the Values on Risk Attributes

     Once the attributes relevant to a decision have been
identified,  decision-makers must determine how each
option rates on  each attribute. Conveying information
about the magnitude of consequences is one clear pur-
pose of risk communications. As mentioned, risk com-
parisons might be a useful tool for doing so, by providing
a familiar point of comparison for an  unfamiliar haz-
ard—as long as claims of risk acceptability can be avoided.

3.3.3.  Crystallizing Preferences

    A final role for risk communications is helping peo-
ple examine and crystallize their own preferences. Sim-
plistic models of decision-making assume a high degree
of articulation in people's preferences, namely, they will
know how to make all relevant  tradeoffs, judging the
relative importance of different outcomes. However, with
options involving the sort of esoteric consequences in-
volved with many risky decisions, people may welcome
noncoercive suggestions  of alternative  perspectives."7'
Properly qualified risk comparisons might fulfill that role.

3.4. Reflections on Category Definition

    The analysis above suggests that the details on con-
tent may be more important than the form of a risk com-
parison in determining its  acceptability. This may explain
some  of  the lack of predictive power of the Covello et
al. classification scheme. In some cases, the categories
in Covello et j/.'s taxonomy  are sufficiently  broad  to
include statements with  quite varied  character. Con-
versely,  statements that  communicate  very similar in-
formation fy different means  are sometimes classified
separately. For example, statement 11  uses the experi-
ence of plant employees as an upperbound estimate  of
the risk to the townspeople. As  such, this statement might
arguably belong in category 6  with (other) comparisons
that use  the risk level  experienced by  one group as  an
input  to estimating the risk to  another.
    Category 4 ("comparison of the risk of doing some-
thing versus not doing it") provides another example of
a  category that  includes  comparisons with varied con-
tent. For example, it includes both actions intended to
increase risk and actions intended to reduce risks, which
may invoke different attitudes. Moreover, all such com-
parisons invoke risk-benefit tradeoffs, insofar as as other
consequences accompany these actions. As a result, cat-
egory 4 overlaps category 9. The fact  that these tradeoffs
are left implicit in statement  4 may account for some
reasons why it was judged more poorly than statement
9, where the tradeoffs are explicit.

     Covello et al. have enumerated and classified a va-
riety of risk comparisons. They were not, however, able

 to predict the acceptability of statements generated, to
 represent those categories, at least as measured by our
 subjects' responses. This failure seems to reflect a com-
 bination of (1) difficulty in  translating  the theory into
 concrete communications, (2) confounding the different
 possible purposes of risk comparisons within individual
 messages, and (3) the absence of adequate research on
 how to represent different kinds of information credibly.
 As a result, we need more  and better  theoretical and
 empirical research to build on Covello etal.'s challeng-
 ing beginning.

     The following is the text of the 14 specific risk
comparison  statements, developed by Covello et al.
(1988), which were evaluated in this research.
Statement 1

     "Health risks from emissions of ethylene oxide at
our plant are 40% less than a year ago, when we installed
exhaust scrubbers. With more equipment coming in, we
expect to reduce the risk another 40% by the end of the
next year."
     "Despite the extremely low health risks to the com-
munity  from  emissions of ethylene oxide at our plant,
we are still looking for ways to lower these levels fur-
ther. These are some of the plans we have under way to
accomplish this: (provide specifics). As we implement
these steps, we will keep you and the community in-
formed of our progress. We will also continue to monitor
our workers and keep track of health statistics within the
community to ensure that the risks posed by our plant
to our workers and to the community remain in the future
as low as, if not lower than, they are today.  Since some
of you may have further questions about these and other
matters  concerning our plant operations, as plant man-
ager, I am providing my work and home phone numbers
so you can call me. I will do my best to supply you with
answers to your questions as quickly as possible."

Statement 2

     "Emissions of ethylene oxide from  our plant are
half the  levels permitted by the U.S. Environmental Pro-
tection Agency and by our state's Department of Envi-
ronmental Protection."
     "Emissions of ethylene oxide from  our plant are
five times lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency's safety standard."
    "Plant emissions of ethylene oxide are five times
below what was permitted under the old EPA standard,
and two times below the level established by the new,
stricter EPA standard.
Statement 3

    "Laboratory studies on rats and mice suggest that
current exposure to ethylene oxide may cause seven can-
cers in 1000 generations of residents in this city. This
estimate is the maximum that would occur under worst-
case conditions. Actual health effects from exposure to
ethylene oxide are likely to be lower."
    "Let me try to put this number into the context of
other numbers. We've said that our worst case prediction
is seven thousandths of one extra cancer within the next
70 years from our plant's emissions of ethylene oxide.
Now, no one ever gets seven thousandths of a cancer.
A better way to see  the effect is that if 130 different
communities the same size as Evanston had a plane just
like this one, 129 of those towns would see no effect*•
their cancer rate. One of the 130 Evanstons might h
a single extra cancer."
    •"Our best estimate of the risk is 0.001 cancers per
3500  persons using what  we believe  are realistic as-
sumptions.  This estimate is based on work done by our
own scientists and by researchers at Evanston  Univer-
sity. However, you should be aware that the state De-
partment of Environmental Protection PEP) has calculated
a worst-case risk estimate of 0.007 cancers per 3500
persons.  DEP made the assumption that all  individuals
Irving in Evanston would be expressed to emissions of
ethylene oxide 24 hours a day for 70 years. This formula
gave DEP  a human-lifetime dose. DEP then took the
best available  laboratory  information for ethylene ox-
ide—data obtained from studies on the laboratory mice
most  likely to develop cancer in response to ethylene
oxide—and calculated first the lowest dose (hat caused
adverse health effects in mice and then the equivalent
dose in humans. On the basis of these and other pieces
of information, DEP concluded that the maximum can-
cer risk to people in the community is 0.007 cancers per
3500 persons over 70 yean."
    "Our wont-case estimate of the risk is seven thou-
sandths of  a cancer per 3500 persons over the next 70
yean. How sure ate we that the risk is really this low?
The bad news is mat we're not as sure as we'd like to
be. Risk assessment  u a  pretty new science, based
models and assumptions rather than hard data. The go.

 Making Risk Comparisons
 news is that we're almost certain the risk is actually
 smaller than our estimate—we've instructed our scien-
 tists to make every assumption on the cautious side, to
 provide an extra margin of safety. And here's a piece of
 hard information. We've  been manufacturing ethylene
 oxide in Evanston for 35  years now. We have contin-
 ually monitored our employees for signs of adverse health
 effects associated with exposure to ethylene oxide. In all
 that time,  as far as we know, not  a single worker or
 retiree has had  the son of cancer  normally associated
 with ethylene oxide. Please keep in mind that these
 workers are exposed to consistently higher  levels of
 emissions than the surrounding population is. Therefore,
 on the basis of our workers' experience so far, the risk
 is zero. There are also people who think our risk estimate
 is too low. The Evanston chapter of the Sierra dub
 estimates seven hundedths of a cancer per 3500 persons
 over the next 70 years. That's 10 times higher than our
 estimate—but even if they're right, it's still an extremely
 small potential increase in the cancer rate. And we hav-
 en't found  anyone with a higher estimate than theirs."

 Statement 4

     "If we buy and install the newest and  most ad-
 vanced emission-control equipment available, the worst-
 case situation is that the  maximum total risk will be
 0.005 additional cancers per 3500 persons, a very low
 number. If we don't buy new equipment and keep op-
 erating the plant with our  current pollution-control sys-
 tem, the worst-case situation is that the maximum total
 risk will be 0.007 additional cancers per 2500 persons—
 also a very low number. Please keep in mind that both
 of these risk estimates are worst-case estimates."
Statement 5

     "The maximum health risk from our plant's emis-
sions of ethylene oxide is 0.007 additional cancers per
3500 persons. We could switch to producing the only
known chemical substitute for ethylene oxide. However,
the maximum health risk of emissions of that chemical
is 50 times higher."
Statement 7

    "The risk posed by emissions of ethylene oxide is
extremely low, no matter where you  live or work  in
Evanston. However, the risk posed by emissions of eth-
ylene oxide for people living two miles from the plant
is 90% less, than for people living in the nearest home;
and the risk for people living in the nearest home is 90%
less than for people working within the plant gates. And
our workers haven't had a single case of the  type  of
cancer normally thought to be linked to ethylene oxide."

Statement 8

    "Let me see whether these numbers will help.
Roughly a quarter of all of us get cancer—a disease
caused by smoking, diet, heredity, radon in the soil,
pollution, and many other factors. Out of 3500 people,
medical data show that one-quarter—or about 875—are
going to get cancer sometime  in a  lifetime. So here's
the predicted effect of ethylene oxide emissions from
our plant on the overall cancer rate. In 129 of 130 hy-
pothetical Evanstons, no effect—that is, no expected  in-
crease in cancer rates at all. In the  130th, cancer rates
would rise from 875-876. Although this is only a tiny
increased risk, it is still an increase. If we can find a
way to make it even smaller,  we should and we will.
The most important thing is for all of us in Evanston to
work together to find ways to bring down the total cancer
rate, that unfortunate  875 out  of 3500.  But we at our
plant have a special responsibility to be safe neighbors.
Much higher risks due to other factors are no reason to
ignore a small risk in our facility.  Here's what we're
doing to make sure we keep the risk from our plant as
low as it can possibly get: (provide details)."

Statement 9

    "During the next year, our plant will spend more
than $2 million to reduce our already small emissions
even further. This new investment will hurt us econom-
ically but will reduce the risk of cancer in the community
by more than 25% when fully  operational."
Statement 6

     "We have installed in our plant the most advanced
emission control system now operating in the country.
Compared with those of older plants, such as the one in
Middletown, our emissions are 10 times less."
Statement 10

    "If we stopped producing ethylene oxide today,
many more people here and throughout the United States
might die than could possibly be affected by emissions
from our Evanston plant. Ethylene oxide is the best ster-

ilizing agent used by hospitals today. No equivalent sub-
stitute for etbylene oxide is available.  Continued
production of this production will contribute to saving
many lives and will ensure that the surgical instruments
that doctors and hospitals use are free from infectious
Statement 11

     "One way to look at the data is to compare the
risks of emissions of ethylene oxide to plant neighbors
with the risks to plant employees. We have been oper-
ating this  plant for 35 years, with an average employ-
ment of 400 people. We therefore have about 10,000
person-years of worker exposure to ethylene oxide at this
plant. Health monitoring at our plant indicates that the
average workplace concentration of ethylene oxide is 0.5
ppm, a  dose 200 times higher than that in the commu-
nity. The  primary health concern about ethylene oxide
is its potential for causing certain types of brain cancer.
We have not had a single case of brain cancer in our
work force. Moreover, the overall incidence  of cancer
in  our employees is lower than that of the U.S. popu-
lation as a whole. Nor has Evanston's health department
documented any brain cancers  among our workers. On
the basis of this information, I believe that the health
risk  posed by  the plant to the community is insignifi-
Statement 12

     "I believe that our ethylene oxide emissions do not
pose a significant health risk to the community. I also
believe that our emissions pose a much less serious prob-
lem than our hazardous waste problem, which is daily
becoming more serious because the repositories in our
state are filled  and none are being built."
Statement 13

    "One way to look at the cancer risk from emissions
of ethylene oxide in our community is to compare the
risk with the cancer risk from the x-rays you get during
a health checkup. One chest x-ray per year presents a
risk of developing cancer that is twice that of developing
cancer from our plant's emissions of ethylene oxide."
Statement 14

    "Another way to get some perspective on the risk
of ethylene oxide emissions is by comparing it to some
of the risks that we all face in our daily lives, such as
the risk of being killed by lightning or the risk of beng
killed in an auto accident. My purpose in making such
a comparison is only to put the size of the risk in context.
I recognize that such comparisons  are like comparing
apples and oranges*.  Still,  I  think the comparison  can
help us all understand and gain some perspective on the
size of the risk we are talking about.  For example, the
risk of death by salmonella food poisoning from poultry
bought at the  local supermarket is at least five times
greater than the risk of cancer from the highest exposure
to ethylene oxide in this community."
    "You may be wondering, 'But what does that mean
to me as a resident of this community? What's the risk
to me and my family?' First let me tell you that I am
convinced that there  is no threat to the health or safety
of any member of our community at these extremely low
exposure level. However, I recognize that the data still
may be troubling. So  it would probably be helpful to put
these levels of risk from exposure to ethylene oxide into
the context of other  risks that we're  all exposed to i
our daily lives. For  example, the  risk to the averag
American of death from lightning is at least 140 times
greater than the risk of cancer in Evanston from the
highest exposure to ethylene oxide. Hurricanes and tor-
nadoes also  pose a risk about 140 times greater. Insect
bites pose a risk about 70 times greater. The additional
0.007 cancer risk is  about the same  as the additional
cancer risk you would incur spending four hours in Den-
ver rather than at sea level  because  of Denver's high
altitude and  higher radiation  level."

     We thank C Atman, C. Cones, G. Hester, R. Lio,
I. Nair, and P. Steranchak for their assistance in this
work. We received helpful comments on a previous draft
of the manuscript from G. Hester, J. Merz, D. Resendiz,
P. Sandman, and P. Slavic. The work was supported by
National Science Foundation grant SES-871564. The
views expressed as those of the authors.

  1. V. T. Covclto, P. M. Sndnun. ud P. Slow, ftui Commune
    MM* KukStetittia, »nd K* Companions: A Manual for Hou

Making Risk Comparisons
    Managers (Washington, D.C., Chemical Minufacmren Auori-
    mon. 1988).
 2. B. Cohen and I. S. Lee.. "A Catalog of Risks." Health Physics
    36, 707-722 (1979).
 3. R. Wilson. "Analyzing the Risk* of Evtiyday Life." Technology
    Review 81 40-46 (1979).
 4. Environmental Protection Agency, A  Cttaen 's Guide to Radon.
    What It Is and What to Do About It,  13 pp  (Washington, D.C.
    1986). 13 pp.
 5. B. Fischhoff. P. Slovic, and S. Lichtenstein, "Weighing the Risks,"
    Environment 21 17-20, 32-38, (1979).
 6. B. Fischhoff, S. Lichientem, P. Slovic, S.L. Derby  and R.L.
    Kceney, Acceptable Risk (New York, Cambridge University Press,
 7. National  Research Council, Improving Risk Communication
    (Washington, D.C., The Council, 1989).
 8. B. Fischhoff, S. Watson, and C. Hope, "Defining Risk," Policy
    Sciences 17, 123-139 (1984).
 9. A. Agresti, "Tutorial on Modeling Ordered Categorical Response
    DM," Psychological Bulletin 105 290-301 (1989).
10. R. D. McKelvey, and W. Zaviona. "A Statistical Model for the
    Analysis of Ordinal Level Dependent  Variables," Journal of
    Mathematical Sociology 4 103-120.
11.  Greene, W. H. UMDEP (Self-published statistical software pack-
    age and manual, 1985).
12.  P.  Slovic,  N. N. Kraus. and V. T. Covello. "Comment: What
    Should We Know About Making Risk Comparisons," Risk Analy-
    sis in press (1990).
13.  B. Fischhoff, P. Slovic, S. Lichtensiein, S. Read, and B. Combs.
    "How Safe b Safe  Enough? A Psychometric Study of Attitudes
    Towards Technological Risks and Benefits." Policy Sciences 8.
    127-152 (1978).
14.  P.  Slovic.  "Perception of Risk," Science 336, 280-285 (1987).
15.  B. Fischhoff. P. Slovic. and S. Lichtenstein. "Fault Trees' Sen-
    siuvity of Assessed  Failure Probabilities to Problem Representa-
    tion," Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception
    and Performance 4. 330-344 (1978).
16.  A. Tversky, and D. Kahneman, "Availability: A Heuristic for
    Judging Frequency and Probability," Cognitive Psychology 5: 207-
    232 (1973).
17.  B. Fischhoff, P. Slovic, and S. Lichtenstein. in T. Wallstcn (ed.).
    Cognitive Processes in Ounce and Decision Behavior (Hillsdalc.
    New Jersey, Erlbaum,  1980).


 Ksk Analysis, VoL 10, No. 3, 1990
 What  Should We  Know About Making  Risk

•Paul Slovic,2 Nancy Kraus,2 and Vincent T. Covello3
     The study by Roth et al. (1) provides a valuable
 lesson for risk communicators—test your messages. The
 factors that determine  how a person interprets  a risk
 communication are subtle and not well understood. As
 a result, those who draft and disseminate risk messages
 cannot accurately predict how they will  be interpreted
 and what influence they will have.
     The results obtained by Roth et al.  are surprising
 in many ways. Particularly surprising is the finding that
 the comparisons of unrelated risks were rated relatively
 favorably. Although such comparisons have been strongly
 recommended for more than 25  years as ways  to put
 risks in perspective, (W>4) they have been criticized for
 ignoring many of the quantitative  and qualitative factors
 that determine the perception and acceptance of risk.(3)
 A harsh editorial in Nature, following Lord Rothschild's
 advocacy  of such comparisons,  (6) described them as
 "the kindergarten of risk." The data obtained by Roth
 et al. suggest that these criticisms may have been mis-
 placed, and that comparisons among unrelated risks, if
 framed carefully, may indeed provide valuable insights.
     Before breathing new life into comparisons  of un-
 related risks, we would like to offer several reasons for
 restraint and further study. The first pertains to the fact
 that the study by Roth et al. employed only one scenario.
 In this scenario, respondents were asked to evaluate the
 comparison statements from the perspective of advising
 a plant manager who is about to communicate to  a con-
 cerned community in a noncrisis,  nonconfrontational at-
 mosphere.  Many plant  managers  must communicate in
just such a setting. However, we believe that it  is im-
 portant to replicate this study within  diverse contexts,
 including a setting where  the community is angry or
 distrustful as well as a benign setting in which trust,

 1 Received March 5,1990.
* Decision Research, 1201 Oak Street, Eugene, Oregon 97401.
' Center for Risk Communication. School  of Public Health, Columbia
 University, New York. New York 10032.
mutual respect, and meaningful public involvement pre-
vail. We would expect comparisons of unrelated risks to
be relatively less satisfactory as  the context becomes
increasingly hostile.  Second, other comparison  state-
ments should be evaluated in addition to those drafted
by Covello et al.m. Third, we would like to emphasize
a point made by Roth et al., and  to provide some sup-
porting evidence. Roth et al. suggest that the specific
comparison of unrelated risks drafted by Covello et al.
may have done well  because it did not argue that the
risk of cancer was acceptable because it was equal to or
smaller  than other risks that  are  commonly accepted.
Instead, this message stated that the "...purpose in mak-
ing such a comparison is only to put the risk in context"
and " gain some perspective on die size of the  risk."
     We believe this to be a critical point. Many com-
parisons of unrelated risks do not include this qualifi-
cation. Instead of adopting this modest objective (i.e.,
providing perspective), comparisons of unrelated risks
are frequently advanced as a means for setting priorities
and determining which risks are acceptable.'71 More spe-
cifically, they are advocated as a means for determining
which risks to ignore,  which risks to be concerned about,
and how much risk reduction to seek.(2"*A9)
     We believe that these arguments are flawed and that
risk  acceptability depends on a wider range of factors
than the probabilities or expected fatality or morbidity
estimates that are typically compared. Comparisons that
stress acceptability of risk are, therefore, vulnerable to
criticism. To support  this claim, we would like to offer
some additional empirical data. We have conducted an
experiment in which  subjects played the role of  jurors
in a simulated trial in which a company that supplied
asbestos insulation materials was charged with exposing
the students and staff of a school to unreasonable risk
of disease, b our scenario, the company contended that
the use of this  product in the school building did not
pose a health hazard to the students and staff  of the
                                                                    a7I-4JUMMMlHra.Hn e 1WO Smy tar Rat AMrf

                                                                                                   Slovic a al.
     The subjects is this study were  117 persons who
 answered an ad in a community newspaper. They were
 assigned to one of three groups, each of which received
 different information about the risks from asbestos and
 other hazards. All subjects were given  the same back-
 ground briefing about the nature of asbestos and its health
 hazards. They were also given background information
 about  the  trial. Finally, all subjects were told that an
 authoritative source had determined that the average con-
 centration of asbestos in the air at the school was .001
 fibers  per cubic centimeter and that students attending
 the school  for three years faced an increased lifetime
 fatality risk of 0.23  per  million.
     The three  information conditions differed  as  fol-
     Group I received no  additional information. They
 were asked to answer the following questions about risk
 and guilt:

     1 . In your opinion, how high is the risk of exposure
        to the asbestos concentrations found at Jefferson
        Junior High School?
         very low        moderate         very high
           risk             risk               nsk
     2. If you were  on the jury in this case, would you
        find [the company] guilty or not guilty of ex-
        posing the students and staff of Jefferson Junior
        High School to unreasonable risk of disease re-
        sulting from exposure to asbestos fibers intro-
        duced into the air  by their products?
         [     1 g^ty       [     ] not
     Croup II received the same background information
followed by  Exhibit A (shown in Table I), comparing
the asbestos risk with risks from smoking, diet soft drinks,
chest x-rays, peanut butter, and background radiation
from living in a brick house. Accompanying Exhibit A
was a statement by a (fictitious) expert witness. Dr. A.
Davis, called on behalf of the defendant to explain and
interpret the  risk comparisons  in the table. Dr. Davis
concluded  his explanation with the following opinion:

   So now, if we look tt the risk associated with being exposed
   to asbestos fibers while Mending Jefferson Junior High School
   for three years, it's less than one — 0.23 deaths per million to
   be precise. That's a very small fraction of the nsk estimated
   for drinking diet sodas or even for citing peanat  butter sand-
   wiches. So, even though exposure to asbeBos at wry high
   levels has been shown to cause disease, I'd have to lay, based
   on my professional experience and as a concerned citizen, thai
   I would have no concern if anyone — including persons from
   my own family — were to attend Jefferson Junior High School.

After examining Exhibit A and reading Dr.  Davis* state-
ment,  subjects answered the two questions about ris*.
and guilt.
     Subjects in group I were also shown  the compari-
sons in Exhibit A after making their judgments and they
were asked to answer the two questions a second time.
     Group III v/ts given the same information as group
II, including the table of risk comparisons and the state-
ment by Dr. Davis. In addition, subjects in this group
were given a statement by a (fictitious) expert witness
for the plaintiff, Dr. P. Stewart, criticizing the compar-
isons shown in Exhibit A. Dr. Stewart's testimony, which
argues that  Exhibit  A  has no  logical  implications re-
garding the acceptability of the asbestos in the school,
is presented in Table n.
     Table III presents the mean risk rating and the per-
centage of guilty  judgments for the three information
conditions. Data from group I show that the 0.23 lifetime
risk estimate, presented alone, evoked a moderately high
rating of risk and a judgment of guilty by more than half
of the  subjects. Seventy percent of these same individ-
uals, shown the comparisons in Table I,  subsequently
lowered  their judgments of risk;  no  one  gave an in-
creased risk  evaluation. Judgments of guilt were less
influenced by the  comparisons  in Exhibit A.
     Group II, which responded only after seeing the rir'
comparisons, had  a  significantly lower mean risk judk
menfthan group  I (p  < 0.01) and a markedly lower
percentage of subjects finding the company guilty (p  <
0.05).  Presented without challenge, Exhibit A was clearly
effective in reducing subjects' concerns.
     Responses from group III, however, were virtually
the same as those from group I, suggesting that the ef-
fects of the comparisons on perceived risk and judged
guilt were fully offset by the critique presented in Table
     Technical analyses of the asbestos problem  have
     Table I. Exhibit A: Ufemne Risks per Million Persons

                                 Deaths per million persons
Smoking one pack of cigarettes each day
  for 20 years
Drinking one  diet soft drink  aBnninmg
  saccharin per day for a lifeline
Chest x-rays
EaJinfl 4 ^Mflflff*1* Q( ffffnitf fcHttCT PCT
  day (aOatcnrin)
Living in a brick house (radiation)
Attending Jefferson Junto High School for
  3 yean (asbestos baaed on 0.001 fibers
  per cubic centimeter)



 Risk Comparisons
  Table D. Statement by Dr. P. Stewart. An Expert Witness Called
  on Behalf of the Plaintiff, Jefferson Jr. High School, in Testimony
           About the Statistics Presented h Exhibit A

 Dr. Stewart
   As I understand it, Exhibit A shows the tisk per million persons of
 dying from the activities listed. The numbers shown on the chart are
 estimates, based on statistical analyses.
   In my opinion, the numbers in this chart are misleading, and fail to
 have any logical implications for the asbestos decision under consid-
   First, the estimates in the Exhibit may not be accurate, particularly
 in the case of asbestos. The risk value given for asbestos is based on
 an avenge reading of .001 fibers per cubic centimeter. But, at nines,
 the level of asbestos fibers people in the building are exposed to may
 be much higher (for example, when repair  work is being done). The
 average exposure given in the exhibit may not accurately represent the
 risk from such higher "peak" concentrations.
   My second objection is more fundamental. The fact that one risk is
 accepted does not necessarily mean  that another, lower risk is accept-
   Acceptability must weigh risks against benefits. The risks from as-
 bestos, no matter how small, are not acceptable if there are no com-
 pensating benefits or if there are less risky alternatives that can provide
 similar benefits
   Furthermore, most of the risks presented in Exhibit A are voluntary
 activities. Attending a school contaminated by asbestos is involuntary,
 not under the control of the children who are at  risk. The standards
 for acceptability need 10 be much stricter for exposing children invo-
 luntarily to risk.
   So, I'd have to say, as a professional and as a parent of school-age
 children, that the risks from exposure to the asbestos levels found at
 Jefferson Junior High may indeed be low. They may be very low. But
 I wouldn't want to expose my kids even to a theoretical risk of asbestos
 if I didn't have to.
    Table ni. Perceived Risk and Judgments of Guilt for Three
                   Information Conditions*
Group Presented
Lifetime risk
Lifetime nsk plus
Mean perceived % finding company
N nsk guilty
30 3.53(2.13)
27 2.48
       Exhibit A
III   Lifetime nsk
       Exhibit A, and
       critique of Exhibit A 60  3.53
• Parenthesized values for group 1 summarize responses after being
 shown  Exhibit A. Perceived nsk decreased for 21 of 30 subjects,
 remained the same for 9 subjects, and increased for 0 subjects. Two
 subjects changed their assignments from guilty to not guilty.
in Table III suggest that this "small risk" does not ap-
pear small or acceptable to people when presented as a
single estimate (0.23 fatalities per million students). The
results show how sensitive perceptions of risk and guilt
are to contextual information provided by a simple table
of comparisons and to a critique that  undermines the
legitimacy of inferring acceptability of risk  from com-
parisons across diverse hazards.
     The  results of this modest empirical  study  should
be interpreted with caution. The trial setting was artifi-
cial and the arguments were quite abbreviated selections
from the many possible ways of presenting, challenging,
and  counterchallenging the information about asbestos
risks. The few prior attempts to examine the content of
risk messages, going back to Fischhoff(n) and including
the study by Roth et  al., are similarly incomplete  —
more on the order of demonstration studies.  Despite being
incomplete,  these studies  do demonstrate that content
and  context  matter in risk communication.  If we take
this message seriously, we should incorporate a carefully
designed and executed evaluation component into every
important communication effort.
     Recognizing the limitations of our simulated trial,
it  still seems remarkable to  us  that  the  effects of the
comparisons in Exhibit A were  so easily  offset by the
critique despite the fact that they show  the asbestos risk
to be minuscule  relative to other commonly accepted
risks. This suggests to us that the analyses and opinions
of technical experts who believe that asbestos in schools
should  be left in place may not be  convincing  to the
public in an adversarial  context. More generally, the
impotency of quantitative risk assessment  in adversarial
settings has  important implications for  the way that we
manage risk  in our society. One implication is that those
who assess and manage risks need to relate to their con-
stituents over the long term in ways that establish trust,
credibility, and mutual respect.
     In summary, the  simplicity and  intuitive appeal of
comparisons of unrelated risks may be highly deceptive.
Many factors appear to play a role in determining whether
such  comparisons will be useful. Whether these kinds
of comparisons ultimately generate more light than heat
will depend  on the degree to which both the context of
risk communication and the content of the messages are
sensitive to those factors.
generally concluded that the risks to school children are
quite small, far lower than the risks to workers who are
called upon to remove the asbestos.001 The data shown
                      We are indebted to numerous individuals for their
                 assistance with the asbestos trial simulations. In partic-
                 ular, we wish to thank Deny Allen, Kenny S. Crump,

                                                                                                             Slovic et e'
Fred Fields, and William Suojanen, without implying
that they necessarily concur in our  research design 'or

 1. E. Roth, G. Morgan, B. Fischhoff, L. Live, 
United States           Office of
Environmental Pmacboa     Teauc Subatanoee,
Agency              Waateipon DC 20*10
TSCA Assistance Office

Some Notes on
Environmental Risk
Peter M. Sandman
November 1986

                         "Important If Tra*"
                         1.  Environmental riakia not a big itory __ ,.  .__,,  ,,„,,.,..      	*
                         2.  Politics it mot* MOTworthytliuKieDC*	5

                         4.  The riiketoryueiBpUfied to a dichotomy 	J
                         5.  Reporter! Oy to penonalise the riikitoiy 	9
                         &  Claim* of rUk are uaually more newsworthy thin claim* ofsafety.-	10
                         7.  Baport»ndotbMtjoU«Ublimited«xpcftiMkndtiiu	11
                                                 _,„_                            	.__14
                         1.  Riak perception ia a lot mere than mortality statistic* ....—-—		14
                         2.  Moral categoric* mean men than riak data	_	..			16
                         3.  Policy declaim are aaen aa either riaky or aafe  .-—-	-.	17
                         4.  Equity «nd control iaaue* underlie moat riskcontrovenie*	IB
                         5.  Ri*k decision* an batter whan the public aham the power 	20
                         6.  E»plainia*;iiakiafannatioaia«iiffinilt hiil itntimpnaiihla
                             if the* BflttvaJBOjiia than                                         ^i
                         7.  Riik communication ia easier when emotion* an aeen aa legitimtte	23
                         Selected Bibltocrmphy 	26«aingE«virbn*oulRUk: Some No.« o. EavuoDmenul R.A Commumc^o..-  by Paer M  SUdm» for 4* TSCA
Office, Office of Toxic Subwaces. U.S. EawroiuneBtal Proucuoa Agency. November 1986.

                     "Important  If True"
                      In colonial times newspaper "correspondents" were nothing
                      more than acquaintances of the publisher, writing home from
                      their travels. Unable to confirm or disconfirm their reports.
                      cautious publishers often printed them under the headline
                      "Important If True."
                       "Explaining Environmental Risk" should be read in the
                      spirit of this caution. While I have leaned heavily on the risk
                      communication research literature where I could, many
                      questions haven't been thoroughly studied, and here 1 have
                      relied on my experience, my sense of other people's
                      experience, and, frankly, my biases. If your experience and
                      biases suggest different answers, try them. If you want to
                      stick more closely to research findings, check the sources
                      listed at the end.
                       Why are so many risk assessment and risk management
                      people beginning to take an interest in risk communication?
                      There are two answers. I think, one entirely admirable and
                      the other more open to question. The good news is that
                      experts and managers are coming to recognize that how
                      people perceive a risk determines how they respond to it.
                      which in turn  sets the context for public policy. It is hard to
                      have decent policies when the public ignores serious risks
                      and recoils in  terror from less serious ones. The task of risk
                      communication, then, isn't just conveying information.
                      though that  alone is a challenge; it is to alert people  when
                      they ought to be alerted and reassure them when they ought
                      to be reassured. If your job is directing the cleanup at
                      chemical spills, or running a right-to-know program, or siting
                      new waste facilities—in fact, if your job has anything to do
                      with setting or administering or following environmental
                      regulations—explaining environmental risk is an important
                      piece of your job. And it's probably a piece for which you
                      have had little training.
                       The more questionable reason for the growing interest in
                      risk communication is the hope in some quarters that
                      communicating about the environment can somehow replace
                      managing it or regulating it  aggressively. This is a common
                      dilemma for communication specialists—advocates of bad
                      policies sometimes  imagine that they can get away with
                     anything if they sell it cleverly enough, while advocates of
                     good policies sometimes imagine that they don't have to sell
                     at all. At a January 1986 national conference on. risk
                              cation (co-sponsored by i"
                     Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the
"Explaining Environmental Risk. Some Notes en Environment!] Risk Communication.* by Peter M. Sandman for the TSCA Assiiuoir
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986

                       Environmental Protection Agency, and other organizations),
                       the sessions on how to alert people to serious risks were
                       sparsely attended, while overflow crowds pondered ways of
                       calming people down. People sometimes need to be calmed
                       down— but the ultimate goal of risk communication- should
                       be rational alertness, not passive trust.
                         If a public that views risk with rational alertness strikes
                       you as a desirable outcome, "Explaining Environmental Risk"
                       should help. This is neither a theoretical treatise nor a
                       nitty-gritty cookbook; along with the practical suggestions for
                       effective communication, I have tried to explain why some
                       strategies work and others fail, so that you can build on this
                       understanding to design your own strategies.
                         Though I hate to admit it. risk communication is a simpler
                       field than risk assessment or risk management. It just isn't
                       that hard to understand how journalists and nontechnical
                       publics think about risk. But it is crucial to understand, and
                       not mastering the rudiments of risk communication has led a
                       lot of smart people to make a lot of foolish mistakes. With
                       apologies to busy readers, I have therefore resisted the urge
                       to produce an executive summary or a list of
                       recommendations. Technicians can get  by on cookbooks,
                       perhaps, but decision-makers need to understand.
                         Much depends, in fact, on whether you think risk
                                      is g job that cftft safely be left to
                                           t«»latirm« vtatt iMimmif^y affai»«
                       officers) or whether— «s I am convinced— you believe it must
                       become an integral part of risk management. Although I hope
                       public information people will find some value in what I
                       have to say, my main goal is for environmental protection
                       commissioners and plant managers to read it ... not merely
                       pass it along to the public information office.
                         The temptation to pass it along to the public information
                       office— end then forget it— is almost overwhelming, I know.
                       It's not just that decision-makers are busy people. It's not
                       even that decision-makers don't realize how greatly their
                       success depends on dealing effectively with the media and
                       the public. It's more that they wish it weren't so, that dealing
                       with the media and the public seems in so many ways the
                       least pleasant, least controllable, least fair part of their work.
                       Most risk managers, I suspect, spend a good deal of time
                       hoping the media and the public will go away and leave
                       them to do their jobs in peace.
                         But since they won't, the next best thing is to understand
                       better why they won't, how they are likely to react to what
                       you have to say, and what you might want to say differently
                       next time. I hope "Explaining Environmental Risk" will help.
"Explaining Environment*! Risk  Some Notes on Environmental Ruk Corarounicauon," by Peter M. Sandman for the TSCA
Office. Office of Toxic Subnancej. U.S. Environmental Protecuon Agency. November 1986.

                         Four on-going research projects have added greatly to my
                       understanding of risk communication. They are: (1)
                       "Environmental Risk Reporting" and "Risk Communication
                       for Environmental News Sources" (with David B. Sachsman,
                       Michael Greenberg. Audrey R. Gotsch. Mayrae Jnrkat. and
                       Michael Gochfeld), both funded by the National Science
                       Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Center for
                       Research on Hazardous and Toxic Substances; (2) "Getting to
                       Maybe: Building Toward Community-Developer Negotiations
                       on New Hazardous Waste Facilities" (with Jim Lanard and
                       Emilie Schmeidler). funded by the Fund for New Jersey; (3)
                       "Manual and Conference for DEP Risk Communication" (with
                       Caron Chess and B.J. Hance). funded by the New Jersey Spill
                       Fund, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection;
                       and (4) "Radon Risk Communication Symposium and
                       Recommendations" and "Radon Knowledge, Attitudes, and
                       Behavior in New Jersey" (with. Neil Weinstein), both funded
                       by the New Jersey  Department of Environmental Protection.
                       Of course my colleagues and funders on these projects are
                       not responsible for my speculations in this report.
                         Several organizations have invited me to address them on
                       strategies of risk communication, providing an opportunity to
                       develop the ideas expressed in this report and test them on
                       thoughtful and experienced audiences. 1 am grateful
                       especially to the National Governors' Association, the New
                       Jersey Hazardous Waste Facilities Siting Commission, the
                       Council of Scientific Society Presidents, the Institute for
                       Environmental Studies of the University of North Carolina,
                       and the Air Pollution Control Association.
                      Peter M. Sandman is Professor of Environmental Journalism
                      at Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick. N/. and
                      Director of the Environmental Communication Research
                      Program of the New Jersey AgriculluroJ Experiment Station.
                      Preparation of this report was funded by the Office of Toxic
                      Substances of the United States Environmental Protection
                      Agency as part of the Agency's effort to obtain diverse views
                      on risk communication. Publication of this document does
                      not signify that the contents necessarily reflect the views and
                      policies of the Agency.
'Explaining Entaoanvnul Risk: Some Nates on Eaviraeinenul Ruk Cooununicuion.' by Peter M. Sudnuo for the TSCA
Office. Office of Toxic Subsuaces. U S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986.

                       Dealing  With The Media
                       1.  Environmental risk is not a big story. The mass media are
                       not especially interested in environmental risk. Reporters do
                       care whether or not an environmental situation is risky:
                       that's what makes it newsworthy. But once the possibility of
                       hazard is established—that is, once someone asserts the risk
                       on the record—the focus turns to other matters: how did the
                       problem happen, who is responsible for cleaning it up. how
                       much will it cost, etc. Assessing the extent of the risk strikes
                       most journalists aa an academic exercise. The reporter's job i»
                       news, not education; events, not issues or principles. And
                       the news is the risky thing that has happened, not the
                       difficult determination of how risky it actually is.
                         In an emergency, of course, the extent of the acute risk is
                       the core of the story; radio reporters in particular want to
                       know first and foremost whether to tell listeners  to stay
                       indoors, to evacuate, not to drink the water, etc. But the
                       media don't especially want to know the ins-and-outs  of risk
                       assessment, the details of how great the risk is likely to be.
                       how sure the experts are, or haw they found oat. If the story
                       is impuitaiit enough, these technical details merit a
                       follow-up, a sidebar on the third or fourth day—but few
                       stories are important enough.
                         The typical news story on environmental risk,  in other
                       words, touches on risk itself, while it dwells on more
                       newsworthy matters. In 1985 newspaper editors in New
                       Jersey were asked to submit examples of their best reporting
                       on environmental risk, and the articles were analyzed
                       paragraph by paragraph.  Only 32 percent of the paragraphs
                       dealt at ail with risk. Nearly half of the risk paragraphs.
                       moreover, focused on whether a substance assumed to be
                       risky was or was not present (e.g. is there dioxin in the
                       landfill), leaving only 17 percent of the paragraphs that dealt
                       directly with riskiness itself (e.g. how hazardous is dioxin).
                       In a parallel study, reporters were asked to specify which
                       information they would need most urgently in covering an
                       environmental risk emergency. Most reporters chose the basic
                       risk information, saving the details for a possible second-day
                       story. What happened, how it happened, who's to blame, and
                       what the authorities are doing about it all command more
                       Journalistic attention than loxicity during an environmental
"Explaining Environmental Ruk.  Some Nous on Environmental Risk Communication." by Peter M. Sandman for the TSCA
Office, Office of Toxic Substances. U.S. Environmental Proucuon Agency. November 1986.

                        The nature of the crisis determines how much stress the
                      media put on risk as opposed to other issues. Reporters
                      know, for example, (hat a chemical spill is a risk story, and
                      at the scene of a spill they will  keep asking about toxic
                      effects even after they are told the chemical is benign and
                      inert. A fire story, on the other  hand, automatically raises
                      questions about how the fire started, how much damage was
                      done, who turned in the alarm, and the like; many reporters
                      won't realize unless told that a  fire in a battery factory or a
                      supermarket warehouse is a toxic event. But even when
                      reporters understand that environmental risk is a key element
                      of the crisis, their appetite for risk information is strong but
                      easily sated; they want to know badly, but they don't want to
                      know much.
                        And when there is no crisis?  The extent of a chronic risk is
                      newsworthy only when events make it so— (01 example.
                      when a court battle or a regulatory action hinges on a
                      disputed risk assessment. Sources wishing to "sell" a chronic
                      risk story to the media must therefore work to make it
                      newsworthy. Give  it a news peg — that is. make something
                      happen that reporters can cover. Make it interesting. Build
                      the case for  its  importance. Provide a prop worth focusing a
                      camera on. But expect only partial success; reporters flock to
                      the scene of a crisis, but they have to be seduced into
                      covering chronic risk.
                        Among the greatest environmental risks in New Jersey is
                                                           is new and serious, it
                      received considerable media attention in 1985 and early
                      1986. Then the coverage began to slip. The easy news pegs
                      were over: the discovery of the problem, the first home in the
                      state with a super-high reading, the passage of radon
                      legislation. With no "radon industry" to fight back, the
                      conflict that journalism feeds on has been  conspicuously
                      missing from the radon story. Radon is more a health
                      problem and  a housing problem than an environmental
                      controversy, and its coverage is correspondingly muted. And
                      radon at least has the "advantage" of cancer, the disease we
                      love to hate. Imagine its low visibility if it gave people
                      emphysema instead.

                       2.  Politics is more newsworthy than science. The media's
                      reluctance to focus on risk for more than a paragraph or two
                      might be less of a problem if that paragraph or two were a
                      careful summary of the scientific evidence. It seldom is. In
                      fact, the media are especially disinclined to cover the science
                      of risk. Most  of the paragraphs devoted to  risk in the New
                      jersey study consisted of unsupported opinion — someone
                      asserting or denying the risk without documentation. Only
                      4.2  percent of the paragraphs (24 percent of the risk
                      paragraphs) took an intermediate- or mixed or tentative
        Environmental Rub Some Nan oo Eovuoomeoul Risk CoimnuucUioD.' by Poet M Sandman fa the TSCA AJ...UIV <•
Office. Office of Toxic Substance*. U.S. Environmental Proucuon Agency, November 1986.

                       position on the extent of the risk. And only a handful of the
                       articles told readers what standard (if any) existed for the
                       hazard in question, much less the status of research and
                       technical debate surrounding the standard.
                         The madia's focus on the politics of risk rather than the
                       science of risk is most visible in the sources relied  upon in
                       risk coverage. In the New Jersey study. 57 percent of the
                       sources cited were government, with slate government (22
                       percent) leading the pack. Industry captured IS percent of
                       the paragraphs; individual citizens and advocacy groups
                       were cited in 7 percent each. Uninvolved experts such as
                       academics—those least likely to have an axe to grind, most
                       likely to have an intermediate opinion and a technical basis
                       for it—were cited in only 6 percent of the paragraphs. Of
                       course sources from government, industry, and
                       eimiuiimeiHal groups may also haw scientific rationales for
                       their judgments, and. "experts" ate not always neutral. Still, it
                       is important that the media get their risk information from
                       people who are directly involved in the news event; only
                       occasionally do they seek out uninvolved experts for
                       guidance on the extent of the risk.
                         Trying to interest journalists in the abstract issues of
                       environmental risk assessment is even tougher than trying to
                       get them to cover chronic risk: abstract issues are not the
                       meat of journalism. Yet the public needs to understand
                       abstractions like the uncertainty of risk assessments, the
                       impossibility of zero risk*, the debatable assumptions
                       underlying dose-response curves and animal tests.  Where
                       possible, it helps to embed some of these concepts in your
                       comments on hot breaking stories—though reporters and
                       editors will do their best to weed them out. When there is no
                       breaking story, try to sell your favorite reporter on a feature
                       on the fight over how Conservative risk assessment ought to
                       be. Emphasize that the problem  underlies many of the stones
                       be or she is covering. But understand why you will have
                       only partial success, why the science of risk is inevitably less
                       newsworthy than the politics of risk.

                       3. Reporters cover viewpoints, not "truths." Journalism, like
                       science, attempts to be objective, but the two fields define
                       the term very differently. For science, objectivity is
                       tentativeness and adherence to evidence in the search for
                       truth. For journalism, on the other hand, objectivity is
                       balance. In the epistemology of journalism, there is no truth
                       (or at least no way to determine truth): there are only
                       conflicting claims, to be covered as fairly as possible, thus
                       tossing the hot potato of truth into the lap of the audience.
                         Imagine a scale from 0 to 10 of all possible positions on an
                       issue. Typically, reporters give short shrift ta ft. 1.9. and 10;
•Eiplainiog Enviroamenu] Risk. Some Note* oa Environment*] Risk Communication.' by Peter M. Sindnun for the TSCA
Office. Office of Touc Substances. U.S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986.

                        these views are too extreme to be credible, and are covered
                        as "oddball" if they are covered at all. (You may think some
                        pretty extreme viewpoints get respectful media attention—
                        but you haven*! met the people reporters decide
                        not to quote.) Reporters also pay relatively little attention to
                        4. 5. and 6. These positions are too wishy-washy to make
                        good copy; how do you build a story out of "further research
                        is needed?" And sources with  intermediate positions are
                        unlikely to be heavily involved in the issue, certainly
                        unlikely to seek media attention. Most of the news. then.
                        consists of 2's and 3's and 7's and 8's. in alternating
                        paragraphs if the issue is hot. otherwise in separate stories as
                        each side creates and dominates its own news events.
                        Objectivity to the journalist thus means giving both sides
                        their chance, and reporting accurately what they had to say.
                        It does not mean filling in the  uninteresting middle, and it
                        certainly does not mean figuring out  who Is right. Journalists
                        who insist on trying to tigure out who is right are encouraged
                        to become columnists ... or to leave.
                          If a risk story is developing and you have a perspective
                        that you feel has not been well covered, don't wait to be
                        called. You won't be. And you don't need to wait. Reporters
                        are busy chasing after the sources they have to talk to. and
                        listening to the sources who want to talk to them. If you're in
                        the former category—if you're  safety manager at a plant that
                        just experienced an uncontrolled release, for example—
                        reporters will find their  way to you,  like it or not.
                        Otherwise, rather than suffer in silence, become one  of the
                        relatively few experts  who keep newsroom telephone
                        numbers in their rolodex. You will find reporters amazingly
                        willing to listen, to put you in their rolodexes. to cover your
                        point of view along with all the others. Insofar as you can.
                        try to be a 3 or a 7—that is. a credible exponent of an
                        identifiable viewpoint. Don't let yourself be pushed to a
                        position thai  is not yours, of course,  but recognize that
                        journalism doesn't trust  O's and 10's. and has little use for
                          In deciding whether to brave the considerable risks of
                        media exposure, bear in mind  that the story iviJJ be covered.
                        whether or not you arrange to  be included. News items are
                        allotted media attention to the extent that journalists see
                        them as important and interesting. Then the search begins for
                        information to fill the vacuum—preferably new. solid.
                        comprehensible information that reflects an identifiable point
                        of view, but if there's  not enough of  that to fill the time or
                        space that the story "deserves." reporters will scrounge for
                        angles  to make up the difference. The result can be an
                        enlightening, feature on the problems of technical prediction.
                        but it's more liketv to be a "color story"—4he fear* of
"Explaining Environment!! Risk Somr Notes on Environmental Risk Conununjcuion." by I'cta M. Sandnuu .-* the TSCA As- >un..
Office. Office of Toxic Subsuocu. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency November 1986

                       bystanders, the views of ideologues, the speculations of
                       spokespeople, the history of mismanagement. Environmental
                       risk stories often turn into political stories in part because
                       political content far more nadtty available than technical
                       content. Experienced sources work at filling the vacuum.
                        Although journalists tend not to believe in
                       Truth-with-e-capital-T, they believe fervently in facts. Never
                       lie to a reporter. Never guess. If you don't know, say you
                       don't know. (But expect reporters to ask why you don't
                       know.) If you don't know but can find out later, do so. and
                       get back to the reporter as soon as possible, remembering that
                       journalistic deadlines are measured in minutes, not  months.
                       If you know but can't tell, say you can't tell, and explain
                       why. If you know but can't manage to say it in English, find
                       nomaoiM who can. Reporters da not expect you to be nentral;
                       in fact, they assume that you probably have an axe to grind.
                       and  prefer that you grind it visibly. They do expect  you to
                       grind it with integrity.

                       4. The risk story is simplified to • dichotomy. The media
                       see environmental risk as a dichotomy; either the situation is
                       hazardous  or it is safe. This is in part because journalism
                       dichotomizes all issues into sides to be balanced. But there
                       are other reasons for dichotomizing risk. (1)  It is difficult to
                       find apace  for complex, nuanced. intermediate positions in a
                       typical news story, say 40 seconds, on television or IS short
                       paragraphs tn a newspaper. (2) Virtually everyone outside his
                       or her own field prefers simplicity to complexity, precision
                       to approximation, and certainty to tentativeness. As Senator
                       Edmund Muskie complained to an  aide when the experts
                       kept qualifying their testimony "on the other hand": "Find
                       me an expert with one hand." (3) Most of the "bottom lines"
                       of journalism ore dichotomies— the chemical release is either
                       legal or illegal, people either evacuate or stay, the incinerator
                       to either built or not built. Like risk managers, the general
                       public is usually asked  to make yes-or-no decisions, and
                       journalists  are not wrong to want to offer information in that
                        Reporters are accustomed to the fact that technical sources
                       invariably  hedge, that nothing is ever "proved." They see this
                       as a  kind of slipperiness. Someone can always be found to
                       advocate a discredited position (the tobacco industry has
                       plenty of experts); no one wants to go too far out on a limb
                       in case new evidence points in a different direction;
                       researchers in particular like to leave the issue open so they
                       can justify  more research. Pinning down evasive sources is a
                       finely honed journalistic skill. In terms of our O-to-10 scale.
                       reporters spend  a fair amount of time trying, Ux get 5-ish
                       flflflBDBB lift  flBHHfl^ ^30fl^^CQc 9 Of ^TI
"Explaining Environmental Risk: Some Nous oo Environmental Risk Communicauon." by Peier M. Sandman fat the TSCA Auuuoir
Office. Office of Toxic Substance*. U.S. Environment*! Protecuoa Agency, November 1916.

                         Sources, especially technical sources, greatly resent the
                       pressure from journalists to dichotomize and simplify. The
                       dichotomization of risk distorts the reality that nothing is
                       absolutely safe or absolutely dangerous, and polarizes
                       "more-or-less" disagreements into "yes-or-no"  conflicts. Ami
                       oversimplification of any sort can mislead the  audience and
                       damage the reputation of the source. But recognize that
                       journalists must simplify what  they cover. If you refuse to
                       simplify what you say. the reporter will try to  do the job for
                       you (at great risk to accuracy) or will turn to a more
                       cooperative source.
                         The most qualified person to simplify your views is you.
                       Decide in advance what your main points are, and stress
                       them consistently and repetitively, even if you have to hook
                                 your answers to ineJevant questions. Litave
                      the technical qualifiers that your colleagues might insist on
                      but the genera} public doesn't nped to know (but leave in the
                      qualifiers that really affect the bottom line). Stay away from
                      jargon, and explain the technical terms you can't avoid.
                      Check to make sure the reporter understands what you are
                      saying: if the reporter looks glassy-eyed or starts frantically
                      taking down every word, back up and start over.
                        When you explain the significance of a toxic substance to
                      reporters, try to avoid the "is it there or not" dichotomy.
                      which can, so easily alarm people about tiny concentrations.
                      On the other hand, don't expect reportcra to sit still foe a
                      dissertation on uncertainty in dose-response curves. Your
                      best bet. when you can. is to specify the amount involved.
                      then set it against some standard of comparison, ideally a
                      government exposure standard. This is still a dichotomy, of
                      course; it leaves the misimpression that exposures just under
                      the standard are perfectly safe while exposures just over are
                      deadly. But as dichotomies go. "over or under" is preferable
                      to "there or not."
                        If you want to fight the journalistic tendency to
                      dichotomize risk, fight it explicitly, asserting that the issue is
                      not "risky or not" but "how risky." Recognizing that
                      intermediate positions on risk are intrinsically less dramatic
                      and more complex than extreme positions, work especially
                      hard to come up with simple, clear, interesting ways to
                      express the middle view.  Even so, expect reporters to insist
                      on knowing "which side" you come down  on with respect to
                      the underlying policy dichotomy.

                       5.  Reporters try to personalize the risk story. Perhaps
                      nothing about media coverage of environmental risk so
                      irritates technical sources as the media's tendency to
                      personalize. "Have you stopped drinking it yourself?"
                      "Would jug lei TOUT family live) thec82" Such questions fly tax
"Explaining Environmental Risk- Some Sou* on Environmenul Risk CommuaicauoD." by Peicr M. Sandman foi the TSCA
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S Environment*! Protecuon Agency. November 1986.

                       the face of the source's technical training to keep oneself out
                       of one's research, and they confuse the evidentiary
                       requirements of policy decisions with the looser ones of
                                        But for reporters, '«ff that personalia?
                       are the best questions. They do what editors are constantly
                       asking reporters to do: bring dead issues to life, make the
                       abstract concrete, focus on real people facing real decisions.
                       Personalizing also forces the source to dichotomize, to make
                       the same "yea" or "nay"  decision the reader or viewer must
                         In a sense, experts and policy-makers work at a different
                       level of analysis than reporters and the public. As an EPA
                       study on the ethelyne dibromide controversy noted, the
                       agency wanted to talk about "macro-risk" (how many deaths
                       will result from EDB contamination), while reporters kept
                       asking about "micro-risk" (is it okay to eat  the cake mix). The
                       connections between  macro-risk and micro-risk are difficult
                       to draw. But for the individual citizen (faced with a cake
                       mix. not a regulatory  proposal), micro-risk  is the issue, and
                       reporters are not off-base in pushing technical sources to
                       trace the connections. This is what personalizing questions
                       are designed to do.
                         Knowing that reporters will inevitably ask personalizing
                       questions, be prepared with answers. It is often possible to
                       answer with both one's personal views and one's policy
                       recommendations, and then to explain (he  difference if there
                       is one. Or come with  colleagues whose personal views are
                       different,  thus dramatizing the uncertainty  of the data.  If you
                       are not willing (or not permitted) to acknowledge your own
                       views, plan out some other way to personalize the risk, such
                       as anecdotes, metaphors, or specific advice on the individual
                       micro-risk level.

                        8.  Claims of risk are usually more newsworthy than claims
                       of cafistp. On our O-to-10 scale of risk assertions, the 3's and
                       7's share the bulk of the  coverage, but they don't share it
                       equally. Risk assertions receive considerably more media
                       attention than risk denials. Sometimes, in fact, the denials
                       get even less coverage than the intermediate position, and
                       reporters wind up "balancing" strong assertions of risk with
                       bland statements that the degree of risk is unknown. In the
                       New Jersey study, the proportions were SB percent "risky."
                       18 percent "not risky." and 24 percent mixed or
                         This is  not bias, at  least  not as journalism understands
                       bias. It is  built into the concept of newsworthiness. If there
                       were no allegation of risk,  there would be  no story. That
                       •T"TT*M"B here might be risky is thus the core of the story:
                       having covered ft. the media give rather less attention to the
                       counterbalancing notion that it might not be risky.
"Explaining Environmental Risk. Some Note* on Environmental Ruk Communication.' by Peter M. Sandman for the TSCA Am--in. •
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986

                         Other factors contribute to the tilt toward alarming news.
                       One is the reporter's desire to "build" the story, to come back
                       with something that editors will want to showcase.
                       (Reporters are muck more interested in y!Unfl stories than in
                       "selling newspapers.") Another factor is the journalist's
                       preference for simple, graphic language, for "dump" rather
                       than "land emplacement." Risks sound riskier in simple
                       language than in technical jargon. The factor closest to
                       outright bias—but still distinguishable in the  minds of
                       journalists—is the media's traditional skepticism toward
                       those in authority. Most news is about powerful people, but
                       along with the advantage of access government and industry
                       must endure the  disadvantage of suspicion. Environmental
                       groups, by contrast, receive less attention from the media, but
                       the attention is mote consistently friendly.
                         On the other hand, the media are often and justly criticized
                       for being too slow to alert the public to new environmental
                       hazards. Considering that we rely largely on journalism as an
                       "early warning system" for social problems on the horizon,
                       this is a serious criticism. To gain a journalistic hearing, the
                       first source to assert a particular risk must be reasonably
                       credible, highly committed, and very lucky or very skilled.
                       Almost invariably, new technologies start out with
                       sweetheart coverage.  The environmental controversy comes
                       later, and only after the controversy is on the media agenda
                       (and the technology is perhaps too deeply embedded to be
                       dislodged] does the risky side of the argument catch up and
                       pull ahead. This  may be the worst of all possible patterns: to
                       fail to  warn us about risks when it's early enough to make a
                       societal go/no-go decision, then to frighten  us deeply about
                       risks after the decision has been made.
                         The principal exception to this pattern is emergencies. On
                       a chronic risk story, the risk is the story. But a genuine
                       emergency is by  definition a big story; freed from the need to
                       build the story, the reporter—especially the local reporter-
                       may try to prevent panic instead. The President's
                       Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island conducted
                       a content analysis of network, wire service, and major
                       newspaper coverage during the first week of the 1979
                       accident. The Commission's expectations of sensationalism
                       were not confirmed. Of media passages that were clearly
                       either  alarming or reassuring in thrust. 60 percent were
                       reassuring. If you stick to the technical issues, eliminating
                       passages about inadequate flow  of information and general
                       expressions of fearfulness from local citizens, the
                       preponderance of reassuring over alarming statements
                       becomes 73 percent to 27 percent.
                         It didn't seem  that way at the time, of course. The
                       inionnatioa that something previously Miiimmi to be- safe
                       may or may not be hazardous naturally strikes people as
"Explaining Environment*! Risk: Some Notes oo Environmental Risk Communication.'  by Peur M. Sandman for ibe TSCA Assisuo.t
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U S. Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986

                       alarming, almost regardless of the amount of attention paid to
                       the two sides; imagine reading this evening that scientists
                       disagree over whether your favorite food is carcinogenic.
                       Thus, •nri^iqgiat Allan. Mazuc hac found that public
                       tearfulness about risky new technologies is proportional to
                       the amount of coverage, not to its character. Media coverage
                       of environmental risk alerts the public to risks it was
                       otherwise unaware of. and thus increases the level of alarm
                       even when it is balanced.
                         None of this is a rationale for avoiding the media.  Even
                       balanced media coverage may not reliably lead to balanced
                       public opinion, but balanced  coverage is preferable to
                       unbalanced coverage. And the coverage is most  likely to be
                       balanced when sources on all sides are actively  trying to get
                       covered. People with knowledge and opinions to share
                       perform a public service when they share them. What can
                       you do to alert people to the risks of a new technology before
                       it is too late? What can you do to redress the alarming
                       imbalance once the media have begun to overdramatize the
                       risks? Energetic public relations will help with both  tasks.
                       though in both cases you will be working against the grain.

                        7.  Reporters do their jobs with limited expertise and time.
                       At all but the largest media, reporters covering environmental
                       risk are not likely to have any special preparation for the
                       assignment Specialized environmental reporters are more the
                       exception than the rule. Reporters covering an environmental
                       emergency, for example, are mostly general-assignment
                       reporters or police reporters, sent to the scene (or the phones)
                       without time to scan the morgue, much less a technical
                       handbook.  And reporters tend to be science-phobic in the
                       first place; the typical college journalism major  takes only
                       two science courses, and chooses those two carefully in an
                       effort to avoid rigor. Though there are many exceptions, the
                       average reporter approaches a technical story with
                       trepidation (often hidden by professional bravado), expecting
                       not to understand.
                         It doesn't help that the average reporter covers and writes
                       two to three stories a day. Here too there are exceptions, but
                       most journalists are in a great hurry most of the time. They
                       must make deadline not just on this story, but quite  often on
                       the story they will be covering after this one. Their goal.
                       reasonably, is not to find out  all that  is known,  but lust tu
                       find out enough to write (he story. Even if they  knew mure.
                       they would not have the space or airtime to report more, nor
                       do they believe their readers or viewers would have the
                       interest or patience to absorb more.
                         Note also that irrespective of what journalistic superstars
                       earn, the average reporter at a small daily newspaper takes
                       home perhaps S13.000-S18.000 a year. Considering their
"Explaining Environment!! Risk: Some Notes on Eavmonwoul Risk Communication." by Peur M. SMHIMII for the TSCA Auisuncr
Office. Office of TOXJC Substances, U S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986.

                       incomes, journalists are shockingly competent and dedicated.
                       but there are limits to how much competence and dedication
                       a salary in the teens can purchase.
                         If the idea appeals to you. by alt means offer to reach total
                       journalists the basics of your field—but don't expect general
                       assignment reporters to find much time (or much
                       stomach) for technical training they will use only a few times
                       a year. A beat reporter who covers your issue full-time (if
                       you are lucky enough to have one) is a much better candidate
                       for technical training.
                         Better still, train yourself (and your colleages and staff) in
                       dealing with the media. Hiring effective public information
                       specialists also helps, but reporters much prefer to talk to the
                       people in charge and the people in the know. Especially
                       during an emergency, press calls often go to the boss and the
                       expert instead of the press office, so the boss and the expert
                       should know how to talk to reporters. The annals of risk
                       communication are full of stories of corporate managers and
                       agency bureaucrats who shot themselves in the foot—and
                       permanently damaged their organizations—because they
                       hadn't the least idea of how to deal with the  media. Even the
                       best communication skills can't rescue a technical disaster, of
                       course: who wants to handle the  PR at Chernobyl or Bhopal?
                       But inadequate communication skills can create a disaster
                       that needn't have been
                         And adequate communication skills am not so bant to
                       develop. All it takes is a little understanding of how the
                       media work, a little training in dealing with reporters, and a
                       little experience to smooth out the rough edges.  Why. then.
                       do so many rr.dnagers. bureaucrats, and technical experts
                       avoid all contact with the media? Because it's risky.
                       Reporters don't alwavs understand  what you're telling them:
                       they don't always share vour goals and values: they don't
                       always handle their  jobs the wav you want them to. In all
                       these ways and rnanv others, reporters may be different from
                       the people you usually work wiih. And so working with
                       reporters may sound  like something less than an unalloyed
                         Pleasure or not. the risks of ducking the media are far
                       greater than the risks of working  with them. Every news story
                       about environmental risk ib a collaboration between the
                       lournalisls working on the  storv and the sources they talk to.
                       There's not too much you tan do to change the nature of
                       journalism or the performance of journalists.  But you can
                       understand them and figure out how to deal with them. By
                       improving your own  performance as a source, you con bring
                       about a real improvement in media coverage  of
                       environmental risk.
'ExpUinug EovironmeDUl Rule- Some Nocei on Environment*! Risk Comniinicaiioa." by Peur M. Sudraio far the TSCA
Office. Office of Toxic Subsuacu. U.S Environmental Procectjoi Agency, November 1986.

                       Dealing  With  The Public
                       1. Risk perception is a lot more than mortality statistics. If
                       death rates are the only thing you care about, then the public
                       is afraid of the wrong risks. That is. public fears are not well
                       correlated with expert assessments  or mortality statistics.
                       This is often seen as a perceptual distortion on the part  of
                       the public, but a more useful way to see it is as an oversim-
                       plification on the part of many experts and policy-makers. In
                       other words, the concept of  risk  means a lot more than
                         Virtually everyone would rather drive home from a party
                       on the highway than walk home on deserted streets. Even if
                       we do not miscalculate the relative statistical likelihood of a
                       fatal mugging versus a fatal car crash, the possibility of
                       getting mugged strikes us as an outrage, while we accept the
                       possibility of an auto accident as voluntary and largely
                       controllable through good driving. (Eighty-five percent of all
                       drivers consider themselves better than average.) Similarly, a
                       household product, however carcinogenic, seems a lot less
                       risky than a high-tech hazardous waste treatment
                       facility— the farmer is familiar and under one's own control.
                       while the latter is exotic and controlled by others.
                         Risk perception experts (especially psychologists Paul
                       Slovic. Sarah Lichtenstein, and Baruch Fischhoff) have spent
                       years studying how people interpret risk.  The following list
                       identifies some of the characteristics other than mortality that
                       factor into our working definitions  of risk. Remember, these
                       are not distortions of risk; they are  part of what we mean by
                       the term.
                  Lew Risky                           MoreRuky
                  Voluntary                             Involuntary
                  Familiar                              Unfamiliar
                  Controllable                           Uncontrollable
                  Controlled by self                     Controlled by others
                  Fair                                  Unfair
                  Not memorable                       Memorable
                  Not dread                             Dread
                  Chronic                              Acute
                  Diffuse in time and space             Focused in time and space
                  Not fatal                              Fatal
                  Immediate                            Delayed
                  Natural                               Artificial
                  Individual mitigation p«^«'^»^•          Individual Britftt^^** impossible
                  Detectable                            Undetectable

"Explaining Environmental Risk- Some Notes on Eaviroomeoul Risk Communication," by Pact M. Sandman for the TSCA Assnunc-
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986

                         The very same risk—as experts see these things—will be
                       understood quite differently by the lay public
                       depending on where it stands on the dimensions listed
                       above. Some thirty percent of the homes ia northern New
                       Jersey, for example, have enough radon seeping into their
                       basements to pose more than a one-in-a-hundred lifetime risk
                       of lung cancer, according to estimates by the U.S.
                       Environmental Protection Agency and the Slate Departments
                       of Health and Environmental Protection. But despite
                       considerable media attention (at least in the beginning), only
                       five percent of North Jersey homeowners have arranged to
                       monitor their home* for radon, and even among these few
                       the level of distress  is modest—compared, say. to the
                       reaction when dioxin is discovered in a landfill, objectively a
                       much smaller health risk. Siate nffiriaU were initially
                       concerned about a radon panic, but apathy has turned out to
                       be the bigger problem.
                         The source of the radon in New Jersey homes is geological
                       uranium; it has been there since time immemorial, and no
                       one is to blame. But three New Jersey communities—
                       Montclair. Glen Ridge, and West
                       Orange—have faced a different radon problem: landfill that
                       incorporated radioactive industrial wastes. Though their
                       home readings were no higher than in many homes on
                       natural hotspots, citizens in the three communities were
                       nMtngmA and fearful, and they successfully demanded that
                       the government spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per
                       home to clean up the landfill. The state's proposal to dilute
                       the soil nearly to background levels and then dispose of it in
                       an abandoned quarry in the rural community of Vernon has
                       provoked New Jersey's largest environmental demonstrations
                       in years, with thousands of residents swearing civil
                       disobedience sooner than let the  trucks go through. In nearby
                       communities threatened by naturally occurring radon.
                       meanwhile, the concern is minimal.
                         It doesn't help to wish that people would confine their
                       definitions of risk to the mortality statistics. They  won't.
                       Mortality statistics are important, of course, and policy-
                       makers understandably prefer to focus on the  risks
                       that are really killing people, rather than the risks that are
                       frightening or angering people because they are involuntary.
                       unfamiliar, uncontrollable, etc. But successful risk
                       commuication begins with the realization that risk perception
                       is predictable, that the public overreacts to certain sorts of
                       risks and ignores others, that you can know in advance
                       whether the communication problem will be pjinc or apathy.
                       And  since these differences between risks are real and
                       relevant, it helps to put  them on the table. Merely
                       acknowledging thai a nsk seems especially fearful because tt
'Explaining Environment!) Ruk  Some Notes on Environmental Riik Communication," by Peter M Sandman for the TSCA A«
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986

                       is unfamiliar or unfair will help. Doing something to remedy
                       the unfamiliarity or unfairness will help even more.
                         Just to make things more complicated, tisk perception is
                       not linear, not for anybody. That i». you can't just multiply
                       how probable a risk is by how harmful it is to get how badly
                       people want to prevent it. (If you could, there would be no
                       insurance industry and no gambling industry.) In general.
                       people will pay more to protect against low-probability loss
                       than to pursue low-probability gain—but if the price is low
                       enough to be dismissed as negligible, even an infinitesimal
                       chance at a big payoff looks good.
                         Risk judgments are also very responsive to verbal cues.
                       Doctors, for example, are much more likely to prescribe a
                       new medication that saves 30 percent of its patients than one
                       that loses 70 percent of them. A pollutant or an accident that
                       will eventually give cancer to 10.000 people sounds very
                       serious, but one that will add less  than one tenth of one
                       percent to the national cancer rate sounds almost negligible.
                       There is in fact no "neutral" way to present risk  data, only
                       ways that are alarming or reassuring in varying degrees.
                         Finally, people's perception of risk is greatly influenced by
                       the  social context. Our responses to new risks, in fact, are
                       largely predictable based on our enduring values and social
                       relationships.  Do we like or dislike, trust or distrust the
                       people of institutions whose >j«T»q»**nc me putting us at risk?
                       Do our friends and neighbors consider the risks tolerable or
                       intolerable? Are they enduring higher risks than  ours, or
                       escaping with lower ones? All these factors, though they are
                       irrelevant to the mortality statistics, are intrinsic parts of
                       what we mean by risk.

                       2. Moral categories mean more than risk data. The public
                       is far from sure that risk is the real issue in the first place.
                       Over the past several  decades our  society has reached near-
                       consensus that pollution is me illy wrong—not just harmful
                       or dangerous,  not just worth preventing where practical, but
                       wrong. To many ears it now sounds callous, if not immoral.
                       to assert that cleaning up a river or catching a midnight
                       dumper isn't worth the expense, that the cost outweighs the
                       risk, that there are cheaper ways to save lives. The police do
                       not  always catch  child molesters. but they know not to argue
                       that an occasional molested child  is an "acceptable risk."
                         Government agencies build their own traps when they
                       promulgate policy (and public relations) in the language of
                       morality, depicting food additives  or chemical wastes or
                       polluted water as evils against which they vow to protect the
                       innocent public. It is not at all obvious which environmental
                       "insults" (anothsr term with moral overtones) a society
                       should reject on moral grounds and which it should <
"Explaining Environmental Risk Some Notes oa Environmental Risk Communication." by Peter M. Sandman for the TSCA
Office, Office of Toxic Substances. U.S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986.

                        strictly in terms of impact. But an agency that presents itself
                        and its mission in moral terms should expect to be held to its
                        stance. And an agency that wishes to deal with
                        environmental risk in terms of costs-and-benefits instead of
                        good-afid-evtl should proceed gently and cautiously, aware
                        that it is tramping on holy ground.
                          Nor is morality the only principled basis for questioning
                        the costs-and-benefits premises of risk assessment. Just as the
                        moralist challenges the Tightness of trading off certain risks
                        against costs or benefits, the humanist challenges the
                        coherence of the tradeoffs. How. the humanist asks, can
                        anyone make sense of a standard that tries to put a cash
                        value on human life? Or. indeed, of a standard that assumes
                        that a hundred widely scattered deaths per year are
                        equivalent to a one-in-a-hundred chance of obliterating a
                        commupity of 10.000?
                          Similarly, the political critique of the premises of risk
                        assessment begins by noting that "the greatest good for the
                        greatest number" has always been a convenient rationale for
                        the oppression of minorities. Democratic theory asserts that
                        individuals and groups should be free to bargain for their
                        own interests, and should be protected from the tyranny of
                        the majority. There is nothing unreasonable about the
                        suggestion that equitable distribution of risks and
                        benefits— and of the power to allocate risks and benefits — is
                                  important *^">n the mintmiTiitifm of *"***i risk or
                       the maximization of total benefit. It may be efficient to dump
                       every environmental indignity on the same already degraded
                       community, but it is not fair.

                        3. Policy decisions are seen as either risky or safe. Like
                       the media, the public tends to dichotomize risk. Either the
                       risk is seen as very frightening, in which case the response is
                       some mix of fear, anger, panic, and paralysis: or the risk is
                       dismissed as trivial, in which case the response is apathy.
                          In their personal lives, people do not necessarily dichoto-
                       mize risk. Most of us are quite capable of understanding that
                       the picnic might or might not be rained out. that the boss
                       might or might not get angry, even that smoking might or
                       might not give us lung cancer. Of course quantified
                       probabilistic statements are genuinely hard to understand,
                       especially when the probabilities are small, the units are
                       unfamiliar, and the experts disagree. But beyond these
                       perplexities lies another issue of enormous importance to
                       risk communication. While people may (with difficulty)
                       master a probabilistic risk statement that concerns what they
                       should do to protect themselves, they are bound to resist
                       probabilistic risk statements that concern what others
                                       } «**""!«* da to p^nt! than. On toy own:
"Explaining Eaviroiuneoli] Riik Some Notes OB Environmental Risk Commuaicaiioa." by Peur M. Sandman for the TSCA Astituocc
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S. Environmental Proieouon Agency. November 1986.

                       behalf. 1 may choose to tolerate a risk or to protect against it.
                       but for you to decide thai my risk is tolerable i* itself
                       intolerable. Quantitative risk assessments, risk-benetil
                       calculations, risk-cost ratios, and risk-risk comparisons are all
                       hard  to hear when we bear the risk and someone else makes
                       the decision.

                       4. Equity and control issues underlie most risk
                       controversies.  Trust and credibility are often cited as the key
                       problems of risk communication. Certainly few people trust
                       government and industry to protect them from environmental
                       risk. This is just as true of the passive, apparently apathetic
                       public as it is of the activist, visibly angry public. The former
                       is, simply more fatalistic, more prone to denial, more
                       completely drowned in undiscriminating chemophobia. The
                       activist public, in other words, distrusts others to protect its
                       interests and thus chooses to  protect its own. The far larger
                       passive public is passive not because it believes others will
                       protect its interests, but because it doubts it can protect its
                       own. Both publics listen to the reassurances  of government
                       and industry—if they listen at all—with considerable
                        But to say that trust is the problem here is to assume that
                       the goal is a passive public that doesn't mind being passive.
                       If the goal is an actively concerned public then the problem
                       isn't that people are distrustful, but rather that government
                       and industry demand to be trusted. Translate the question of
                       trust  into the underlying issue of control: Who decides what
                       is to be done?
                        Any environmental risk controversy has two levels. The
                       substantive issue is what to do; the process issue is who
                       decides. So long as people feel disempowered on the process
                       issue, they are understandably unbending on the substantive
                       issue, in much the same way as a child forced to go to bed
                       protests the injustice of bedtime coercion without
                       considering whether he or she is sleepy. It isn't just that
                       people oppose any decision they view as involuntary and
                       unfair, regardless of its wisdom; because the equity and
                       control issues come first, people typically never even ask
                       themselves whether they agree on the merits. Outraged at the
                       coercion, they simply dig in their heels. It is hardly
                       coincidental that risks the public tends to overestimate
                       generally raise serious issues of equity and control, while
                       most of the widely underestimated risks (smoking, fat in the
                       diet, insufficient exercise, driving without a  seatbell) are
                       individual choices.
                        Specialists in negotiation, and. conflict resolution have long
                      the process issues of equity and control. Consider for
"Explaining Environmental Risk Some Notes on Environmental Risk Communication.* by Peter M Sandman for the TSCA A.«snun,-
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986.

                      example a community chosen by the state government to
                      "host" a hazardous waste incinerator, justly offended at this
                      infringement of local autonomy, the community prepares to
                      litigate, frantically collecting ammunition on the
                      unacceptability of the site. Both their anger and the legaf
                      process itself encourage community members to overestimate
                      the risk of the proposed facility, to resist any argument that
                      some package of mitigation, compensation, and incentives
                      might actually yield a net gain in the community's health
                      and safety, as well as its prosperity.
                        In interviews with community members faced with such a
                      situation, the control issue tends to overshadow the risk
                      assessment. But when citizens are asked to hypothesize a de
                      facto community veto and envision a negotiation with the
                      site developer, they become quite creative in designing an
                      agreement they might want to sign: emissions offsets.
                      stipulated penalties, bonding against a decline in property
                      values, etc. It is still too early to tell whether a negotiated
                      hazardous waste treatment facility is feasible. But thinking
                      about  such a negotiation becomes possible for community
                      members only when they feel empowered—that is. when the
                      issue of outside coercion has been satisfactorily addressed.
                        On this dimension people's response to information is not
                      much  different from their response to persuasion. We tend to
                      learn for a reason—either we're curious, or we're committed
                      to » point of view and looking for ammunition, or we're
                      faced with a pending decision and looking for guidance.
                      These three motivations account for most
                      information-seeking and  most learning—and none of them
                      exerts much influence when an individual citizen is offered
                      information about, say. a Superfund clean-up plan. A few
                      stalwart souls will read out of curiosity, though it won't take
                      much technical detail to put a stop to that. Activists will
                      scour the plan for evidence to support their position or for
                      evidence that their position wasn't properly cutisidei ed.
                      (Activists know what they think and believe they can make a
                      difference.) And those charged with litigating, funding, or
                      implementing the plan study it in order to do their jobs.
                        And the general public? Why leam if you feel powerless
                      do anything about what you have learned? On the other
                      hand, when the public has felt it was exercising real
                      influence on a decision—the ASARCO smelter in Tacoma
                      comes to mind—it has shown a surprising ability to master
                      the technical details, including risk assessment details.
                        Not  that every citizen wants to play a pivotal role in
                      environmental decision. We have our own lives to lead, and
                      we would prefer to trust  the authorities. If the issue is
                      unimportant enough we often decide to trust the authorities
                      despite our retenratkma; 'if the crin* b» uipent enough we
"EipUiaiDg Environment*] Ruk-  Some Noiei OB Enwoomenul Risk Communicuion,' by Peter M. Sudmu for the TSCA
Office. Office of Toxic Substance*. U.S. Environmental Prowcuon Agency. November 1986.

                       may feel we have no choice but to trust the authorities, again
                       despite our reservations. The gravest problems of risk
                       communication tend to arise when citizens determine thai
                       the issue is important, that the authorities cannot be trusted.
                       and that they themselves are powerless. Then comes the
                       backlash of outrage.

                       5.  Risk decisions an better when the public shares the
                       power. People learn more and assess what  they learn more
                       carefully if they exercise some real control over the ultimate
                       decision. But this sort of power-sharing is. of course.
                       enormously difficult for policy-makers, for a wide range of
                       political, legal, professional, and psychological reasons.
                       Interestingly, corporate officials may sometimes find
                       power-sharing less unpalatable than government officials.
                       Corporations have a bottom line to nurture, and when all else
                       fails they may see the wisdom of sharing  power in the
                       interests of profit. But government officials have no profit to
                       compensate for the loss of power, so they may find it harder
                       to share.
                        "Public participation," as usually practiced, is not a
                       satisfactory substitute for power-sharing. To be sure, telling
                       the public what you're doing is better than not telling the
                       public what you're doing. Seeking "input" and "feedback" is
                       better still. But most public participation  is. too little too late:
                       "After yews of effort, summarized in tins* 300-peg* report, we
                       have reached the following conclusions.... Now what do you
                       folks think?" At this point it is hard enough for the agency to
                       take the input seriously, and harder still for the public to
                       believe it will be taken seriously. There is little power-
                       sharing in the "decide-announce-defend" tradition of public
                        The solution is obvious, though difficult to  implement.
                       Consultations with the public on risk management should
                       begin early tit the process and continue throughout. This
                       means an agency must be willing to tell the public about a
                       risk be/ore it has done its homework—before the experts
                       have assessed the risk thoroughly, before  all the policy
                       options have been articulated, way before the policy
                       decisions have been made. There are dangers  to this strategy:
                       people twill ask the agency what it proposes to do about the
                       problem, and the agency will have to say  it isn't sure yet. But
                       on  balance an agency is better off explaining why it doesn't
                       yet have all the answers than explaining why it didn't share
                       them years ago. In fact, not having all the answers can be
                       made into an asset, a demonstration of real  openness to
                       public input. The goal, after all, is to enlist  the rationality of
                          citizenry, so that citizens and mpwto an*
                        _ Mbar to fignmont how greet the risk i* and what to do
                      about it.
"Explaining Environmental Risk. Some Ntte§ oo Environmental Ruk Communication," by Peter M. Sandman for the TSCA Ai>
Office, Office of Toxic Subnancej. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986.

                         Of course no responsible agency will go public without
                       any answers. What's important is to propose options X. Y.
                       and Z tentatively, with genuine openness to V and W. and to
                       community comments that may eliminate Z. A list of options.
                       and alternatives—and a fair and open procedure for
                       comparing them and adding new ones—is far more
                       conducive to real power-sharing than a "draft" decision.
                         This sort of genuine public participation is the moral right
                       of the citizenry. It is also sound policy. Undeterred by
                       conventional wisdom, lay people often have good ideas that
                       experts can adapt to the situation at hand; at a minimum,
                       lay people are the experts on what frightens them and  what
                       would reassure them. When citizens participate in a risk
                       management decision, moreover, they are far more likely to
                       accept it. for at least three reasons: (1) They have instituted
                       changes that make it objectively more acceptable; (Z) They
                       have got past the process issue of control and mastered the
                       technical data on risk; that is, they have learned why the
                       experts consider it acceptable; and (3) They have been  heard
                       and not excluded, and so can appreciate the legitimacy of the
                       decision even if they continue to dislike the decision itself.

                        6. Explaining risk  information is difficult but not
                       impossible, if the motivation is there. High school teachers
                       have long marveled that a student who couldn't make sense
                       of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities had no trouble with  Hot
                       Roifs far more* complex instructions' on how to adjust one's
                       sparkplugs for a fast start on a rainy day. Motivation makes
                       the difference. When people have a reason to  learn, they
                         It is still possible for communicators to make the learning
                       easier or harder—and scientists and bureaucrats have
                       acquired a fairly consistent reputation for making it harder.
                       At Three Mile Island, for example, the level of technical
                       jargon was actually  higher when the experts were talking to
                       the public and the news media than when they were talking
                       to each other. The transcripts of urgent telephone
                       conversations between nuclear engineers were usually
                       simpler to understand than the transcripts of news
                       conferences. To be sure, jargon is a genuine tool of
                       professional communication, conveying meaning (to those
                       with the requisite training) precisely and concisely. But it
                       also serves as a tool to avoid communication  with outsiders.
                       and as a sort of membership badge, a sign of the status
                       difference between  the professional and everyone else.
                         Like any piece of professional  socialization, the tendency
                       to mystify outsiders becomes automatic, habitual more than
                       malevolent. It's hard for a layperson to get a straight answer
                       from, sjkoqwft *VSB when, nothing, much is aft stoke. Whaaa
                       potentially serious, risk is at stake, <
•Explaining Environment*] Rufc Some Noia oa Environmental Ruk rn»m..L^ro, • by Peur M. Sandman for ihe TSCA Auisuocc
Office. Office of Toxic Substances. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. November 1916.

                      frightened or angry or exhausted, when the experts aren't
                      sure what the answers are. when the search for a scapegoat is
                      at hanH effective rgmmimi^tinn {5 g jot to expect.
                        la many dak communication interactions, in short, the
                      public doesn't really want to understand (because it feels
                      powerless and resentful) and the experts don't really want to
                      be understood (because  they prefer to hold onto their
                      information monopoly).  The public finds it convenient to
                      blame the experts for obfuscation, and the experts find it
                      convenient to blame the public for obtuseness. These
                      motivational issues are probably more important than the
                      traditional concerns of clarity in determining whether real
                      knowledge will pass from expert to public.
                        Within the traditional concerns of clarity, the  major issue
                      is Bimplifrcatton. Even assuming a public that wants to
                      understand and an. expert who wants to b& understood, risk
                      information must still be simplified.
                        Insofar as possible, of  course, it is wise to simplify
                      language rather than content. That is, take the extra words to
                      make hard ideas clear. Unfortunately, neither the expert
                      source nor the lay audience is  usually willing to dedicate the
                      time needed to convey complex information a step at a time.
                      So inevitably simplification becomes a matter of deciding
                      what information to leave out.  Experts are famous for their
                      conviction that no information may be left out; unable to tell
                      all, they often wind up telling  nothing;
                        In  fact, there are three standard rules of thumb for
                      popularizing technical content. (1) Tell people what you
                      have determined they ought to know—the answers to the
                      questions they are asking, the instructions for coping with
                      the crisis, whatever. This requires thinking through your
                      information  goals and your audience's information needs,
                      then resolutely keeping  the stress where you have decided it
                      should be. (2) Add what people must know in order to
                              nd and/eeJ that they understand the information-
                      whatever context or background is needed to
                      prevent confusion or misunderstanding. The key here is to
                      imagine where the audience is likely to go off-track, then
                      provide the information that will prevent the error. (3) Add
                      enough qualifiers and structural guidelines to prepare people
                      for what you are not telling them, so additional  information
                      later will not leave them feeling unprepared or misled. Partly
                      this is just a matter of sounding tentative; partly it is
                      constructing a scaffolding of basic points on which people
                      can hang the new details as they come in. Applying these
                      three rules isn't easy, but it is a lot easier than trying to tell
                      everything you know.
                        Tha hvdsxt put of simplifying risk information is explain*
                      log the risk itself. This is hard not orrfjr because risk
"Explaining Environmental Risk: Some Notes on Environmental Risk Communication." by Paer M. Sandman for the TSCA Asusuocr
Office. Office of Toxic Substance], U S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986.

                       ments are intrinsically complex and uncertain, but also
                       because audiences cling tenaciously to their safe-or-
                       dangerous dichotomy. One path out of dichotomous
                       thinking is the tradeoff: especially risk benefit, but also
                       risk-cost or risk-risk. But there is, solid evidence that
                       ley people resist this way of thinking; trading risks against
                       benefits is especially offensive when the risks raise moral
                       issues and  the "victims" are not the ones making the choice.
                       Another alternative to dichotomy is the risk comparison: X is
                       more dangerous than Y and less dangerous than Z. But as we
                       have already noted, risk means a lot more than mortality
                       statistics, and comparing an involuntary risk like nuclear
                       power to a voluntary one like smoking invariably irritates
                       more than it enlightens—as does any risk comparison  that
                       ignores the distinctions listed at the start of this section.
                         The ftnqi option to dichotomy is to. provide *^n •***««*! ditto
                       on deaths or illnesses or probability of occurrence or
                       whatever. This must be done carefully, with explicit
                       acknowledgement of uncertainty, of moral issues, and of
                       non-statistical factors like voluntariness that profoundly
                       affect our sense of risk. Graphs and charts will help; people
                       understand pictorial representations of probability far  better
                       than quantitative ones.
                         Don't expect too much. People can understand risk
                       tradeoffs, risk comparisons, and risk probabilities when they
                       are carefully  explained. But usually people don't really want
                       to iinrienlanri Those who am frightened* angry, and
                       powerless will resist the information that their risk is
                       modest; those who are optimistic and overconfident will
                       resist the information that their risk is substantial. Over the
                       long haul, risk communication has more to do with  fear,
                       anger, powerlessness. optimism and overconfidence than
                       with finding ways to simplify complex information.

                        7.  Risk communication is easier when emotions are  seen as
                       legitimate. It follows from what we have been saying that an
                       important aspect of risk communication is finding ways to
                       address the feelings of the audience. Unfortunately, experts
                       and bureaucrats find this difficult to do. Many have spent
                       years learning to ignore feelings, their own and everyone
                       else's; whether they are scientists interpreting data or
                       managers setting policy, they are deeply committed  to doing
                       their jobs without emotion.
                         At an even deeper level, scientists and bureaucrats have
                       had to learn to ignore the individual, to recognize that good
                       science and good policy must deal in averages and
                       probabilities. This becomes most obvious when a few  people
                       feel threatened by a generally desirable action, such as the
                       siting of a hazardous waste facility. Experts who are
                                that tfrj riak U «m
                       well try to sympathize with the target community—but their
                       training tells them playing the odds is a good bet. somebody
                       has to take the risk* 
                          The pain can easily transform into a kind of icy paternal-
                        ism, an 'Tm-going-to-help-you-even-if-you-don'l-know-what's-
                        good-for-you" attitude. This of course triggers even more
                        distrust, even, stronger displays of anger and feat. Risk
                        communication stands a better chance of working when both
                        sets of feelings—the expert's and the community's—are on
                        the table.
                          Feelings are not usually the core issue in risk communica-
                        tion controversies. The core issue is usually control, and the
                        way control affects how people define risk and how they
                        approach information about risk. But the stereotypical
                        conflict between the icy expert and the hysterical citizen is
                        nonetheless emblematic of the overall problem. The expert
                        has most of the "rational" resources—expertise, of course;
                        stature; f*>Tml control of  *lv ultimate d«"-'gi"i Neither &
                        direct beneficiary nor a potential victim, the expert can
                        afford to assess  the situation coldly. Indeed, the expert dare
                        not assess the situation in any other way. The concerned
                        citizen, meanwhile, has mainly the resources of passion-
                        genuine outrage; depth of commitment; willingness
                        to endure personal sacrifice; community solidarity; informal
                        political power. To generate the energy needed to stop the
                        technical juggernaut, the citizen must assess the situation
                         A fundamental premise of "Explaining Environmental
                        Risk" is that risk understanding and risk decision-making
                        will improve when control is democratized. We will know
                        this is happening when citizens begin approaching risk
                        issues more coolly, and experts more warmly.
"Explaining Environment*! Risk Some Notes on Environmental Rjik Communication."  by Peter M Sandman for the TSCA
Office, Office of Toxic Substances. U.S Environmental Protection Agenc)  November 1986

                     Selected Bibliography
                        Covello, Vincent T., "The Perception of Technological
                      Risks: A Literature Review," Technological Forecasting and
                      Social Change, 1983, pp. 285-287.

                        Covello, Vincent T.. Detlof von WInterfeldt, end Paul
                      Slovic, "Communicating Scientific Information about Health
                      and Environmental Risks: Problems and Opportunities from a
                      Social and Behavioral Perspective," in V. Covello. A.
                      Moghissi, and V.R.R. Uppuluri, Uncertainties in Risk
                      Assessment and Risk Management (New York: Plenum
                      Press. 1986), in press.

                        Fischhoff, Baruch. "Protocols for Environmental Reporting:
                      What to Aak the Experts," The Journalist (Foundation for
                      American Communications). Winter 1985. pp. 11-15.

                        Klaidman. Stephen, "Health Risk Reporting," Institute for
                      Health Policy Analysis, Georgetown University Medical
                      Center. Washington, DC, 1985.

                        Mazur, Allan, "Media Coverage and Public Opinion on
                      Scientific Controversies,  journal of Communication. 1981.
                      pp. 106-11*.

                        Mazur. Allan, "Bias in Risk-Benefit Analysis." Technology
                      in Society. 1985. pp. 25-30.
                        Nelkin, Dorothy, Science in the Streets (New York:
                      Twentieth Century Fund, 1984).

                        PlBBiuMnrf Gonmnsnon on the AcQomt at Three Mile
                      bland. Report of the Public's Right to Information Task Force
                      (Washington. DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979).

                        Ruckelshaus. William, "Risk in a Free Society," Risk
                      Analysis, September 1984, pp. 157-163.

                        Sandman, Peter M., "Getting to Maybe: Some
                      Communications Aspects of Hazardous Waste Facility
                      Siting." Seton Hall Legislative Journal. Spring 1986.
"Explaining Environment*! Ruk: Some Notes on Environment*! Risk Communicition." by tea M. Saodmu for the TSCA Aisisun.r
Office. Office of Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Prote'cuon Agency. November 1986.

                        Sandman. Peter M., David B. Sachsman. Michael
                      Greenberg. Mayme Jurkat. Audrey R. Gotsch, and Michael
                      Gochfeld, "Environmental Risk Reporting in New Jersey
                      Newspapers." Environmental Risk Reporting Project.
                      Department of Journalism and Mass Media. Rutgers
                      University, January 1986.

                        Sharlin, Harold I., "EDB: A Case Study in the
                      Communication of Health Risk," Office of Policy Analysis,
                      U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. January 1985.

                        Slovic, Paul, "Informing and Educating the Public About
                      Risk," Decision Research Report 85-5. November 19A4.

                        Slovic. Paul, Baruch Fischhoff, and Sarah Lichtenstein,
                      "Facts and Fears: Understanding Perceived Risk." in R.C.
                      Schwing and W. Al Albers, eds., Societal Risk Assessment:
                      How Safe Is Safe Enough? (New York: Plenum, 1980), pp.
                        Weinstein. Neil D., and Peter M. Sandman,
                      "Recommendations for a Radon Risk Communication
                      Program," Office of Science and* Research, Now Jersey
                      Department of Environmental Protection, November 1985.
"Explaining Environmental Rule  Some Notes on Environmental Risk Communication.' by Peter M Sandman for ihe TSCA A-
Office. Office of Toxic Substances, U S Environmental Protection Agency. November 1986


                         PUBLIC MEETING


                             Prepared by

     CDR Ahrfn Chun, USPHS, Senior EhrfronmenUl HeaHh Policy Advisor
                   Arnold R. Den, Senior Science Advisor
                   Office of the Regional Administrator
              U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9
      Following is a list of questions which are often asked by the public,
along with some typical responses. The list is taken from EPA, Region 9's
Risk & Decision Making and Risk Communication & Public Involvement
Courses. It serves to illustrate the use of EPA's Seven Cardinal Rules of Risk
Communication and the careful preparation that is required.

      The authors welcome your comments and any suggestions for
additional questions. Based on your responses, the list may be expanded or
revised. All comments may be directed to the authors at (415) 744-1019 or
      A CAUTION TO THE READER - The sample responses are offered
      only as ideas, from which you must develop your own responses.
      The responses are not intended to be memorized and used
      verbatim. A response may be used only if it addresses the
      specific needs of your audience, and it is comfortable for both you
      and your agency. Your responses must be open, honest, frank,
      and meet the needs of your public or audience. It may not be
      obvious, but developing your responses usually requires policy
      input from management as well as technical input from other
      credible sources.  Hits preparation is essential to your performance;
      if you fail to prepare, you cant expect to gain the important trust
      and respect of our public constituents, and you wont be effective.
• Cardinal Rule *2 from EPA's Seven Cardinal Rides of Risk Communication (See page 2.)


    Seven Cardinal  Rules  of  Risk Communication
        1. Accept and involve the public as a legitimate partner.
        2. Flan carefully and evaluate your performance. (CR2)
        3. Listen to the public's feelings. (CR3)

           (Examples of."active listening' are offered in some of the
           responses to the questions which follow. These specific
           examples are underlined for easy reading.)

        4. Be honest, open, and frank. (CR4)
        5. Coordinate and collaborate with other credible sources.
        6. Meet the needs of the media. (CR6)
        7. Speak dearly and with compassion. (CRT)
"Public Meeuog: Typical Questions ud Sample Responses," By Alvin Chun and Arnold R. Den. Office of the Regional Admimnru .
Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

      1.     Q.    Why can't I ask my question now?

            Underlying Public Need: The Agency agenda isn't working and  the
            public would like their  concerns and questions addressed first.

       •  Reminder Note: Underlined sentences are example,} of "activf* listening "

            A.    Sounds like there are a lot of questions that need to be answered
                  now> Maybe we should do that first and save the rest of the
                  agenda for later? Is that OK? (Principles: Listen,, feedback, and
                  accept the public as a legitimate partner in deciding on the
                  agenda.) (CR1,3)

            A.    I know you all have a lot of questions that you want answered.
                  Would it be alright if we proceed with the 20-30 minute
                  presentation, where I suspect that many of your questions will be
                  answered, and then leave the next period of time for the rest of
                  your questions? (Prindplesi I i-aton, food Hark  with a
                  recommendation and accept the public as a legitimate partner in
                  deciding on the agenda.) (CR1,3)

            A.    Poor Response: Please let me finish my talk!  (Not listening to
                  the audience's need for answers to their questions, and giving
                  the impression that we don't care and that we know better than
                  they do. Thus, we are not treating them as legitimate partners.)

            A.    Poor Response:  Please (wfffr hand1 raised at audience} all
                  questions will be taken after our presentation! We need to
                  follow the agenda. Let us give our presentation and then we'll
                  take questions.

      2.     Q.    Why won't you answer my question? (This is usually a follow-
                  up question to Question #1 when the Agency insists that
                  qufuliom will be answered only after the pieseitULion.)

            Underlying Public Need: The public would like to vent feelings and
            have us listen and be responsive so that they can find out  if we are on
            their side and taking adequate action.  Also, they may not  want a
            "slick" presentation but are more  interested in direct answers to their
            personal questions.

            A.    I apologize if we have not answered your questions. I have
                  written your questions here (on flip chart), and I have saved this
                  part of the agenda to answer them.  I think that many of your
                  questions will be answered in the 20-30 minute presentation that
                  we have prepared, and it may save everyone  some time.  Our
"Pubic Meeting Typical Queitioas tod Sample Responses.* By AJvin Chun and Arnold R. Deo. Office of the Regional Adnuuiirunr
Office of the Senior Science Advisor.  EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

        presentation will cover some important questions which may be
        on your mind such as, "Is my family safe? What are we
        planning on doing about it? What's been going on?"  If that
        sounds like it will work for you, could we proceed? And if it
        isn't working, then we'll have to think of something else.
        (Principles: Listen, feedback with helpful suggestions and
        involve the public in deciding how to proceed.)  (CR 1,3)

  A.    You've asked a very good question and maybe we haven't been
        listening too wgH How many of you have questions and would
        like them answered? I see there are a lot of questions. Let me
        make 2 suggestions for how you might want to proceed, and you
        can tell me if either one sounds good.  (Principles: Listen,
        feedback with helpful suggestions and involve the public in
        deciding how to proceed.) (CR1,3)

        One suggestion is to answer your questions first until they are
        all answered, and then if you are  still interested and have the
        time, we could give our 20 minute presentation. Also, we have
        a fact sheet which, summarizes much of the presentation if you
        can't stay for the whole meeting.

        The other suggestion is to let us give a 20-minute presentation
        so that everyone will have some  common understanding of the
        situation, and be able to ask some questions which they may not
        have otherwise. We have a 20 minute presentation, and it may
        answer many of your questions. After the presentation, we- can
        spend the rest of the evening answering all your questions.
        Since there are a lot of questions, and many of you can't stay pass
        11 P.M., when the meeting was suppose to end, we will try to
        accommodate your questions first and stay until all your
        questions have been addressed.

        Now let1 s have a show of hands to decide how we should
        proceed.  How many would like to hear the presentation- first?
        How many would like to get at the questions first?

  A.    Poor Response:  Sir, if you would just let me finish, Til get to
        your question at the end, and we'll answer all questions then.
        (Not listening to the public Agency is more concerned about
        sticking to the agenda and maintaining control of the meeting.
        In its attempt to maintain control, the Agency will likely lose
        control.  An important point to consider:  If your meeting goal is
        to give your presentation at any expense, then this would have
        tw*n a gTM>d rgfpgnM. However, this is usually not our intended
        goal. Oar goal normally is to try to meet the needs of the

"Public Meeung- Typical Queiuou and Sample Rcjponjes," By AJvio Chun ud Arnold R. Den. Office of the Regional Adminisuu.
Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

            community in trying to solve the environmental problem.
            Given that as our goal, if a community is insisting to be heard
            we should recognize their need and try to meet it, or present
            them with alternatives that meet both their needs and the
            Agency's, and let them choose.)

3.    Q.    What have you done about it? Why are you taking so long?

      Underlying Public Need:  The public would like to know if toe are
      being responsive in correcting the problem,, end. if we. care.

      A.    Sir, vou'd like to know what we're doing, and you're angry that
            it's taken so long. We share your concerned about taking care of
            this as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there are no simple
            solutions for cleaning up hazardous waste sites. Each site must
            be carefully characterized before a dean up plan can be made to
            enable us to do a good job. This takes longer than we would all
            like but it is needed to ensure that it is done right in order to
            safeguard public health. We are proceeding as fast as we can, and
            here's what we are doing:	 (Principles: Listen, feedback,
            share concern, and answer.)  (CR 3,4,7)

      A.    Poor Response:  Ah, Ah, Ah	Don't  you know we're doing our
            best!  (Didn't have an answer, wasn't prepared to answer a basic
            question, and became defensive.  This increases the public
            outrage which delays discussion on options and solutions.)

      A.    Poor Response:  F have 5 other sites that I'm working on  and I'm
            working hard on all of them. (The public is not interested in
            other sites or excuses. They want to know what we are doing
            about their site to protect them.)

4.    Q.    Why haven't you dosed the plant? How many more cancers do
            you want?

      Underlying Public Need:  The public is worried about cancer (or some
      other  health  issue) and needs to know how we're planning on
      addressing the problem and if we care about  them.  To the public,
      closing the plant is a  logical solution.

      A.    We share your concerns about health. Let us assure you  that the
            plant isn't posing an immediate  health hazard where dosing the
            plant would be needed. However, a long  term and constant
            exposure to DNC could present a health hazard, and that is why
            we are proposing some immediate actions which will ensure
            your safety. Here's what we arc proposing; and we believe this

  "Public Meeting-  Typical Questions and Simple Responses.' By AJvin Chun and  Arnold R Den. Office of the Regional Admiiustn! ,
  Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised Januar) 1992

            will correct the problem, protect your health, and not create a
            hardship for the people who are currently employed at the plant.
            (Principles: Give a direct answer that addresses our concern for
            protecting  people's health and welfare, and state our actions.)

      A.    Poor Response:  Let me finish my presentation!

      A.    Poor Response:  We've been working with the plant, and we
            don't think that if s necessaryf

5.    Q.    Is it safe? Are my kids safe?

      Underlying Public Need:  The public needs to know if there is any
      immediate danger  to their family and that we care about that.  They
      want  "micro" risk answers to the "Am I safe?" questions, not "macro"
      risk answers which the Agency has been concerned  with in their
      decision making, U., "The hazard presents a. IQ'S risk to the

      A.    Your concern for safety is our concern also.  Any cancer causing
            agent is potentially dangerous (The non-threshold concept).
            DNC  is such a substance. Based on our knowledge of the
            amount of  DNC that people are being exposed to, we feel it is
            safe for all  residents east of Electrobotics because DNC isn't in the
            air or drinking water.  For residents to the west of Electrobotics,
            DNC is only present in the air, but in such smalt quantities that
            exposure will only be a health concern if it is not reduced in the
            next several years.  We are proposing to reduce and minimize
            the exposures to DNC by permanently capping the source of the
            DNC  to eliminate its presence in the air, and cleaning  up the
            contaminated soil to minimize any contamination of the water.
            This will make it safe. (CR 3,4)

            For a  more typical case when the contamination cannot  be
            totally removed from the ground water, a response could be:

      A.    Your concern for safety is our concern also. Any cancer-causing
            agent is potentially dangerous (The non-threshold concept).
            DNC is such a substance Based on our knowledge of the
            amount of  DNC which people are being exposed to, we feel it is
            safe for all  residents east of Electrobotics because it isn't in the air
            or drinking water.  For residents to the west of Electrobotics,
            DNC is only present in the aii, but-in. such small n1**^*?^? that
            exposure wffl onty be a health concern if it is not reduced in the
            next several years.  We are proposing immediate actions to

•Public Meeting Typical Questions tad Sample Response!." By AJvin Chun tad Arnold R. Den. Office of the Regional Admimsirai.
Office of the Senior Science Adsuor, EPA Region 9. revised Jinuiry 1992.

          reduce and minimize the exposures to DNC by permanently
          capping the source of the DNC to eliminate its presence in the
          air, and cleaning up the contaminated soil to a safe level. (In this
          case there will be a finite but small concentration of DNC
          remaining in the drinking water, but it will be at a level which is
          between 10"4 to 10"6 risk which we, as Agency personnel, have
          established in the regulatory processes for various air, and water
          standards as being "safe." This still may not be acceptable to
          some people, and understandably so, especially if they hadn't
          been involved in the decision making process. Similarly, it may
          not be acceptable to you as an Agency person because the risk is
          not zero, and a residual risk remains.) (CR 3,4)

    A.    Your concern for safety is our concern also.  We believe it is safe
          for you and your kids to drink the water and breath the air.
          There is no DNC in the drinking water, but we feel there will be
          in the future if a leak from the company's holding pond is not
          controlled. There is some DNC contamination in the air and
          this will become a dangerous situation if it is not controlled and
          people are exposed to it over their entire life. (CR 3,4)

    A.    Poor Response: The life time risk of getting cancer based on the
          current level of DNC in the air is 1(H.  Based on that estimate,
          we feel that we should reduce the risk to a level of 1(H>.  (What's
          probably not needed here is more jargon.)

    Q.    Ait there arty safe levrfs for a carcinogen? (Class A, B, or C

    A.    Your question on carcinogens is an excellent one. EPA has
          identified some chemicals as (A) known, (B) probable or (C)
          possible human carcinogens based primarily on human data (A),
          and on animal studies (B and C). If we believe it to be a
          carcinogen, we assume that all levels of exposure wiH have
          some level of cancer risk.  The smaller  the exposure, the smaller
          the risk. We generally describe these risks in terms of
          probability. If in asking your question,  you  want to know if there
          are levels of exposure that are free from risk, the answer is no.
          If, on the other hand, you  are asking  whether certain levels of
          chemical exposure are  too small to be of a health concern, then
          the answer is yes. Our goal is to reduce the level of exposure to a
          safe level where  it will be safe to drink  the water and breath the
          air.  (Remember  that a safe level does not necessarily mean zero
          risk. It could mearr for example that lQ"t or 10*^ risk is a safe
          level. There are many reasons why zero risk rrorynot be feasible,

'Pubic MeeUDg Typical Questions and Sample Responses." By AJvin Chun and Arnold R Den. Office of the Regional Admin.-. ,.
Office of ihe Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

            but one must also remember that 10"* or 10*5 are upperbound or
            maximum risks. This means mat the actual probability may be
            much lower and may even be zero because of all the health
            protective assumptions that are used.)  (CR 3,4)

7.    Q.    Would you drink our water? What about breathing our air?

      Underlying Public Need:  Again, the public would like to know how
      this affects their family and if we are. sincere about our concern for

      A.    Yes, I would drink the water because it is not contaminated, and
            I am here breathing the air because it is such a low risk that it
            isn't a health problem.  I understand that some of you may feel
            that any concentration of PNC in the air is unsafe. If you feel
            that way,  I would recommend that you consult with your doctor
            or do what you feel will make you more comfortable. However,
            we feel there is no immediate hazard, an
             a safe level.  However, it sounds like you might be more
             comfortable with a greater-than-safe level which we are
             proposing. I can't make any promises, but I would be interested
             in any ideas or concerns which you may have.  But at this time, I
             am confident that our proposal will make it safe for you and
             provide the level of health protection which you are expecting.

       A.    It's unfortunate that there is so much sickness. I am concerned
             and sad to hear that  Our goal is to make it as safe as possible
             with your input. I believe we can develop  a solution to control
             the risk. (CR3,4,7)

       A.    Poor Response:  It's acceptable because the risk is 10"6.  Based on
             that risk level, we don't see how those illnesses and cancers can
             be attributed to DNC

       A.    Poor Response:  We don't know what caused the cancers.
             However, you should know mat 1 out of 4 of you win get cancer
             in your lifetime because of everyday activities and exposures.
             For example, it's more likely that you'll get cancer from eating
             peanut butter or charcoal broiled steaks than it would be from
             exposure to DNC.  (Whether this is true or not is irrelevant
             when people are upset.  The people want to be involved.
             They are not asking for an explanation. In  this case, an
             explanation belittles the public and their concerns over the site.)

9.     Q.    What does 1X10 -* mean? What is risk?

       Underlying Public Need:   The public needs to know if we're trying to
       "snow them" with jargon  or if we're looking after their best  interest.
       Discussing first  how the situation affects them personally, \jt., "Is it
       safe?" will reach people directly and get at their needs.  Then, the public
       may want to have specific technical discussions about risk calculations.
       Often, if the agency has done a  good job addressing the "Is it safe?"
       question with  honesty  and compassion, the agency will have
       established some level of trust and  credibility where the public will be
       willing to focus on the 10^ terminology.  Surprisingly, if the agency
       has  done its job well in establishing trust and credibility with the
       public,  the public's  need to know about 10~6 will  not be needed!   Often
       times agencies tend  to focus on the 10~& issues too soon with the public
       without  adequately addressing the real public concerns.  This then
       creates a diversion  to argue about  1Q~6 and misleads the agency to
       think thai if oaJy they could have explained 1Q-6  better, it would have
       not  created an argument  with the public.   The argument was probably

'Public Meeting-  Typical Questions and Sample Responses." By Alv» Chun and Arnold R. Den. Office of the Regional Admiaistrai «
Office of (he Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992.

       over the agency not listening, and as a result some underlying public
       needs  were probably not met.

             Assuming that this question is being asked at a technical
             meeting, some answers could be:

       A.    Risk is the probability or chance of getting cancer.  1 x 10 ^ is
             another way of saying one-in-a-million chance of getting cancer
             (above the normal background CJUV^CTS)  In. ouz definition*, orte-
             in-a-million is a probability based on data and many health
             protective assumptions that there may be one extra cancer case
             in a population of 1 million people over a lifetime of exposure
             to a chemical.  The probability is an upperbound estimate and
             can be thought of as a maximum probability because worst case
             situations are assumed where science has no definite answers in
             order to be on the safe side of protecting public health. For
             example, "How is cancer caused?" is still an unanswered
             scientific question. To make up for this uncertainly, and since it
             is difficult to study human subjects over their lifetime, we rely
             on animal studies to determine the carcinogenicity of most
             chemicals. Because the one-in-a-million probability is an
             upperbound or maximum  probability it means that a cancer case
             may not occur  at all, but if it does, there is at most a one-in-a-
             million likelihood for an extra cancer case above the expected
             250,000 cancer  cases that would normally occur in a population
             of 1 million.  (Remember, in  the absence of sufficient data,
             worst case and upperbound assumptions are used in the risk
             assessment This means that calculated risks are probably orders
             of magnitude higher than they  should be, but since we don't
             have definite data and we  are dealing with carcinogens, we want
             to be protective of public health and safety.) (CR 3,4)

       A.    la this situation, we are talking about cancer risk.  Cancer risk is
             the likelihood or chance of getting cancer.  When we write,
             "1 x 10*6" or say "one times ten to the minus sixth," we are using
             scientific terms to say "one-in-a-million." If we were to say there
             is a one-in-a-million excess cancer risk from a given level of
             exposure to a chemical, we mean that each individual exposed to
             that chemical at that level over his/her lifetime has a one-in-a-
             million chance of getting cancer from that particular exposure.
             This is similar to saying that because of that chemical we could
             expect to see one additional cancer case in a population of one
             million people who are all exposed under the same
             ciiuiiaaunom. However, we say "excess cancer risk" and
             "additional cancer" because we  already expect to see, due to aH

"Public Meeting Typical Questions ud Simple Responses." By AJvio Qiuo and Arnold R. Deo. Office of the Regional Admioj<'.r.ij
Office of the Senior Science Advisor, EPA Region 9. revised January  1992

               other causes, about 250,000 cancer cases in a population of one
               million people.

               You should also realize, however, that there is a great deal of
               uncertainty that accompanies our risk estimates. Science has not
               yet progressed far enough to explain exactly how cancer is
               caused. Nor can we ever be absolutely sure of the levels of a
               chemical that are present in the environment.  But in order to be
               protective of public health, our risk assessments are designed to
               account for the various uncertainties.  la fact, where our
               information is incomplete, we use assumptions that tend to
               overestimate the risk in order to further insure that we are being
               health protective. As a result, when we estimate that there is a
               one-in-a-million risk, the actual risk has very little chance of
               exceeding one-in-a-million.  In  actuality, one-in-a-million most
               likely overestimates the actual risk, and, in fact, may be zero.

               Assuming that this question is being asked at a non-technical
               public meeting; some answers could be

         A.    IX ID"6 is an expression which scientists often  use to express one
               chance in a million.  This in risk terms means one chance in a
               million of getting cancer from being constantly exposed to a
               certain level of a chemical over  one's lifetime of 70 years. If that
               still isn't a  good enough explanation, let me explain it another
               way and hopefully, this will be more helpful: DNC is a
               dangerous chemical because we have reasons to believe that it
               may cause cancer.  Currently, there is no danger to you if you
               drink the water because it isn't contaminated.  The air is
               contaminated with DNC, but in such small levels that it is safe
               in the  short-term provided we further reduce  the contamination
               to a lower level where it will be also safe in the long-term. I'm
               sorry if this sounded confusing because on the one hand we're
               saying it's sale in the short term, but on the other hand we're
               proposing to dean it up which will make it safe in the long term.
               If this is still confusing, let me use an analogy which may make
               this a little dearer. Some of you may say that my example is
               ridiculous because it will never happen, and you're right, but for
               a lack of a better example, allow me to try this one just to see if it
               gives you at least a better feel for what we have been talking

               Imagine that there's a pallet of cement weighing 900 Ibs
               suspended over your house. The pallet is being held by a cable
               which is rated at 1000 Ibs. You are safe because the cable hasn't
               snapped and it isn't likely to. You may feel safe for a long time

"Public Meeting Typical Quejuou ud Simple Responses.' By AJvin Chun tad Arnold R. Den. Office of the Region*! Admitusirii,.
Office of (he Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

            if the pallet remains overhead because the cable can probably
            support 2000 Ibs. There is usually a safety factor built into
            the strength rating; however, you and your family may feel very
            nervous because you don't normally have a pallet of cement
            hanging over your home and there may be some risk that the
            cable will break.  Because you're concerned about your family's
            well being, you'd probably like to get rid of it completely but let's
            assume that it would be too difficult or unaffordable.  Then
            you'll probably try to do something like reinforce  the cable or
            reduce the load so that you increase your confidence that your
            family won't get hurt.  This is an unlikely example, but as an
            illustration, it may be useful. It is similar to our situation with
            DNC in the air.  In that situation, the the weight of the cement
            or DNC contamination is closer to 500 Ibs and our clean up plan
            calls for the cement or DNC to be reduced to less than 5 Ib.  Even
            with 500 Ibs of cement there is still some small chance that the
            cable might break, and reducing the weight to  less than 5 Ib
            would greatly reduce that chance. In other words, for our
            situation around the Electrobotics Plant, we think it is presently
            safe, but we would feel much more confident about everyone's
            safety over the long term, if we could make it safer by further
            reducing the contamination of DNC.  That is what we are trying
            to do. Even though this example doesn't give you a precise
            answer to what 10"6 is, I hope it gives you a better idea of how
            small 10^ risk is, and why we are proposing these actions.

            As in any response, this one may not be satisfying to everyone,
            and you may need to be prepared to offer other examples to be
            more helpful. For example:

     A.    It looks like that analogy wasn't too good for everyone. Maybe
            some of you  now have some more specific questions that could
            help me to explain this better, or maybe I could meet with those
            of you who would like to discuss it further after this meeting.
            If you want, I could give you another example?

            Other examples:  A 10*6 risk level is equal to the  risk level
            associated with EPA's drinking water standard for TCE, a
            probable human carcinogen; or 100 times more stringent than
            EPA's drinking water standard for vinyl chloride, another cancer
                            or 10 HTTWS more strinynl that EPA's air
           standard for benzene, also a carcinogen.
•Public Meeting Typic.1 Quewiow and Sample Response*.' By Alvin Chun and Arnold R. Den. Office of the Regional
Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

        A.   Poor Response:  It's almost like getting four-of-a-kind in a
             poker game.  (If people are expressing doubt or confusion about
             the terms, and you proceed to explain the terms with more
             unfamiliar or technical terms instead of looking for a more
             relatable explanation or example, it will be non-productive and
             create outrage.)

  10.    Q-   Am I the one-in-a-milKon?  Why isn't it zero?

        Underlying Public Need:  The public is concerned about  how they will
        be affected  personally,  and  whether they can trust the Agency's
        judgement  The public may also be giving an indication  that  they
        might be interested  in being more  involved in  the risk  management
        process to decide on an "acceptable" risk.
       A.   Your concerns about how the ri^fo numbers would affect vou
             personally is a very valid one. Because we are talking
             "probability" or "chance" when we talk about risk, there is
             unfortunately no definite answer to your questions. But based
             on the safety factors we've used to develop these risk numbers,
             we sincerely doubt if you will get cancer from DNC. Let me
             explain why. In estimating the risk, we've made numerous
             health protective assumptions and assumed several worst case
             exposure situations to be on the safe side. The *$y"*»pd
             expos ure situations are very unlikely, bur because of the
             uncertainties about cancer, we wanted  to be as protective as we
             could be.  As a consequence, the actions we will take to reduce
             your risk based on these assumptions will be more substantial or
             health protective than if we had assumed more typical exposure
             situations. For example, we assumed a maximum exposure to
             DNC of 24 hours/day, 365 days/year for the next 70 years. If this
             describes your current situation, you may have at most a one-in-
             a-million chance of getting cancer from DNC If you are exposed
             to DNC for less than 24 hours/day, then your risk is even less.
             Conversely, under those extreme exposures you have at least a
             999,999 in-a-million chance of not getting cancer from DNC, and
             an even much less chance if your exposure is less than the
             extreme situation we assumed. In your case, I would guess that
             you will not be constantly exposed to DNC for all of your life,
             and thus your chance of getting cancer from DNC is much less
             than one-in-a-million, and for all practical purposes is zero,
             especially when erne considers all the other health protective
             assumptions that are used. (CR3,4>7)
"Public Mecung- Typical Questions and Sample Response!.' By AJvio Chun and Arnold R Deo. Office of the Regional
Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

11.    Q.
            Poor Response: Chances are you will not be the one-in-a-
            million to get cancer from being exposed to DNC.  You're more
            likely to get cancer from eating peanut butter or charcoal broiled
            steaks which also contain carcinogens.

            What does 1 ppb mean; 1 ug/1; 1 ug/m3?

            (The context of this question is that we've been using I ppm in
            all our previous discussions and now we've introduced 1 ppb.
            This is a technical question requiring a technical answer which
            should be given in terms that are familiar to the audience. The
            second response provided below can also be used to clarify "ppb"
            when it  is introduced in a public discussion.)

            For example,

      A.    I'm sorry if we've confused things bv switching from 1  ppm to
            1 ppb concentration.  Here's one way to explain it:

                        1 ppm is 1000 ppb, or
                        1 ppb is a 1000 times smaller than 1 ppm

            Another way to visualize 1 ppm is that is it is 1/1,000,000, and
            this would make 1 ppb 1/1,000,000,000. (Write the numbers on a
            flip chart to help illustrate your points.)

            Even though these may  be small numbers or small
            concentrations, a small concentration of a certain toxic chemical
            may still hurt you. Whether it can hurt you depends on the
            chemical, how much and how long you're exposed to it.

      A.    1 ppb is a term for expressing concentration. 1 ppb is similar to
            one drop of water in an Olympic size swimming pool, 1 second
            in 32 years, or 1 item out of a billion of those items.  I hope these
            examples are of some help. (CR4, 7)

            Does that dear up the confusion? (CR 3, 4, 7)

      A.    Poor Response: (Answering with technical terms or jargon
            similar to the previous response when the question was actually
            a non-technical question is a poor response because it doesn't
"Public Meeting- Typical Questions and Sample Responses." By Alvin Chun and Arnold R Den. Office of the Regional Admrni'iru
Office of the Senior Science Advisor, EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

   12.    Q.    What does RCRA mean?

         A.    See Answers to Question #11.  (Avoid jargon and explain terms
               early in your presentation. Referring to "RCRA" as the "law" or
               the "regulations" may also be sufficient and won't sound so
               jargony once people are familiar with your term.)  (CR 7)

   13.    Q.    How can you trust the company?

         Underlying  Public Need:   The public  needs  to know that  our primary
         concern is for their health and well being.  They would also like to
         know  how we verify company data.

         A.    You're concerned about the credibility of the company's data.
               Let me assure you that we don't take the company's data on face
               value.  We critically review the data and the process by which it
               was derived to ensure its credibility. If we had any doubts, we
               would get additional, more reliable data. Our goal is to protect
               your health by ensuring that we have the most reliable data
               from which to base our decisions. Unfortunately, because we
               have a  limited budget and there are more environmental
               problems than we can address, we usually rely on company data
               and we do our best to ensure its quality. (CR 3,4)

         A.    Poor Response:  Why do you think we trust the company?
               (Defensive, and doe? not answer the question.)

   14.    Q.    Why did the company have to tell you? Why didn't you spot
               the problem and why did it take so long?

         Underlying  Public Need:   The public probably needs  to vent their
         frustration about the situation, and to feel  that we have been  and  are
         currently doing everything that  we can.  They may need  an honest
         apology from the agency  for any delays,  and to know more
         periodically  that progress  is  being made.

         A.    You would have wanted us to have known about the problem
               earlier. We wish we could have also. Unfortunately, we operate
               under limitations.  (As some examples: We didn't have any
               authority in this matter until recently when the regulations
               came into affect; Nobody knew DNC was a carcinogen until
               recently when the cancer data was published; and, We have
               limited moMrres to d**1 **"*** **"*** pmhlgmc)  However, we
               are taking actions to solve the proWenr, and here's what we are
               doing to protect your health:	(CR 3,4,7)

"Public Meeung' Typical Queniou ud Simple Rejponses." By Alvio Chun and Arnold R. Deo. Office of the Regional Adnuoisir£ «
Office of the Senior Science Advuor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

       A.    Poor Response: We're doing the best we can, and I would
             appreciate it if you could be patient and try to understand that we
             are doing our best.

 15.   Q.    What does 0.07 deaths mean? How can you have a partial

       Underlying Public Need:   The public is confused by the information
       and would like, clarification so that they can  better  understand it.

             (A suggestion here is to revise the  presentation and increase
             the population  size even if it is larger than the real population
             to make 0.07 be a whole number. For example, 7 out of 100
             million  would be less confusing.)

       A.    I apologize for our poor example.  Another way that may help to
             explain  what we mean is to say that out of a  population of 100
             million  people who might be exposed to this chemical, we might
             expect that no more that 7 cancer would result in a lifetime. So
             for a population, of 100,000, it would be unlikely that there would
             be any cancers attributed to exposures to this chemical.  Does that
             explain  it better? (CR3,4,7)

       A.    Poor Response: I'm not sure. (Even though this may be an
             honest response, it is embarrassing that such a basic question
             could not have  been answered;  this hurts credibility. The public
             would have expected an agency representative to have answered
             this question.)

       A.    Poor Response:  Of the 100,000 people that would be exposed, a
             maximum of 0.07 deaths might result.

 16.    Q.    What do you mean you don't know?

       Underlying Public Need:   The public probably needs to  vent their
       frustration  and concerns,  and may also need a genuine apology from
       agency officials. IMPORTANT RULE: If you don't know, you should
       be open, honest, and frank and sav so.   You may have to repeat this
       several times, but never guess or  make up an answer because  you feel
       pressured: this  is a sure way of losing any trust and credibility you may
       have  established.

       A.    I'm sorry I don't have the answer today. Would it be O.K. if I
             called you next week after I've done some checking to see  if I can
             get the answer for you. May I see you after this meeting and get
             your phone number? (CK3,4,7}

"Pubic Meeuag- Typical Quenions tad .Sample Responses." By AJvjn Chun and Arnold R Deo. Office of the Regional Admiomru.*
Office of (he Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revued January 1992

      A.    You sound very disappointed, but I'm sorry, science just doesn't
            have all of the answers for us. (CR 3,4,7)

      A.    Poor Response: We don't know, and you can't expect me to
            know everything. (A rational response in this case fuels more
            anger when all people probably needed was an opportunity to
            vent their frustrations; any sarcasm added to the rational
            response just makes the situation even worse.)

17.    Q.    If we can't get action from EPA on maintaining the value of our
            property, who can we go to?

      Underlying Public Concern:   The public is no longer just  outraged, but
      they are now ready  to consider solving the problem.  They also realize
      that EPA can't  do all they had initially expected.

      A.    I share your concerns about the value of your property. We are
            trying to protect your health and in doing so, we may have to
            consider some remedies that may  not make you happy but will
            protect your health. Our goal is to find a remedy that will protect
            your health and not affect your property values; but  our primary
            concern is with your  health.  Your ideas and input will help us
            make the best decision.  I encourage you to comment on the
            options that we will be considering, and  I hope that in doing  so
            we can correct this problem to your satisfaction.  (CR 3,4, 7)

      A.    I know you are concerned about the future value of your
            property. Even though we can't do anything directly about your
            property values, here are some suggestions:
            	which may be helpful. Are there other
            ideas that someone else would care to offer?  (CR 1,3,4,7)

      A.    Poor Response:  We have been working hard to solve the
            hazardous waste problems.  Right now I'm working on 5 other
            NPL sites and your site is getting most of my attention. We
            don't have legal authority to address your property value
            concerns. (We're not listening to people's needs and reacting
            naturally, and inappropriately being defensive; this tends to
            create a negative perception that we're unwilling to  consider or
            consult with other credible sources when it is needed.)
 "Public Meeting- Typical Questions aod Sample Responses." B> Alvin Chun iod Arnold R Deo. Office of the Regional
 Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January I "92

 18.    Q.    IVe been working here for 15 yean and I'm fine. How can you
             say there's a problem?

       Underlying Public Need:  The. public needs, to know how credible we
       and our science ere.   (This person's question may also represent some
       initial denial  of the risk at hand, or a concern about their job.)

       A.    Sir. Tm very happy that vou are fine, and I hope you remain
             that way. Unfortunately, I can't make that assumption about
             everyone else because some of your fellow residents may not be
             as healthy as you, and we must be cautious to ensure that
             everyone's health is being protected.

             In saying that DNC is a probable carcinogen and that it has
             contaminated the air, we are not trying to create more of a
             problem. Unfortunately, science doesn't have all the answers
             that you and I would like, but we have to deal with that. In
             dealing with this, we use many health protective assumptions
             to make up for the uncertainties that remain in science.  In our
             deliberation and examination of the health effects information
             related to DNC, we believe that it is a carcinogen, which should
             be treated seriously. We do this-ta ensure that  you and your
             family do not suffer from any future health problems.  Because
             of  the uncertainty in science about the causes of cancer, your
             statement of good health doesn't surprise me.  Unfortunately, I
             cannot say with your degree of confidence that  DNC is safe; the
             health data says we should treat DNC contamination with
             caution.  Our goal is to ensure that you, your family and
             everyone in your community can say with your degree of
             confidence that the DNC exposure is so small that it doesn't
             pose a danger.  (CR3,4,7)

       A.    Poor Response:  Your case is an exception.  Our animal studies
             combined with our use of health  protective assumptions in the
             risk assessment indicate that there is a cancer risk which may not
             be seen for another 20-30 years. (Even though  you understand
             risk assessment, being argumentative and not  acknowledging
             people's views can create obstacles in future communications.
             In fhiy f«ppj it c*T^t°s unnecessary or faltr concerns.)
•Public Meeting Typical Questions tod Simple Responses." By AJv,n Chun and Arnold R Deo. Office of the Regional
Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

  19.   Q.    One of our very dose friends who lived near the hazardous
              waste site just died from cancer. (Person breaks down in tears)
              How long are you bureaucrats going to take before we see some
              action?  How many more people must die? We're taxpayers and
              we pay your salaries! I'm totally frustrated and angered by the
              amount of pressure we need to put on your office who we pay
              before we can get any action. What do you have to say for
              yourself? I want to hear! (Person breaks out into tears)

        Underlying Individual Need: The individual is very  upset about the
        loss of a  dear friend, and is probably needing, most of all, some place
        to vent their legitimate  emotions, and perhaps  to get  some
        compassionate response.

        A.    Silence.  (No response is needed or expected. One can satisfy the
              person's need for compassion by genuinely listening with
              empathy until the person stops. While listening, you may hear
              and decide that people may want to know more frequently what
              is being done, and what the schedule for future action is.
              Providing that information later may give people a better idea
              that things are being done and when they can expect them to be
              completed.  Often times, not regularly presenting that
              information, will give people a false impression that nothing or
              very little is being done.)  (Principle: Listen with compassion.)

        A.    (One listens and allows the individual to vent einuliuiu?, and
              empathically  responds:)

              I'm sorry for your loss. If you would like, we could discuss this
              some  more after the meeting. (Principle: Listen and respond
              with compassion.) (CR3, 4,7)

        A.    (One listens and allows the individual to vent emotions before
              empathically  responding:)
              This is an especially sad and difficult *ftm.e. for you. I'm so sorry
              for your loss. (CR3,4,7)

        A.    (One just keeps quiet.)  (Because you may have been surprised by
              the emotional outburst, and may not know what to say, being
              quiet is the next best thing to do, given that no response was
              expected. Being quiet may also be hard to do because one may
              fed that a response was expected.  Most of the time, all a grieving
              person wants is just a chance to vent their emotions and to share
              their grief.) (CR3,4,7)
"Pubbc Meeting- Typical Questions and Sample Responses." By AJvio dun and Arnold R. Den. Office of the Regional Admininrun
Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9, revised January 1992

       A.    Poor Response:  (Interrupts the individual and gets somewhat

             We're doing the best we can.  Why, last week we finished the
             proposed permit, report or RI/FS, and by next month we should
             be making a decision. Please be patient with us.

       A.    Poor Response:  I'm sorry your friend died, but all of you should
             know that 1 out 4 of you will get cancer in your lifetime anyway
             from normal daily activities. Specifically, for the hazardous
             waste site, the added lifetime risk of getting cancer is only 1 in
             10,000. Since there are 5,900 people in this community, we
             would not statistically expect to see any excess cancers in such a
             small population.

       A.    Poor Response: I'm sorry your friend died, but it probably
             wasn't because of the hazardous waste site because it's only been
             there for 5 years and it normally takes 15 years or longer for
             someone to develop cancer. We are doing everything we can.

       A.    Poor Response:  Your friend's death is unfortunate, but you
             shouldn't be blaming us or the hazardous waste site because we
             had nothing to do with it.

 20. *  Q.    You don't have to live in our neighborhood! You don't have to
             deal with the stigma associated with this hazardous waste site!
             I've got my life savings tied up in my home! Would you live
             here? Would you buy my home?

       Underlying  Individual Need:  This person is very concerned  about
       their property losing some of  its value,  and  would like to know if the
       Agency is doing everything possible to  ensure that property  values  will
       be protected, i*., Are you, as the Agency representative, doing  as much
       for the neighborhood as you. would if you were, a resident?

       A.    Sir, it sounds like you'd like to know if I would buy a home
             here, but I think your real question or concern is about the type
             of clean up we will be doing to ensure that your property values
             are not affected, and that are we doing everything we possibly
             can.  Would answering that question be more helpful?
           are safe. We wouldn't like your property values to decline, and
           returning your environment to a healthful state or preventing it
           from being unsafe is our responsibility, and this is what we can
           offer to help protect your property values. As you know, there
           are other factors which also affect propel/ values such as public
           perception which unfortunately neither you or we have any
           control over.

           Option 2.   If not, I don't know if I can really answer your
           question about whether I would buy a house here because like
           other major investments there's many things to consider such
           as schools, employment, environment, etc., before I could make
           such a decision. I know that if I were living here or if ! had to
           buy a home here, I would at a minimum want the environment
           to be safe, and that is the goal of our Agency: to ensure that your
           environment is  safe.

     A.    This whole situation has not been an easy or pleasant one  for
           you, and we're also very concerned.  As to whether I would live
           or buy a home here, that's usually a very complex question for
           most situations.  But if my only considerations for making a
           decision were whether the air was safe to breath or the water safe
           to drink, I would say yes because our Agency's goal is to ensure
           that it is. As you know, there are other important and personal
           considerations such as cost, neighborhood, quality of schools,
           mortgage rates, etc, which most of us take into account before
           deciding on the purchase of a home. (CR 1,3,4,7)

     A.    Poor Response  Personally, I wouldn't five here  That*s off the
           record, of course.

     A.    Poor Response:  (You appear to be caught off guard and seem to
           be searching for an answer but can't give one, or are afraid to.
           This may give the community a false impression that you
           wouldn't ever buy  a home here because the clean-up will not be

     A.    Poor Response:  Property values are beyond our control and not
           our responsibility .  Em sorry we cannot help you.
"Pubic Meeting: Typical Questions ud Sample Responses." By Alvia Own and Arnold R. Den. Office of the Regional Adrmauuuur
Office of (he Senior Science Advisor, EPA Region 9. revised January 1992

21.   Q.    I am considering buying some property here. Given all that has
            happened, would you buy or recommend buying property here
            now ox in. the future?

      Underlying Individual Need:  This person is  concerned about
      investing his  money here, and would like to know if that would be a
      wise thing to do.

      A.    Property investments are important transactions requiring
            careful consideration.  I can appreciate your concern. Property
            investments are also very personal choices. Where I may be
            willing to invest my money may be very different from where
            you, or someone, °^9? might be willing  to invest their's. For me
            to tell you how you should spend your money would probably
            not be very helpful because I'm not very knowledgeable in that
            area, nor do I know what criteria you consider important.  What
            I think would be more helpful would be to give you all the
            information about the  hazardous waste problem that we have so
            that you or another potential buyer or seller can make the most
            informed choice possible. (CR 1,3,4,7)

      A.    Poor Response:  Sorry, but we don't make those types of
            recommendations.  (Even though this is true, it does not address
            the individual's underlying need, and may give the impression
            that you wouldn't recommend buying property here.  In the
            preceding answer, the  response was hot only honest, but it also
            offered information that was helpful.)
             Chief. Public Participation
             California Department oi Toxic Substances Control
"Pubic Meeting Typical Questions and Sample Response!," By Alvin Chun and Arnold R Deo. Office of the Regional Adnutuur.u <
Office of the Senior Science Advisor. EPA Region 9. revised January 1992


                        IHE SIATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY
                   Environmental Communication Research Program
                    A program of the Agricultural Experiment Station
      Cook College • 122 Ryders Lane • New Brunswick » New Jersey 08903 • 201/932-6795

         Take a good look at most risk communication "horror stories" and you'll proba-
   bly find a major breakdown in trust between government representatives and the public
   they are supposed to serve. The next time someone comes to you with a sob story
   about communicating with the public, you might want to hand them this tongue-in-
   cheek list. Or better yet. hand it out before the damage is done.

   1.  Don't involve people in decisions that directly affect their lives.  Then act de-
       fensive when your policies are challenged.

   2.  Hold onto information until people are screaming for it. While they are wait-
       Ing, don't tell them when they will get It. Just say, These things take time." or "It's
       going through quality assurance."

   3.  Ignore peoples'feelings.  Better yet. say they are irrelevant and irrational. It
       helps to add that you can't understand why they are overreacting to such a small

   4.  Don't follow up.  Place returning phone calls from citizens at the bottom of your
       "to do" list. Delay sending out the information you promised people at the public

   5.  If you. make a mistake, deny it.  Never admit you were wrong.

   6.  If you don't know the answers, fake it. Never say "I don't know.*

   7.  Don't speak plain English.  When explaining technical Information, use profes-
       sional jargon. Or simplify so completely that you leave out Important information.
       Better yet. throw up your hands and say. "You people could not possibly under-
       stand this stuff."

   8.  Present yourself like a bureaucrat.. Wear a three-piece suit to a town meeting at
       the local grange, and sit up on stage with seven of your colleagues who are dressed

   9.  Delay talking to other agencies involved— or other people Involved within your
       agency— so the message the public gets can be as confusing as possible.

   10.  If one of your scientists has trouble relating to people, hates to do it, and
       has begged not to, send him or her out anyway. It's good experience.

   From C. Chess, Hance, B.J.,  and Sandman, P.M., "Improving Dialogue With
   Communities;  A Short Guide For Government Risk Conrounication,"  (Trenton,
   MJ,  Division of Science, and Research,  NJ Dept. Of Environmental Protection,


                      FOCUS GROUP TECHNIQUE
      A  focus group is an in-depth, interactive discussion among
 peers (e.g., CEOs, doctors, homeowners) guided by an experienced
 researcher  (moderator).  A session generally lasts ninety minutes
 and  is  comprised of 8 to 10 consumers or 6 to 8 business execu-
 tives.   Interaction among the respondents is a key element of a
 focus group and the moderator is the major catalyst to this pro-

      The focus group moderator works from a guide developed in
 conjunction with the client.  This guide outlines the pertinent
 topics  and issues to be discussed.  The moderator begins a ses-
 sion  with introductory comments designed to relax the partici-
 pants and set the stage.  These remarks include a description of
 the  focus group technique and the importance of candid responses
 by the  group members.  Then participants usually introduce them-

      The discussion is typically opened with a general subject
 that  is easy to talk about and to gain perspective from which to
 evaluate subsequent information.

      The interactive process in focus groups makes it possible to
 obtain  information to fulfill specific study objectives as well
 as to gain insight into other issues which could have an impact
 upon  the research.  Thus, a great depth and breadth of knowledge
 can be  obtained through this process, including discovery of in-
 formation not previously recognized as significant or connected
 to the  key concerns of the client.

      Focus group participants are usually recruited by a local
market  research firm which screens potential respondents to .in-
 sure that they meet the specifications (e.g., watch television
 news, are dog owners, use personal computers).  These homogeneous
groups  allow researchers to hear, first-hand, responses fron
those who have had similar experiences regarding the topic under
discussion.  Homogeneity also enhances relaxation among the group
members and serves to contribute to an easy exchange of ideas and

     Participants in focus groups typically receive a monetary
incentive, usually $30 for consumers and between $50 and $200  for
executives and other professionals attending in their business
roles.  In many instances, particularly with business executives,
the opportunity to discuss a specific topic with their peers is
almost incentive enough to ensure enthusiastic participation.

     Focus group facilities contain conference rooms where the
session takes place.  Adjacent to the session room is an observa-
tion room where clients can watch the group via a one-way mirror.
This allows observers to note subuties in facial expressions,
body language and tone of voice among the respondents.  In
addition, the group is audio taped for use in analyzing the data
and as a record of the session.

     Video-taping can also be accomplished by filming through the
one-way mirror.  By recording the meeting on tape, others can
view the session who are unable to attend the focus group.
(Respondents are informed about all these facets of the process
but are not told the identity of the client.)

     The focus group technique is often used to gain insight and
provide direction for marketing strategy and further research.
However, conclusions must be tempered by the limited cample size
inherent in this type of research.  Thus, findings must be viewed
as qualititative in nature and not necessarily representative of
a larger population.

        Title m Focus Group Results
     What son of information can you expect to get out of a focus group?  The results
   from a series of focus groups in 1988 can give you a good idea  of the amount and
   quality of information focus groups generate.

     The report about the six focus groups includes hard data ("half of the people said
   they had never  heard of the chemical"). It also includes conclusions ("stores might
   therefore be the best places to distribute information").  The  focus  groups were
   conducted by Campbell Communications, Inc. and sponsored in pan by the Environ-
   mental Protection Agency.

     The six focus groups were conducted to assess the need for risk communication
   with the general  public in four neighborhoods, two  in New  Jersey and  two in
   Pennsylvania. They were conducted in light of the fact that  plants would soon be
   releasing information as a result of SARA Title HI.

     The focus groups were  pan of a comprehensive study that included a review of
   existing survey data, interviews with government officials about their perceptions of
   the public's need for information, creation of a communications manual, and creation
   of a bibliography of public education materials. Additional focus groups with health
   professionals, environmentalists and other  specialized groups  also were pan of the

     In this section, we address what information the six focus groups  with just the
   general public yielded. The participants were carefully selected to be a random sample
   of the general public - for example, they were not employees  of nearby plants or
   predominantly college graduates.
Adapted  from  material prepared for  the Environmental Protection
Agency by Elaine Arkin  and David McCallum.  As adapted  and
reprinted in  the Risk Communication Student Manual,  edited by
Erin Donovan,  Vincent Covello and John Slavick (Chemical
Manufacturers Association, Washington, DC 1989).                    169

Who Gets Selected for Focus Groups?

   About 10 people were selected for each of the focus groups. A trained moderator
initiated and directed discussion.

   All of the participants lived within one-half mile of a company expected to be
reporting under SARA guidelines. This proximity makes this subgroup of the "general
public"  the most likely  to be  affected by emissions.  These plant neighbors were
perceived as having a high priority for risk communication efforts for several reasons:

   •   their residence

   •   the meaning and  implications of toxic substance emissions

   •   their low awareness of the new reporting requirements

   •   their relatively low levels of concern for personal/family safety (the focus groups
       confirmed these two alarming assumptions)

   •   high levels of frustration about the nearby residents' ability to obtain, understand
       or trust emissions information

   These were the assumptions going into the study. The focus groups confirmed the
final three, somewhat alarming, assumptions.


   Focus group questions elicited information about the participants' awareness and
attitudes.  It was determined that:

   •  No one in the groups had  heard of SARA Title  III reporting requirements.
      When informed, though, their response was positive.

   •  Awareness of community emergency planning and procedures was low.

   •  Respondents held misconceptions  about permitted  emissions and tended to
      believe  any emissions were illegal.  When  told  some emissions are legal,
      participants were critical of laws allowing emissions.

   •  Participants expressed very little curiosity about levels or length  of exposure,
      or other factors affecting risk.   In fact, the  few questions raise suggested that
      these participants might have difficulty both in articulating questions about toxic
      substances and understanding the answers.

   •  Participants were very unaware of specific toxic substances, their uses and risks.

   •  Most participants did not  distinguish  between toxic chemicals  and other
      pollutants, like sewage or automobile exhaust.

   •  Generally, focus group  respondents perceived EPA as "on the  side  of big
      business." The did not seem to believe that regulations to date have favorably
      affected environmental quality.

   •  Attitudes  toward industry were mixed.   Those living in a community where
      chemical  companies are  the main employers were inclined to  menton that
      companies are "better than they used to be" about emissions and clean-up.

   •  Generally, participants believe that the responsibility for environmental quality
      belongs to "someone else." There was no incentive, benefit or compelling reason
      for them to become involved.

   •  Some participants remarked at the close of discussions that the  focus group
      had heightened their interest in the issues raised.  Generally,  interest and
      awareness was low.


   Focus group discussion tried to address the level of the participants' concern about
chemicals and their behavior based on those concerns.  The focus groups found:

   •   Most respondents were concerned about environmental pollution.  But they
       were equally  concerned  about all kinds of contaminants,  including toxic
       chemicals, garbage and pesticides.

   •   Many people did not mention concern for personal or family health.  Many
       had  lived  in their communities for a long time and accepted emissions as "a
       fact  of life."

   •   Many participants thought there is little they can  do to  change things  like
       pollution from nearby plants.

   •   In one  community where pollutants in  drinking water had been publicized,
       however, many participants said they were using bottled water. This shows that
       in a  case where individuals feel there is a specific action they can take, they may

   •   Some  participants  said they  had sought  information  about  a perceived
       environmental problem and were discouraged by their inability to get answers.

   •   Participants were skeptical that the new reporting  requirements  would yield
       them accurate data or prompt enforcement of emissions laws.

Information Sources/Distribution Routes

   The focus groups elicited information about how people learn about environmental
issues.  If indeed the participants are representative of the community (as they should
be in a professional, well-designed focus group), the data can be used to help tailor a
more effective, efficient risk communication program. These six focus groups found:

   a   Most people got information about environmental issues from the media.

   o   Those who described frustrating experiences with information-seeking efforts
      said they had called a local government agency or the company.  No successful
      experiences with these contacts were described.

   o   When asked by the moderator where else they might seek information, the only
      source mentioned by all six focus groups was the police.  No one mentioned the
      fire  department,  the 911 emergency number,  health departments,  elected
      officials, libraries or other sources.

   a   When asked which environmental groups they could contact for information,
      answers included Common Cause, Greenpeace, Sierra Gub, and Ralph Nader.
      No one mentioned a local group or a local chapter  of a national group.

   o   Environmental groups were the  only sources cited as credible.

   a   EPA, companies, and elected officials were consistently viewed  as the least
      credible sources of information.

   o   Asked  where they would like to obtain information about  the environment,
      participants most often mentioned the places they frequent.  The best places
      to distribute information therefore might be supermarkets,  drugstores,  malls
      and other public places.

Risk Communication Strategies

   The focus groups generated basic, useful information to help  the nearby  plants
design risk communications programs.

   •  There must be a personally relevant need for risk information for someone to
      be  motivated to learn more.  Participants said a need might arise if they see
      evidence of emissions and water pollution.  They said protection of their  health
      and their children's health might motivate them.

   •  Protecting  property value  was  not considered  a  motivator  for seeking

   •  When information-seeking or other actions are perceived as needed or beneficial
      and the participant feels that he or she can have an effect, the participants will
      probably be more likely to act.

   •  Although printed information may help, one-on-one interaction may be required
      to truly inform people.

   •  There must be an information source who is easily accessible, knowledgeable
      and credible if the target audience is to be expected to become more interested
      and informed.

Risk Communication Message and Materials

   Comments from the focus groups enable the moderator to suggest realistic steps
for better risk communication.

   •   Members of the audience targeted by the focus groups are more likely to be
      less affluent and less educated than the general public. Information targeted
      for them therefore must be simple, clear and easy to read and understand.

   •   Materials should be pre-tested with the intended audience to assure that they
      meet these criteria and that they respond to the requirement for a need to read
      and a benefit from reading.

   •   Information should be prepared to:
      -  explain why some releases are permitted;
      -  explain what effects regulations are having in improving the environment;
      -  explain why some emissions are more  hazardous than others and what the
           hazards are;
      -  cite the differences between emission and exposure;
      •  cite other health risk factors;
      -  explain what SARA Title III is intended to  do and why it is relevant, useful
           and important;
      -  provide a reliable, accessible information source and how he or she  can b e
      -  use a question-and-answer format to help the reader understand the issues;
      -  tell the reader what to ask or what personally relevant action to take in the
           event of an emergency
      •  provide a glossary.


 Risk Analvsis. M 8. \o 4. 19/18
 Guest Editorial
 Focus Groups and Risk Communication:
 The "Science"  of Listening to Data

 William  H. Desvousges1 and V. Kerry Smith2

     Focus groups are old hat in market research.
These small group discussions are commonly used to
help companies learn how consumers feel about vari-
ous products or services and to develop survey ques-
uor.r.oires. Researchers interested in understanding
now people respond to  environmental risks have
recently begun using  focus groups because they offer
insights into how people process information or an-
swer questions.
     Focus groups can also make nsk communication
more effective by helping communicators listen to
"consumers" of nsk  messages.  Too often, nsk com-
municators are more concerned with educating the
public, rather  than first listening to them and then
developing communication policies. Focus groups al-
low the consumers of nsk messages or communica-
tion programs, to provide critiques and  feedback to
their designers. Using feedback from focus  groups.
researchers can gain qualitative insights on how peo-
ple perceive nsk. as well as evaluations of the percep-
tual or cognitive effects of the  nsk information for-
mat. Such feedback is crucial to communicating risks
more effectively.
    To develop  our  arguments, we have drawn on
our expenences with  focus groups over the past five
years.  We suggest six applications in which using

'Senior Economist. Research Triangle  Institute. PO Box 12194.
 Research Triangle Park North Carolina 27709
: University Distinguished Professor. North Carolina Slaw Univer-
 sity. Raleigh. North Carolina 2769S
focus  groups  can make nsk communication more
effective  We  also  offer some  rules ot thumb for
conducting focus groups, based on what has worked
and what has  not. Finally, we develop some general
implications  for  the  role of focus groups in nsk

    Focus groups are informal discussions in which
a skilled  moderator  probes  people's attitudes  and
opinions on a specific topic. Usually lasting about
two hours, the group are relatively small. The ideal
group size is eight to ten people. The objectives for a
session  may range from learning  about  consumers'
reactions  to  a  new  snack  cracker to  discovenng
homeowners' attitudes toward a high-level  nuclear
waste repository. In general  focus  groups allow peo-
ple who must convey information or market products
to test their concepts on consumers before making a
final decision.
    Over a one- to two-week penod. organizers re-
cruit participants to attend the session at a conve-
nient (for the participants) location. Participants are
recruited  to represent either a  specific  target
group—e.g., health care professionals or retirees—or
the general population in an  area.  They can  be ran-
domly recruited by telephone or by working through
civic, religious, social, or professional organizations.
    Effective moderators are crucial to  the  success
of the session. Using an agenda, they open the dis-
cussion with questions and keep it  on track by selec-
                                                             0272-43J2/M/I20OO479SO600/I <.19K* Society lor Rut Aiul<

                                                                                  Desvousges and Smith
lively  focusing on various  respondents' comments.
The most difficult task for a moderator is to stimu-
late discussion  without  biasing  participants'  re-
sponses. Moderators can  work alone  or  lead  the
session together.  It is especially important that mod-
erators not be perceived as experts  because people
will quickly  turn to  them for answers, rather than
discuss topics among themselves.
     The focus group format is very  flexible.  On
risk-communication topics, participants can be asked
to write down their answers to survey questions and
then discuss  them. Or. they can be asked to critique
public  service messages for radio,  television, and
newspapers.  However, sessions can also be designed
to promote relatively free-flowing discussions about
how people perceive the risks from exposure to some
hazardous  substance.  Tasks or  exercises are often
used  to stimulate discussion or evaluate  (qualita-
tively) how people process certain types of informa-
   IN RISK cc:.::.rjNiCATiON

     Despite their widespread use in market research.
focus groups have only recently been  considered in
risk  communication. Drawing from experience in
marketing research and more limited  experience in
risk  studies,  we have identified the  following sue
areas for using focus groups:
     •   Explonng risk perceptions.
     •   Evaluating perceptual cues  and information
     •   Pretesting nsk-communicauon  materials.
     •   Selecting risk-communication channels.
     •   Designing nsk-miugauon policies.
     •   Assessing risk-communication effectiveness.

3.1.  Exploring Risk Perceptions

     Focus groups can be especially effective in ex-
ploring people's perceptions of risk. Our focus groups
on hazardous waste risks and radon risks have yielded
several  important insights into how people perceive
each of these risks  that would have  been hard to
delect  with conventional survey procedures. For ex-
ample, we found that people form concrete images of
hazardous waste. These images are associated with
rusted  barrels of chemicals, or empty houses from the
well-publicized expenences at communities such
Times  Beach. Love Canal,  or Woburn. In contrast.)
people could not easily form images of radon, which
made it difficult for them to evaluate their risks from
radon.  One  focus group participant's comment was
especially revealing: " It's easy to put off because you
can't see or smell it. The health risk takes a very long
    We also found that people had difficulty relating
government  regulations to nsks from hazardous waste
exposure. Over the course of several sessions,  we
tned several ways to make the connections clearer.
Ultimately, we used concrete examples to show link-
ages between regulations, exposures, and potential
health  effects.
    In addition to probing nsk  perceptions,  focus
groups provide an opportunity to evaluate how those
perceptions  are linked to personal  attitudes and char-
acteristics. We were able to develop  ideas about how
age, or experience, may affect nsk perceptions. These
ideas led to hypotheses that were explored more
formally in surveys.
     Focus  groups also  highlighted differences be-
tween  technical risk assessments and people's  rr
perceptions. Some technicians argued that, if peoj
only understood that the probabilities of dying from
exposure to hazardous wastes are much smaller than
the probabilities  of dying from an  automobile acci-
dent, then  we  could communicate  nsk  more effec^
lively.  They placed primary (if not complete) weighT'
on the importance of the magnitude of the probabil-
ity estimate. In contrast the lay public appears to use >
multiple cntena—the probability, the potential con-
sequences (e.g., cancer or birth defects), the extent of
individual control, the ume to resolution, and others
—to rate the risk. More definitive answers about how''
these factors influence individuals'  responses to nsk
will require more systematic research.
     Focus groups also  permit evaluations of visual
aids (e.g., scales or formats) for eliciting nsk percep-
tions.  Within  these group sessions, the analyst can
observe  directly how people use  a  scale or how the
group  discusses their reactions after the scale has
been presented.
3.1 Evaluating Perceptual Cues
     and Information Processing

     Focus groups  are a convenient seiung  for ex-
ploring an array of perceptual cues related  to how

 Focus Groups and Risk Communication
 people interpret and use nsk information. Bv using a
 sequence of several sessions with progressive modifi-
 caung materials, we found that some people pre-
 ferred verbal explanations of the risks  from haz-
 ardous  waste exposure  while others  preferred the
 visual representations provided  by the probability
 wheels (nsk circles) we had adapted to illustrate the
 probabilities. Still others preferred  representation in
 mathematical terms: the percentage of cases experi-
 encing the outcome. When we used multiple cues to
 characterize the same nsk concept, we learned thai
 many people used the representation they found most
 comfortable and ignored the others.
     The process leading to our decision to include
 both  fractions and percentages to explain risk to-
 gether with the nsk circles illustrates the value of the
 focus groups. After conducting several  sessions using
 these circles  without  the  percentages,  we  noticed
 when we collected the visual  aids that many people
 had  calculated  the percentages. In the next focus
 group in which we also provided the percentages.
 people discussed how they used and interpreted ei-
 ther the  fractions, percentages, or both in evaluating
 the nsk information.
3.3. Pretesting Risk-Communication Materials

    Focus groups offer an excellent method to pretest
nsk-commumcation matenals. We have used  them
with both  well-defined, homogeneous target groups
and more  heterogeneous  collections  of  individuals.
For example,  homeowners in high radon areas pro-
vided useful suggestions for simplifying the language
and organization of several radon brochures. Partici-
pants drawn  from a more heterogeneous range of
expenences had trouble recognizing the messages in
several  radio  public service  advertisements because
of distracting background music. The same group.
however,  found  that  background sounds (people
rustling newspapers or placing coffee cups in saucers)
made other ads seem more realistic. These comments
were reflected in  changes made in the final ads.
    Our expenence with focus groups suggests that
they can  be  quite valuable  in  evaluating different
ways to present nsk concepts. In several focus groups,
we used nsk ladders to elicit the  perceived nsk from
hazardous  waste  exposure. Participants in a progres-
sive sequence of sessions  taught us  that our first
ladder did  not offer sufficiently diverse nsk informa-
tion. They wanted  more coverage of  the lower risks
                                   Z.000o< 100000
              01 •        i	• as «i 'oo eoo

          • Ai tan on* Root 0«r «•».

          Fig. I. Final version of the nsk ladder
and wanted to find out about risks that  were more
likely related to their specific occupations. They also
suggested several changes in the ladder that resulted
in one consistent visual focus on the center  of the
ladder. Their comments indicated that breaks in the
ladder would help us  to  present a  wide range of
values while keeping the scale and transition between
levels understandable.  We also found  the use of
colors along the ladder helped reinforce  the  differ-
ences. Figure 1 shows our final ladder.
    The focus group reactions to the different ver-
sions  of  the nsk ladder also highlight an important
limitation on using nsk ladders. People  found the
ladder useful in  trying to think about  their  own
situations. However, they emphasized that the ladder

                                                                                  Desvousges and Smith
 would not have worked as a communication device
 for convincing them the nsks from hazardous waste
 would be acceptable because it includes  nsks with
 very different characteristics. (We had included these
 alternatives to provide the wider coverage  of nsks
 requested by the earlier sessions.) Clearly,  improving
 nsk ladders, or other indices, is an area for further
 research in which focus groups may continue to be a
 valuable tool.
     The messages from focus groups are often nega-
 tive—here's what is not communicating. For exam-
 ple, we learned that putting the nsks  from aflatoxin
 in peanut butter was a disastrous nsk-commumca-
 tion idea. We lost control of a focus group as partici-
 pants heatedly debated for over an hour why it was
 included. In  this case, hazardous  wastes and peanut
 butter did not mix.  The comparison gave very mixed
 signals which led to contusion, not communication.
 Clearly this, companson was a mistake,  but it would
 have  been more senous had  it  taken place in the
 actual survey, or in a  broader risk-communication

 3.4. Selecting Risk-Communication Channels

     Focus groups are useful in selecting the poten-
 tial channels to be  used  for communicating nsk
 information.  With  radon,  we found (perhaps  not
 surprisingly) that no single channel was superior. For
 example, several participants  had obtained consider-
 able information about radon from listening to the
 radio. Others  listened to the  radio, but  changed the
 station whenever they  recognized something as  an
 "ad." Some  participants seldom listened  to  their
 radios at all.  However, some members of  this last
 group had followed the radon issue closely  in their
 newspapers. Overall,  these sessions emphasized the
 importance of using multiple communication chan-
 nels and adapting the message to meet the specific
 needs of each channel—two basic tenets of  the nsk-
commurucauon literature.

3.5. Designing Risk-Mitigation Policies

    Focus groups provide preliminary  feedback  on
 policies that government or industry might  consider
 for mitigating nsks. For example, we  asked focus
group participants to rate the potential  effectiveness
of various strategies for mitigating the nsks  from
 transporting  high-level  nuclear wastes.  The partici-
pants consistently named several strategies, particu-
larly those emphasizing state and local participation.
while they consistently regarded others as ineffective.
These patterns  allowed  us  to  narrow our attention
and  focus on  fewer alternatives to be used in the
subsequent survey  research.  Because  the  findings
from focus groups cannot be generalized to a new set
of conditions or an  enure population, they are espe-
cially effective when combined with other research
methods, such as surveys.

3.6. Assessing Risk-Communication Effectiveness

    One of the most important, and often neglected.
aspects of nsk communication  is assessing communi-
cation effectiveness. Focus groups can play two use-
ful roles in the evaluation process. As  mentioned
earlier, they are helpful in pretesting the  messages.
But they can also help in designing survey question-
naires used to evaluate effectiveness of the communi-
cation program itself. Our experience  suggests that
focus groups can reveal problems in question word-
ing, order, and format for these questions. They mav
also generate unanticipated ideas for measunnp
fecuveness. If the survey involves m-person in
views, focus groups can provide especially good ideas
for developing visual aids.
    There  is an  important caveat  to our overall
support for the use of  focus  groups.  Focus groups
alone are insufficient for  evaluating the effectiveness of
a  risk communication program. The findings  from
these groups are qualitative.  They need  to be  but-
tressed with quantitative measures of  effectiveness.
Moreover,  focus group  findings cannot be reliably
generalized  to  a  population  because  their sample
sizes are too small or their sample selection is non-
random.  Thus, it is  important  to recognize that eval-
uation provides one area where focus groups may  be

    To help others learn from  what worked and
what didn't, we list some rules of thumb on imple-
menting focus groups:
    •   Work  with cmc  groups,  church organiza-
        tions, and social organizations to reach tar'
        segments. Giving  guidelines  to orgamzau

Focus Groups and Risk Communication
       contacts can help control group composition.
       By making a  modest contribution 10 the
       group ($100). people feel a greater sense of
       responsibility for attending and contributing
       to the session.
    •  Keep  the groups relatively small. We have
       found that groups of eight to ten are most
    •  Send   people a confirmation  letter and  a
       brochure about your organization  to reduce
       anxiety about  intentions. People invariably
       brought the materials with them and  men-
       tioned after the session  that  they were less
       concerned  about  being targeted for a sales
    •  Make sure the moderator is represented as a
       nonexpert in the nsk area. Having people ask
       the moderator questions severely reduces the
       effectiveness of the session.  We have also
       found  that, after observing several sessions, it
       is often possible,  and indeed desirable, for a
       member of the  research team to assume the
       moderator role. This allows for more flexibil-
       ity  in  following  up unanticipated  areas of
       discussion that  are  germane to the research
    •  Don't  try  to hold focus groups with respon-
       dents who might have difficulty with a topic.
       Generally,  we  found  these to  be the least
       informative sessions because the participants
       were unable to  verbalize why they were hav-
       ing difficulty or simply felt uncomfortable in
       a group setting. One-on-one in-depth inter-
       views may  be a better alternative for target-
       ing these individuals.
    •  Make sure the  organizational structure of a
       group knows about the session and its objec-
       tive. No one showed up for a session involv-
       ing high school teachers because the teacher
       helping with the arrangements did not clear
       the session with the school principal. After
       learning of the session,  the  principal  had
       threatened  to  censure  teachers if  they at-
    •  Arrange for multiple  records  for  each ses-
       sion. Videotaping, audiotaping, or having an-
       alysts directly  observe the sessions had no
       effect on the quality  of  the  session.  When
       possible, videotape the sessions, as this pro-
       vides an effective way for reviewing the ses-
       sions later.
    •  Have clear objectives and a written agenda to
       keep the sessions on track and to ensure that
       all important topics are covered.
    •  Select a relaxed setting with an informal for-
       mat. Community halls, church halls or local
       meeting  places all  work well. Refreshments
       help to break the ice.
    •  Keep the session to two hours. While a break
       is  generally unnecessary,  a shon one can
       sometimes help  reonent  the  discussion if
       people are tending to pursue extraneous mat-
       ters and  offers  a natural opportunity to shift
       gears and review issues in a different way.
    •  Remain  at the location  for some time after
       the session. Remember discussions of impor-
       tant  or  controversial  topics  can  influence
       people after thev leave the session. So atten-
       tion to informal opportunities (or discussion
       can alter impacts and ease anxieties.

    These ideas are based solely on our experiences
and not the result of a  systematic, formal evaluation.
Nonetheless,  they are  generally consistent with the
    ;;plc5 found in marketing  applications.

    Our experience suggests  that focus groups can
be valuable tools in making nsk communication more
effective. They  provide an opportunity to listen  to
the everyday language people use to discuss risks,  as
well as to observe people using probability informa-
tion. This  is just the beginning  of the new uses  of
focus groups in nsk communication and related stud-
ies. As more and vaned objectives are med. we will
learn more about what works and what does not  in
communicating risks. We may also find new commu-
nicating  ideas as  focus groups are used  in related
areas—e.g., the  theory and practice of health educa-
tion. The most important issue for nsk communica-
tors is how to use the technique effectively. To pro-
vide an adequate answer more research is needed.
    Fruitful areas for future nsk-communicauon re-
search include applying focus groups to new facets  of
nsk communication (e.g.,  new  nsks such as  those
from biotechnology), as well as finding more system-
atic ways of getting people to reveal how they pro-
cess nsk  information. Interactive research combining
focus groups with laboratory expenments and sur-
veys offers the prospective for providing the needed

                                                                                    Desvousges and Smith
insights. Clearly, there is a need for more research
findings on how 10 organize and conduct the groups.
     Although focus groups can  oe a valuable nsk-
commumcation  tool, they are not  a  substitute  for
more systematic quantitative  research. They cannot
provide valid statistical results that can be general-
ized to a  target population. Because they are inher-
ently qualitative,  focus group findings need to be
buttressed with carefully executed quantitative analy-
sis from either laboratory or field (survey) research.
Nonetheless, they can be effective complements to
more quantitative research methods.  Focus groups
improve the quality of  information ultimately  ac-
quired in surveys; suggest hypotheses for testing with
those data: and. equally  important, provide a wealth
of insights (and anecdotes) that can vividly illustrate
the findings from the quantitative results.

                    June 1989
                   Caron Chess
                 Associate Director

                  Billie Jo Hance
                 Research Associate

                 Peter M. Sandman
     Environmental Communication Research Program
     A Program of the Agricultural Experiment Station
            Cook College, Rutgers University
              New Brunswick, NJ 08903

                        NOTE TO READERS
      Although we have received comments from a number of reviewers, we
would like feedback from those who actually use this workbook to plan their
communication with the public.  The comments of both reviewers and users will
guide the development of another draft of this workbook.

      After you have used the workbook, we would appreciate your taking some
time to fill out the accompanying questionnaire and send it back to us at the
Environmental Communication Research Program (ECRP), 122  Ryders Lane,
Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903.  If your copy is not
accompanied by a questionnaire, please contact ECRP at (201) 932-8795 and we
will send you one.  Or you may simply send us your comments. Either way, we
thank you for your feedback.
      Copyright © 1989 by Caron Chess, Billie Jo Hance, Peter M. Sandman and
the Environmental Communication Research Program.  Permission is hereby
granted for government agencies to reproduce this document, for internal use
only, provided that all copies made incorporate the complete document, including
this notice. For other than internal use by government agencies or to reproduce
portions of this document, write or call the authors for permission at the
Environmental Communication Research Program, 122 Ryders Lane,  Cook
College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903. (201)932-8795.
      We would like to thank the Division of Science and Research, New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection, which funded the preparation of this








        A. Questions to help identify key

        B. List of potential audiences


        A. Questions for agencies to raise when
           identifying concerns

        B. Questions audiences may ask of you




        A. Assessing the climate

        B. Things to do before meeting




   As agency staff look toward improving
 their communication with those outside the
 agency, they often ask for step-by-step
 instructions to guide them through the pro-
 cess. Although experienced  communicators
 often follow their intuition,  those with less
 experience want and deserve a more system-
 atic approach.

   Agencies do not have the  luxury of allow-
 ing only staff with years of experience to com-
 municate. In fact, technical  and policy staff
 who have little  communication training or
 experience often need to serve as spokespeo-
 ple because of their knowledge of the techni-
 cal and policy aspects of complex environ-
 mental problems. Communication specialists
 can  help formulate policy, coach from the
 wings, act  as liaisons, and train other staff,
 but they cannot  replace the important  inter-
 change between "the experts" and the public.

   While some people  are "born communica-
 tors," others can be made.  This workbook
 assumes that a  key to effective communica-
 tion is effective  planning. Even those with
 extensive communication experience may
 improve their communication efforts by
 improved  planning. The hope is to replace
 last-minute, poorly conceived communication
 efforts with thoughtful ones.  In essence, this
 workbook makes explicit  the thinking which
 communication professionals  use when devel-
 oping programs.

   Improving Dialogue with Communities:
A  Risk  Communication   Manual for
 Government  (and the  shorter overview,
 "Improving Dialogue with Communities:  A
 Short  Guide  for   Government   Risk
 Communication") laid out a framework for
 understanding how communities  perceive
 risk. The manual argued that agency  effec-
 tiveness will increase and unwarranted ten-
 sion with  communities will decrease  when
 agencies listen to concerned publics.

   This workbook, which was developed with
 funds provided by the Division of Science and
 Research, New Jersey Department  of
 Environmental  Protection, suggests how
 agency staff can  apply guidelines introduced
in the manual and short guide. While the
 manual suggests why two-way communica-
• tion is essential to explaining risk, this work-
 book gives more detail on how to promote
 such dialogue. An understanding of risk com-
 munication principles explained in the manu-
 al (or short guide) is essential  for using this

   The manual, short guide, and additional
 copies of this workbook are available from the
 Environmental Communication Research
 Program, Rutgers University,  Cook College,
 122 Ryders  Lane, New Brunswick, New
 Jersey 08903.
 Why Plan?

   Although agencies understand the need to
 develop sampling plans, risk management
 options, and timelines for policy proposals,
 communication planning is too often over-
 looked. The result is  resource-intensive
 attempts to put out communication fires that
 might have been averted through effective

   There's not enough time" is the most com-
 mon reason for skipping the planning stage.
 In fact, ad-hoc communication efforts often
 take far more  time than carefully planned
 ones. Staff will often find themselves playing
 "catch-up," developing informational materi-
 als  and holding meetings that  might have
 been unnecessary if planning had occurred.
 Just as scientific sampling without planning
 can slow down  an assessment due to the need
 to rethink  and resample, it is ultimately more
 wasteful and time-consuming to develop a
 brochure  or fact sheet without thinking
 through how it will further your communica-
 tion goals. Meaningful planning can help

      •  integrate communication efforts with
        agency risk  assessment and manage-
      •  increase  the effectiveness of communica-
        tion programs;
      •  allocate appropriate resources to commu-
        nication  efforts;
      •  increase  dialogue and reduce unwarrant-
        ed tension with those outside the agency

How to Use This Workbook

   Before beginning this  workbook it is
essential that you read Improving Dialogue
with Communities in the form of the manual
or short guide. As explained previously, an
understanding of the basics of risk communi-
cation is essential to using this workbook.

   This workbook is divided into sections that
help you develop different pieces of a commu-
nication plan. While it might be tempting to
work through a specific section of this work-
book when you feel the need for it, this type
of piecemeal planning should be avoided. You
are far better off reading the chapter on the
planning process and methodically working
through all  the sections. Then you can go
back and revise particular sections as needed.

   You may want to photocopy sheets of the
workbook before you use them so you can use
the workbook  again for your  next planning
effort. It may be easiest to complete the sec-
tions of the workbook in planning meetings.
Or you may find it easier to assign someone
to complete the workbook and then present
the completed sections for discussion with
other staff. Regardless, it is critical that all
the staff who are involved in the project
understand and accept the communication
plan. The completed workbook gives you the
outline of a plan, which you can then develop
into the form of a memo, if needed. (See The
Planning Process.")

   The first time you use the workbook it
may take a while to complete. However, the
planning process should go more quickly as
you become familiar with it.
A Final Note

   Developing an effective plan is an impor-
tant first step. But turning a plan into reality
hinges on factors other than the effectiveness
of the plan. Involvement, support,  and
encouragement of agency management is
critical to ensure that communication plan-
ning  is integrated into agency practice.
Managers may want to refer to "Encouraging
Effective Risk Communication in Government:
Suggestions for Agency Management," avail-
able from the Environmental Communication
Research Program.

   No matter how small your communication
effort, planning can help. Experienced com-
municators consciously think through their
goals before they pick up a phone or write
even a brief memo. They know that fore-
thought can save them a great deal of time.
When time is particularly tight, communica-
tion professionals know that planning is par-
ticularly important; they plan how to cut cor-
ners rather than cutting out planning.

   Despite their emphasis on  planning,
skilled communicators are  not slaves to elab-
orate plans with intricate timelines. Effective
communication is often situational, requiring
both sensitivity and flexibility. But having a
road map makes it easier to take detours.
Without such a guide, you may spend a lot of
effort and still fail to reach your  goal.
Planning can also increase your sensitivity by
helping you think through  audience concerns
ahead of time.
When to Plan

   If you fail to plan your efforts until you
run into problems, you then spend time try-
ing to overcome obstacles that might have
been averted. Consequently, planning seems
difficult and time-consuming. Instead, it's
easier to plan before you begin your commu-
nication effort.

   Because communication should comple-
ment agency scientific, risk management,
and regulatory efforts, planning for your com-
munication effort should be integrated with
project planning rather than started after a
project has gotten off the ground. For exam-
ple, NJDEP's  Bureau of Water Quality
Standards and Analysis planned ways to
solicit input from those outside the agency
before drafting regulations. Development of
the communication timeline went hand in
hand with the timeline for drafting of regula-
Who Should Plan

   In order for communication plans to mesh
with agency efforts, communication planning
must involve project staff other than those
who will be involved in the communication
effort. For example, planning for development
of a brochure should have input not only of
the person writing the brochure but also of
those involved in the effort the brochure
describes. Because the public often needs to
hear from "the experts," the experts need to
plan for that interaction. Therefore, although
planning may be easier if communication
staff can help, technical staff are essential to
communication planning.

   Experience suggests that some of the best
communication plans come from a team effort
involving staff with differing perspectives. In
fact, public relations firms usually hold
brainstorming sessions to spark planning
ideas. On the other hand, writing plans by
committee can be very time-consuming. You
might want to try assigning one person to
coordinate development of a plan with input
of other staff. Or you may want to develop a
planning team which assigns responsibility to
staff for different sections of this workbook.
Regardless, developing a consensus about the
communication plan  will be important to
effective implementation.
 Planning Steps

   This workbook is divided into chapters
 which represent different steps in the plan-
 ning process. If you move through the work-
 book completing each chapter in sequence,
 you should have a comprehensive plan at the

   Determining Your Goals: Clarifying your
 communication goals should help clarify how
 to get there. This chapter suggests a variety
 of goals that may shape your plans.

   Overcoming Communication Constraints:
 The best way to overcome communication
 problems is to anticipate them before they
 happen and figure out ways to avert or  mini-
 mize them. This checklist suggests potential
 communication problems and ways to  over-
 come them.

    Identifying Audiences: Before deciding
 what to say, you need to think  through to
 whom you will be saying it. Identifying those
 people who may want to have  input into
 agency efforts may be a key variable in  devel-
 oping your plans.

   Identifying Audience Concerns: Successful
communication often hinges on knowing what
your audience's concerns are. Although you
will want to talk with people about issues
that are important to the agency, effective
two-way communication will be determined
by whether you communicate about what is
important to your audience.

   Designing Your Message:  Deciding what
to say is often easiest when you have
addressed your goals, audiences, and audi-
ence concerns.  After completing this chapter,
you will have the basics of a working commu-
nication plan, and the following chapters will
help you structure your approach.

   Methods of Reaching People: Once you
have determined your goals, the audiences
you want to reach, and what their concerns
might be, you can think through ways to
reach them. This chapter suggests both tradi-
tional and innovative ways to communi-
cate—including approaches to increase your
interaction with the public.

   Preparing for Meetings with the Public: If
your communication plan includes meetings
with those outside the  agency, reviewing this
checklist should help make sure you cover the
important bases, from logistics to process con-

   Planning for Evaluation:  This checklist
can help you plan to get feedback on your
communication efforts so you can make mid-
course corrections, if necessary.
  Developing Timelines:  Once you know
what you want to do, it is critical to plan
when you are going to do it. A well-developed
timeline can help keep your plan on course.
Developing a Planning Document

   After you have completed these chapters,
it should be relatively easy to draft a formal
communication plan. You might want to write
a memo organized by headings similar to the
chapters of this workbook, based on your
responses to the  checklists. This memo,
including a timeline, can then be reviewed to
ensure that it reflects the views of those
involved in the project. It can also be a useful
document  for  discussions with agency
managers. Just as important, a comprehen-
sive, well-articulated plan may help solicit

   Although planning documents are often
filed and forgotten, your responses to the
checklists and your timeline can be essential
tools to keep your communication effort on
track. When problems come up, it may be
useful to go back to your checklist of goals to
help sort out possible options. The timeline
should guide the efforts of all the staff who
are involved. Hopefully, instead of "reinvent-
ing the wheel" at various stages in the com-
munication effort, the plan will help you
move forward with assurance.

   The overarching goal of just about every
 agency program is to protect the environment
 by coping appropriately with the environmen-
 tal problem under consideration.

   But the communication goals of a program
 can  vary considerably. And achieving the
 agency's overarching environmental goal
 often depends in large part on specifying and
 achieving its communication goals.

   Often agency staff launch a communica-
 tion effort without thinking through their
 communication goals—sometimes without
 quite realizing that they should have commu-
 nication goals.  Even the simplest communi-
 cation activity,  such as a telephone call to a
 citizen leader, is  ideally aimed at a specific
 goal. Yet one agency representative recalled
 that his sole goal  for a particular public
 meeting was "to survive." Without clear com-
 munication goals, unfortunately, agency
 spokespeople can hope to do little better than
 survive. Setting more specific communication
 goals can lead to a more successful  (and less
 stressful) interaction with the community,
 and  thus can help achieve program goals as

   The purpose of this checklist is to help you
 think through  which communication goals
 are most important to the particular program
 at hand before you begin your detailed plan-

   The checklist is subdivided into four cate-
 gories: informational goals, organizational
 goals, legally mandated goals, and process
goals. As you go through the list, it may help
to put a "1" next to those goals that are top
priorities for this particular program. Put a
"2" next to the goals of moderate priority.  If
you have goals in mind that are not listed,
space is provided to add them.

  The checklist will be most useful if you
identify no more than four top-priority
goals and  four second-priority goals. You do
not necessarily need to choose a goal in every
category. However, it will help to remember
that  agency staff often tend to underestimate
the  importance of process  goals.  (See
Improving Dialogue with Communities.)

   Because consensus on goals is essential to
developing an effective communication effort,
you may find it helpful to work through the
checklist jointly with other staff in your pro-
gram, or to compare answers after you have
worked it through separately. You may also
want to check that your sense of the pro-
gram's goals coincides with your supervisor's

   Once you  have determined your goals,
they can become a key to your planning pro-
cess.  At each stage of the program, you can
look back over your list of goals to see if there
are any you may have neglected and need to
give more attention. You can "test" each pro-
posed communication activity against  your
list of goals, asking yourself whether that
activity will help achieve the goals you  have
set.  You may also want  to reconsider  from
time to time whether your choice of goals
should change as the program develops.
Informational Goals

	  To give people the data they need to understand better the extent of the risk.

	  To tell people what the agency has done, is doing, and plans to do about the problem, and
       what it cannot do, and why.

	  To answer questions that have arisen and respond to concerns in the community


Organizational Goals
	  1b build and maintain the credibility of the agency in the minds of all affected publics.
	  1b coordinate actions within the agency and with other agencies so the governmental
       response is consistent and effective.
	  lb maintain agency efficiency by avoiding unnecessary conflicts with the public.

Legally Mandated Goals
	  Tb provide appropriate advance notice and an appropriate process for public input and
       agency response.
Process Goals
       lb involve affected parties as early as possible. (See checklist of potential audiences in
       Chapter V.)
       lb provide maximum opportunities for public input, including where appropriate a chance
       to help make and carry out key decisions.
       Tb keep people routinely informed throughout the process, so they do not feel abandoned
       and do not lose their sense of what the agency is doing.
       lb make only promises that can be kept, and to keep the promises that are made.
       lb build a relationship with the community that is personal as well as bureaucratic, that
       incorporates feelings as well as data.


   The best way to reduce major problems in        Below are some of the areas that may pose
 a communication effort is to anticipate them     obstacles and some potential ways to ovcr-
 and find ways to avoid them. In general, it is     come them. They are not meant to  be all-
 far easier to plan for a problem than to con-     inclusive but rather to trigger your thinking.
 front it as an emergency that can derail your     Check the problem, then the solutions you
 communication effort.                          plan to try.

   Communicating with those outside the agency who are affected by agency decisions may
 determine whether the decisions are implemented or become mired in controversy. Despite
 this, agencies rarely allocate sufficient resources to communication efforts.

 Potential constraints

 	  Insufficient staff.
 	  Insufficient funding for printing, subcontracting, etc.
Potential solutions

	  Plan more rather than less. (Rushed planning will often result in increased implementa-
       tion time.)

	  Set clear goals and priorities. (It is far easier to decide how to reduce your effort when
       you are very clear on where you want to go.)

	  Plan development of written materials in advance, rather than at the last minute, so
       that key pieces of literature can serve several functions.

	  Train technical staff so that some aspects of communication can be integrated into their
       day-to-day work.

	  Involve leaders of your key audiences in outreach efforts to their members.

	  In extreme situations, consider borrowing staff from other efforts.

	  Remind management: A communication effort in time saves nine. Proactive attempts to
       communicate are usually less labor-intensive than putting out communication fires.

   Although the agency may feel that there is insufficient time to communicate with people or
to involve them in decision-making, failure  to communicate may, in fact, delay your efforts
even further.

Potential constraints

	  Pressure from inside or outside the agency to act quickly.
	  Mandated deadlines.

       Extended timelines needed for outreach.
 Potential solutions

 	  Plan communication efforts early so they can be integrated into agency timelines. (For
       example, it is easier to involve the public in decision-making if the involvement happens
       as part of rather .than after the agency's process. See Chapter XI.)
 	  Use short cuts, if necessary. (For example, speak with the leadership of organizations by
       telephone when there is insufficient time to meet with their constituency.)
 	  Use agency "down time" for communication efforts. (For example, work on communica-
       tion while proposals are moving through the approval process.)
 	  Develop streamlined processes within the agency. (For example, instead of redrafting
       materials many times, involve key people in planning the materials. Consider conduct-
       ing editing meetings rather than circulating and recirculating drafts, etc.)
 	  Plan for informal, smaller-scale outreach efforts rather than large-scale events that need
       a great deal of lead time.
 	  Investigate desk-top publishing and other methods to speed production of materials.
 	  Recycle your efforts. (Keeping organized lists of contacts, files of materials, and records
       of past efforts can speed your work tremendously.)

   Legal concerns can be a constraint but can also be a convenient excuse for failing to commu-
nicate. Agencies too often use legal problems as barriers to hide behind, causing more prob-
lems than they solve.
Potential constraints
	  Unwieldy procedures.
Potential solutions
	  Examine statutory language rather than assuming the barriers exist.
	  Explain your plans and ask legal staff for help to overcome any potential legal problems,
       rather than asking whether there are barriers. (This may result in a very different
       response than a question posed essentially as "We can't do this, can we?")
	  Incorporate legal requirements (such as notification, public hearings, etc.) into commu-
       nication planning.

       Be clear with your audiences from the outset about your legal constraints.
 Management Support
   The success of a communication effort, as with any other effort, can hinge on support from
 those above you.
 Potential constraints
 	  Failure to approve or support communication plans and materials. Or delays in approval
       that reduce the effectiveness of your effort.
 	  Failure to respond to public input.
 	  Public statements that contradict the communication program.
 	  Failure to allocate sufficient resources.
 	  Lip service to communication that is not accompanied by a commitment to recruit, train,
       and reward staff for communication skill.
Potential solutions
       Develop well-articulated plans, with rationales in terms that management can respond
       Document community feedback. (See Chapter X, "Planning for Evaluation.")
       Build models of success to point to.
       Build alliances within and without the agency.
Attitudes of Those Outside the Agency
   Agencies sometimes are concerned that those outside the agency, determined to stir up con-
flict, will "sabotage" any communication effort. Or agency staff may feel that nothing they say
will be listened to.
Potential constraints
	  Political agendas.
	  Lack of knowledge about environmental issues, risk, etc.
	  Demands for certainty.
	  Failure to appreciate limitations of resources, science, etc.
	  Hidden agendas.

Potential solutions
   This problem is covered in more depth in Improving Dialogue with Communities.
	  Involve people in decision-making. (It is particularly important to involve those who are
       most likely to be angry or invested. See Chapter V, "Identifying Audiences.")
	  Listen to those outside the agency.
	  Give people background on the issues so they can understand.
	  Be forthright.

   The success of a communication effort can
 hinge  on early identification of audiences to
 reach.  Although it may be tempting for agen-
 cies to aim for communicating with "everyone,"
 communication efforts that aim too broadly
 may not reach key people. Communicating with
 everyone is a near impossibility. Reaching key
 audiences can save you a great deal of time and
 resources that might otherwise be diffused by
 trying  to communicate with the elusive "gener-
 al public."

   Because of the potential controversy sur-
 rounding many environmental health issues,
 identifying audiences is particularly impor-
 tant. For an agency, audiences are not just
 people who might want  to hear what you
 want to say; they are also people who want
 to tell  you things. People tend to resent deci-
 sions that are made without their input. In
 fact, making decisions for people will virtual-
 ly guarantee their opposition. In addition,
 getting input from outside the agency can
 sometimes help solve complex environmental
 problems. Because agencies cannot get input
 from everybody about everything, careful
 identification of audiences can ensure that
 the agency is listening to those most likely to
 be interested. Just as important, careful
 audience identification reduces the possibility
 of anger at  the agency  for failing to involve
 people in the decision-making process. (For
 guidelines about dealing with different audi-
 ences see Chapter IV in Improving Dialogue
with Communities.)

   Identifying audiences is largely a process
of thinking through as specifically as possible
who should be involved in a dialogue with the
agency. The following steps may be helpful:

L  Answer the questions listed in the  follow-
   ing  section "Questions to  Help Identify
   Key Audiences." They might trigger your
   thinking of additional questions tied to the
   issue with which you are grappling.

2.  Talk with others in the agency who have
   dealt with similar issues or review records
   of public hearings about related concerns
   for ideas about interested audiences.

3. Review the list of potential audiences that
   follows the list of questions. Select the
   audiences that  are appropriate to the

4. Determine which audiences are most
   important for you  to communicate with.
   Often the audiences that are most dif-
   ficult to deal with—and the ones you
   might be hoping to avoid—are  the
   ones you most need to communicate
   with. It may help to prioritize your audi-
   ences by dividing  them into three cate-

      a. The inner circle—those most like-
      ly to be very concerned and very
      interested. They must be contacted
      and involved to the greatest extent
      possible. To a certain degree this cir-
      cle is self-selecting. If people want to
      be very involved, they should be very

      b. The middle circle—those who have
      less concern  or are more peripheral
      but are apt to be upset if not contact-
      ed. They should be contacted, invited
      to be involved, and  kept informed.
      This group is also self-selecting  to a
      certain extent. People  decide for
      themselves if they want to make the
      commitment of the middle circle  to
      occasional  input   and  progress

      c. The outer circle—those who are
      less likely to be concerned This often
      includes the "general public "  Less
      effort should be directed  to these
      audiences than the  other two, and
      the effort should be aimed at  involv-
      ing them in the middle circle

 5. As you contact  people,  ask them  if they
   know of others you should be contacting.

    The following questions may help identify
 audiences for you to reach among those sug-
 gested on the "List of Potential Audiences,"
 which follows. There is room under each ques-
 tion for you to list audiences that are impor-
 tant for you to deal with. Those groups that
 are relevant to more than one question are
 particularly critical for you to reach. Although
 you may feel like avoiding groups or individu-
als who may be difficult to deal with, these
are often the most likely to raise issues if they
are not consulted early. In fact, if you would
prefer not to hold a dialogue  with a group
because it is hostile or otherwise problematic,
that group should be at the top of your list to
contact. Otherwise, your effort will be even
more vulnerable to criticism because you have
failed to address that group's concerns.
 1. Which groups have been previously involved in this issue? (Newspaper clippings, discus-
   sions with other staff in the agency, and transcripts of public meetings can help with find-
   ing this out.)
2. Which groups are likely to be affected directly by the agency's policy, regulation, or
3. Which groups are likely to be angry if they are not consulted with or alerted to the issue?
4. Which groups would be helpful for you to consult with because they might have important
   information, ideas, or opinions?
5. Which groups should you involve to ensure that the agency has communicated with a
   balanced range of opinion on the issue?
6. Which groups may not especially want input, but do need to know what the agency is


   The following list is meant to trigger your     for this particular program. Put a "2" next to
thinking rather than to be exhaustive. As you     audiences of lesser priority. Use the lines on
go through the list, it may help to put a "1"     the right to fill in names.
next to those audiences that are top priorities


	  Your division

	  Other divisions	

	  Other federal, state or
       local agencies	
       County agencies
       Municipal agencies.
       Federal, state, or local
       elected officials	
       Legislative committees
       Quasi-governmental agencies overseeing specific functions
       	sewerage authorities	
       	regional planning commissions.
       	environmental commissions	
       Emergency responders.

Geographical Neighbors

	  Local residents	
       Local businesses


	  National groups.
       State-wide groups.

       Local groups	

        Groups related to specific issues:
        	Natural features (e.g. swamps, lakes, oceans,
           forests, etc.)	
       Groups with specific functions:
       	Lobbying _
       	Research _
       Other types of environmental organizations:
Civic Organizations
	  League of Women Voters.
       Associations such as Kiwanis,
       Rotary, etc.	
       Associations of senior citizens,

       Ethnic groups	
       Other organizations or individuals who have stature in the community and influence
Professional and Trade Associations
   It is particularly important to reach those industries and occupations that
     1) might benefit from an action;
     2) might "lose" from an action;
     3) have relevant expertise; or
     4) will be important to secure cooperation during the implementation phase.
       	Health officers		
       	Doctors	___	
       	Nurses	.	
       	Other:	.	

       	Water purveyors
       	Chambers of Commerce.
       	Industrial groups	
       Other trade-related:.
Educational and Academic Organizations
      Agricultural extension.
      Public and private schools

Religious Organizations
Other Organizations


    Unless you have a great deal of familiarity
 with the issue and the audiences involved,
 you ran create misunderstandings by assum-
 ing you know people's concerns—or  by
 assuming they are the same as yours. Thus,
 identifying people's concerns before you speak
' with them will greatly reduce communication
 frustration.'Because different constituencies
 have different concerns, it is crucial to deal
 with key audiences when identifying con-

    Listed below are some ways of identifying
 audience concerns. With the exception of
 polls, these approaches will not yield statisti-
 cally significant data. They will, however,
 provide you with a snapshot of people's con-
 cerns. Because they may not give you the full
 picture, the approaches below should be seen
 as preliminary assessments rather than final
 analyses. If you use two or more of these
 approaches, and the information seems con-
 sistent, your "snapshot" is more likely to be
 an accurate reflection of the full picture. If
 the information conflicts, you should ideally
 keep investigating. You can feel fairly secure
 that you understand audience concerns when
 you no longer identify new ones.
   Before identifying audience concerns it
may be helpful to imagine what those con-
cerns might be. Although this is no substitute
for asking, it may be a useful first step to ori-
ent your thinking.

   Taking one of the approaches listed below
is better than none. Taking several is better
still. The more potential for controversy, the
greater the number of these approaches you
might want to take. (Those marked with "*"
are described  in more detail in the report
Evaluating Risk Communication Programs: A
Catalogue of "Quick  and Easy" Feedback
Methods, by Mark Kline, Caron  Chess, and
Peter  M.  Sandman  of the Environmental
Communication Research Program, Rutgers
University. This report is available from the
Environmental Communication Research
   You may want to number the approaches
you intend to take in the order in which you
intend to  take them  and note the date by
which you hope to accomplish each task. This
information can then be used to develop your
timeline. (See Chapter XI, "Developing
       Review newspaper clippings about the issue. *
       (This is a good way to get a quick overview.)

       Discuss audience concerns with other agency officials (perhaps including those in other
       states) who have dealt with similar issues.
       (This can give you a sense of the concerns that have arisen in similar situations )

       Meet informally with those interested in the issue.
       (Informal meetings or telephone contacts can give you a first-hand idea of both substantive
       concerns and the feelings about those concerns.)

       Send a letter to potentially interested people and organizations asking them to send you a
       list of their questions and concerns. *
       (This can be a very useful way to initiate a dialogue that involves a greater number of peo-

       Develop a survey (which you can give to people through a door-to-door effort, at meetings,
       or in mailings) that asks people about their questions and concerns. *
       (This more formal approach must be developed with care so that people feel they can artic-
       ulate their concerns, not merely respond to yours.)

Brainstorm questions and concerns at the beginning of a meeting. Or ask people to write
their questions on index cards that you distribute and collect.
(Often you will want to know people's concerns in advance of a meeting, but this approach
can be very useful for ensuring that you meet your audience's concerns and for showing the
audience that you are doing so.)

Brainstorm questions and concerns at the end of a meeting. Or hand out index cards at the
end of the meeting in. preparation for .the next.
(The audience may not be the same people, but this is still a good tool where there are con-
tinuing contacts.)

Consult advisory committees.
(In order to be useful advisory committees must be representative of the audience you will
be communicating with.)
Conduct a poll. *
(Polls are useful to obtain a little bit of information from many people. They are less useful
to obtain in-depth or qualitative information about people's concerns.)

Conduct a focus group. *
(Focus groups are informal meetings of people representative of your audience. The groups,
which are guided by a trained moderator, are used to elicit attitudes, ideas and feedback.)
Date:	'



   Now that you have identified some ways
to solicit the concerns of your audience,  this
checklist suggests questions you might raise
during this process.

   The following questions are meant to be
generic ones that probe topics that are usual-
ly of concern to people. You will probably
want to adapt and build on these questions to
suit the situation with which you are dealing.
In fact, some of the questions below might
lead you to ask a series of more specific ques-
tions. For example, the question concerning
the type of interaction people would like to
have with the agency could raise the issue of
how often people would like to have meetings
and of what sort.

   In some cases you will want to ask about
most of these topics. In others, one or two topics
will be of primary concern. Place a "1" by those
questions that you feel are most critical to ask
and place a "2" by those of secondary impor-
      What type of interaction would you like to have with the agency?

      How do you feel about your interaction with the agency thus far?

      What questions do you want answered?

      What kind of technical information (scientific studies, etc.) do you want to know?

      Do you have comments and suggestions that you want to put on the record? What sort of
      response, if any, will you want from the agency?

      What objections do you have?

      What else can you tell me that will help the agency be more responsive to your concerns?

   It is problematic to generalize about the
 kinds of questions people may raise to agen-
 cies because they vary from situation to situ-
 ation. Questions raised by an advisory group
 to development of regulations will differ
 greatly from those of people living near a
 Superfund site.  Because agencies tend to
 have a great deal of difficulty anticipating the
 concerns of those who are potentially exposed
 to an environmental contaminant, the follow-
 ing list suggests some of the questions specif-
 ic to such situations.
   In general, the types of concerns people will
 have over such an issue will fall into four cate-
  (a) Health and lifestyle concerns (How will this
     affect me/my family?);
  (b) Data and information concerns (What is this
  (c) Process concerns (How am I being treated?);
  (d) Risk management concerns (What is the agen-
     cy going to do about this?).
   All four types of questions may be repre-
sented in any one community.

   The following checklist represents some
common concerns you might expect to hear
when you ask the questions in the previous
checklist. We provide it to familiarize you
with the types of community concerns
you may face, not as a substitute for iden-
tifying the community's concerns. We can-
not overemphasize that each situation is differ-
ent and each community has its own set of spe-
cific concerns. Indeed, each individual within a
community has his or her own concerns.

   It may be helpful for you to check off these
questions you anticipate. You may want to
review the list again after you have contacted
communities about their concerns. Finally,
this checklist should be referred to when you
are determining the  content of  materials or
presentations. (See Chapter VII.)
Health and Lifestyle Concerns

	  What is the danger to my health and that of my family?

	  Can I drink the water, eat the vegetables in my garden, etc.?

	  What can I do to find out if my health has been affected?

	  What can I do to reduce the damage already done?

	  What can I do to prevent further damage?

	  What about my children?  (Concerns about children are often primary and quite spe-
       cific about the implications of exposure and whether certain behaviors will increase
       their risk.)

	  We are already at risk because of X. Will Y increase our risk?

	  How will this affect our quality of life—property values, the stigma of X attached to
       our community, trucks on our local roads,  etc.?

	  How will we be protected in an accident?

	  How will we be compensated for the loss of value of our homes?


 Data and Information Concerns
 	 How sure are you?
 	 What is the worst case scenario?
 	 What do these numbers mean and how did you get them?
 	 How do we know your studies are correct?
 	 What about other opinions on this issue?
 	 How do our exposures compare to the standards?
 	 You say X can't happen. Why not?
Process Concerns
   Although agencies tend to focus on data, communities may be very concerned with
issues other than the data. (See Chapter I of Improving Dialogue with Communities.)
	  How will we be involved in decision-making?
	  How will you communicate with us?
	  Why should we trust you?
	  How and when can we reach you?
	  Who else are you talking with?
	  When will we hear from you?
Risk Management Concerns
   Concerns about how the risk will be handled are often more important to people than
details about the data.
	 When will the problem be corrected?
	 Why did you let this happen and what are you going to do about it?

What are the other options? Why do you favor option X?
Why are you moving so slowly to correct the problem?
What other agencies are involved and in what roles?
What kind of oversight will we have?

   Whether you are making a presentation at
a formal public hearing, writing material for
a handout or a brochure,  or simply talking
informally with a group of homeowners, you
will want to do some thinking about what you
will say and how you will say it. Much of
what you do say will depend on the informa-
tional, organizational, legally mandated, and
process goals you have outlined. (See Chapter
III, "Determining Your Goals.")

   Whether written or spoken,  presentations
that consider and address audience  con-
cerns—and at the same time cover the  rele-
vant technical information  in lay terms—will
be the most useful to your audience. Such
communications are less likely to be thrown
in the  trash because they  are too  confusing,
"hooted down" by a frustrated community, or
met with a barrage of non-technical questions
that leaves you wondering  whether you were
heard at all.

   The following is some guidance for devel-
oping the content of your message. The first
section will help you  decide what are the
most important things to include when you
obviously cannot include everything. The sec-
ond section will help you to fine-tune your

   One word of caution:  If you are giving a
spoken presentation, try not to become so
invested in it that you will become unglued if
in the middle you are required to change gears
slightly. Interactions with the public—particu-
larly those involving controversial environ-
mental issues—require flexibility and the abil-
ity to incorporate the needs of your audience
as much as possible. While you should prepare
thoroughly and put forth your best effort, it is
a far greater and more useful skill to be able to
sense and respond to an audience's immediate
needs if they turn out to be different from
those you anticipated. If you are writing a
brochure or other informational piece, make
sure you get feedback from potential audiences
before it is finalized and expect to make
changes down the road based on feedback you
get after it is released. (See  Chapter  X,
"Planning for Evaluation.")
Content - What Your Material Should Cover

   The following categories may help you to define what material you should cover in your
1.  List the three items you would most like your audience to learn from your talk or written
2. List the three items you feel your audience wants to learn from you.

3. What three additional background points do you feel your audience needs to know so they
   understand A and B?
4. Finally, list the three most likely points your audience will misunderstand or get wrong
   unless you stress them and explain the possible misunderstanding.
Other Things to Consider
   After you have completed the above exercise and decided on the content of your materi-
als, the following checklist may help you in completing your materials or presentation.
	  Look again at your goals (Chapter III). Does your presentation or materials advance
       them appropriately? Are there any goals you have not addressed and should?
	  Have you put technical terms in language that lay people can understand?
	  Are you using graphics where appropriate to illustrate your points?
	  If you are using graphics, are they clear? Are they simple enough to be useful or clut-
       tered and confusing?  If you are using slides or overheads, can they be read from the
       back of a room?
	  Is your presentation/materials too long? Too short?
	  Have you pretested your presentation or materials? (See Chapter X, "Planning for
	  Are there obvious places in your spoken presentation to stop and answer questions9
	  Can you handle the questions that may arise from your talk? If not, have you invited
       the appropriate colleague or other expert to assist you? Have you incorporated  into
       your written materials the questions that people are most likely to have?
	  If the material is for a spoken presentation, does it leave room for change?  Does it
       summarize at the end?

   The approaches you use to reach people
will vary depending on the issue and the
audiences. For example, while a pamphlet
might he a very useful approach to inform
those who own wells about new water regula-
tions, it  would  probably not be as useful  to
elicit feedback  from them. Nor would it be
satisfactory for  those who are directly affect-
ed by the regulations (e.g. industries with
discharge permits), who would need more in-
depth materials.

   There are no real rules for choosing the
right methods to reach people. But the list of
options which  follows may help you think
through a variety of approaches. The type of
approach you use should be  determined not
only by what you are most comfortable with
but also  by the best methods  for the audi-
ences you are trying to reach.  For example,
people who are  very angry or frightened may
need the interaction provided by an informal
meeting as well as an information line they
can call  with further questions.  A booklet
about the subject, while possibly a useful
addition, may be less successful in dealing
with  people's  emotional concerns. When
choosing the appropriate methods of out-
reach, it helps to take into account the follow-
ing factors:

L Resources available.
   (A limited budget will limit your choices.)

2.  Lead time to  prepare an outreach effort.
   (It helps to develop a realistic timeline. For
   example, a pamphlet will take far more
   time to produce than a letter. Planning  an
   informal meeting takes  less time than
   forming an advisory committee.)

3.  Audience needs.
   (This  is a key factor that is often over-
   looked. Although you may want to provide
   people with written data, they may want a

4.  Degree of interaction needed.
   (Complexity, emotional distress, and other
   factors may  suggest an interactive ques-
   tion-and-answer approach supplemented
   by written materials rather than a one-
   way approach using only written materi-
   als such as fact sheets.)

5.  Degree of controversy.
  (The more controversial an issue, the more
   likely it will require person-to-person
   interaction and input from people outside
   the agency. Controversy also suggests the
   need for small rather than large meetings.
   See Chapter IV of Improving Dialogue
   with Communities.)
6. Distribution.
   (It is critical that you think through how
   you will distribute audio-visual and writ-
   ten materials before  you  produce them.
   Similarly, consider your mailing list before
   you plan a mailing.)
7. How much detail needs to be communicated.
   (In general, more detail requires more writ-
   ten communication.)
8. Legal requirements.
   (There may be legal stipulations  about
   timing of notification or agency response
   to public comments. But do not assume  a
   particular approach is legally required
   just because it has become customary in
   the agency.)
   The following methods, which are meant
to trigger your thinking rather than to be
comprehensive, are  divided into four cate-
   1) Written or audio-visual communication;
   2) Person-to-person communication:
   3) Communication via the mass media, and
   4) Approaches particularly useful for eliciting
   Approaches marked with  "•" are those
that agencies  might want to consider using
more frequently, either because they tend  to
be overlooked or because they can be particu-
larly useful in dealing with controversy
   It may be helpful to check off your top five
choices for the situation at hand and discuss
their strengths and weaknesses with other
staff. In many cases, you will want to use more
than one method of reaching people For exam-
ple, you may want to talk to some  people  in
advance of an informal meeting,  mail them a
fact sheet, and have a handout at the meeting.

   The approach you use should vary from
situation to situation. In fact, always  relying
on the same approach time after time is prob-
ably missing the same people time after time.
If this is the case, rethink what  is new about
the situation  at hand and what approaches
are suggested by that uniqueness

 Written or Audio-Visual Materials
 	  Legal notices
        (While these fulfill legal obligations, they do not effectively reach many audiences.)
 	  Periodic updates *
        (These are less formal and less work than newsletters.)
 	  Articles or announcements in other organizations' newsletters *
        (These can often reach a greater audience than your own materials.)
 	  Fact sheets
 	  Curriculum materials
 	 Question-and-answer sheets *
       (These are very useful when they directly address audience concerns.)
 	  Placards in mass transit
 	  Inserts sent with utility bills or other mass mailings
 	  Slide shows
 	  Audio tapes
Person-to-Person Approaches
       	at your own events or meetings
       	at others' events or meetings

       Availability sessions or "out-of-office hours" *
       (These give you a chance to talk with people on their turf, meet people who might
       never travel to a meeting, and address people personally.)
       Public hearings
       Informal meetings *
       (These are more useful to create dialogue than public hearings or large meetings.)
       "Open" working meetings
       Open-door days, when agencies are open to the public and events, lectures, discus-
       sions, etc. are scheduled.
       Advisory committees
       Telephone trees
       Information telephone lines
       	Child-focused events
       	Improvement-focused events (e.g. clean-ups)
Mass Media Approaches
   In addition to responding to inquiries from reporters, agencies can initiate contact with
the media and take a pro-active approach to getting the word out. Do not overlook local
media, such as weekly newspapers, that are often widely read in communities.
	  News conferences
	  News releases
	  Letters to the editor
	  Talk shows
	  Call-in shows *
       (These  have potential to create a dialogue.)
	  Op-ed columns

       Feature, articles
Approaches for Eliciting Input
   All of the following are starred because they encourage the agency to listen to those outside.
	  Informal meetings *
	  Advisory groups *
	  Brainstorming *
	  Interactive workshops *
	  Evaluations of agency process *
	  Suggestion boxes *
	  Dividing large meetings into small groups *
	  "Dialogue" telephone lines *

   Many agency practitioners have a fear of
meeting with the public that is based on past
experiences with angry and frustrated com-
munity members at large public meetings.
There is a general sense that a meeting with
the public is an "anything goes" situation,
and that agency representatives can never
know what is going to happen until they're in
the meeting.
   As a result of these experiences, agency
people very often brace themselves for the
 battle, their only hope being to "come out
- alive." While the following checklists cannot
 shield you from communities' understandable
 anger over certain situations, they can help
 you (a) do some thinking beforehand about
 why a community may react a certain way;
 (b) see yourself and your agency from the
 community perspective; (c) avoid angering
 the community unnecessarily; and (d) pre-
 pare to respond to public reaction.

   Before  you  prepare  for the meeting
(whether it is a large public meeting or a
small informal gathering), you should consid-
er the general climate or mood of the commu-
nity. First,  you will want to find out people's
concerns.  (See  Chapter VI, "Identifying
Audience Concerns.")  But beyond that, try to
go one step further and-assess how their con-
cerns might affect people's response to you in
your role as an agency representative.

   The following list of questions might help
you to better characterize the climate. (See
also Chapter IV  of Improving Dialogue With
Communities.) It may be helpful to you to do
some  thinking about these questions and the
exercise  that follows with a colleague who
has also  been involved with this situation, to
compare  his or her impressions with yours.

1.  How are you seen in this situation? What is
   your role and the role of your agency?

2.  What  is the history of the situation? Has
   your agency (or have you) been involved pre-
   viously? Favorably or unfavorably?
3.  Have community concerns been a factor in
   previous agency decisions regarding this
   issue? How does the community see its role
   in the situation? Does the community have
   a role in the decision-making, or is it simply
   being informed of the agency's decision?
4.  How great is the interest in the situation9
   Are people angry? Apathetic?  What kind of
   reactions have  you seen (or heard about
   from colleagues, contacts, or news coverage)
   up until now?
5.  Are there hidden agendas? Are there elect-
   ed officials or groups that are  involved in
   building support over this issue?
6.  What kind of media attention has the issue
   received locally, regionally, and nationally7
   Are there  likely to be reporters present at
   this meeting?
7.  How many people do you think will attend
   the meeting?  A large number?  Only a few?
   How long do you think the meeting will last?
   Based on the answers to the above questions, try to characterize the type of meeting you
might expect, using the checklist below.
   Choose two terms that you feel will best describe the meeting tone:





	  apathetic, uninterested



	  questioning and information-seeking

	  interactive and problem-solving


   Regardless of your initial assessment of the
 tone of the meeting, which you have indicated
 on the preceding checklist, you can still have
 an effect on the tone either positively or nega-
 tively. Although you will rarely dramatically
 change its nature, you can shift it somewhat.
 For example, it is difficult to turn a controver-
 sial meeting into one-without Conflicts, but you
 can  affect the  way conflict is handled in a
 meeting, and how angry the meeting gets as a
 result of the conflict.

   The major areas for concern when preparing
 for a meeting with the public include process,
content, logistics, and trouble-shooting (explicit-
ly thinking through potential problems in order
to avoid them). Attention to all of these areas is
important; neglecting to think about any one of
them may lead to a less than favorable outcome.
For example, if you have failed to provide park-
ing at the meeting, or if you have neglected to
invite an interested and affected group, people
may be angry at you even before you give your
well-prepared presentation.

   The following  checklists  represent many
items under these four headings—you may
think of others.
       Have you talked with affected people ahead of time? (See Chapter VI, "Identifying
       Audience Concerns.")
       Have you done appropriate outreach to see that those who should be there—and who
       want to be there—are invited?
       Have you arranged for appropriate spokespeople (including technical experts, decision-
       makers, and officials of other agencies, if appropriate)?
       Have you chosen an appropriate chairperson? (Think about the implications of a com-
       munity, agency, or neutral person.)
       Have you picked a suitable location for the meeting? (A neutral location may be more
       appropriate than somebody's "turf.")
       Have you developed an agenda that provides a structure for the meeting that is appro-
       priate to deal with both the agency's and the audience's concerns?
       Have you gotten input from your audience(s) about the agenda?
       Have you reviewed the timing of the agenda and allotted realistic times for items?
       Have you considered how you  will  handle conflict if it arises?
       Have you appointed a notetaker? (Someone should write down promises agency repre-
       sentatives make and follow up on them.)
       Have you made sure documentation (e.g., tape recorder, newsprint, or notetaker) is
       available, if necessary?
       Have you considered how you  will  get feedback on the effectiveness of the meeting0 (See
       Chapter X, "Planning for Evaluation.")

       Have you gone over your list of possible questions in advance?  Are you prepared to
       respond to them? Or better yet, have you integrated the answers into your presenta-
       tion? (See Chapters VI and VII.)

        Have you prepared background material and handouts?
        Have you gotten feedback on your presentation from someone not involved with the
        Have you gotten feedback on the materials you have developed? (See Chapter X,
        "Planning for Evaluation.")
        Has the agency examined possible actions and policies that respond to people's con-
        cerns? Have these actions been taken or policies adopted?
       Big enough room?
       Right shape for presentation?
       Room temperature controlled?
       Both building and room wheelchair-accessible?
       Directions available to meeting location?
       Convenient location?
       Sufficient parking?
       Signs in building that point to room?
       Appropriate time—i.e., evenings or weekends for working people?
       Childcare available?
       Microphones for speakers and audience?
       Podium or table?
       Enough chairs? Are they arranged?
       Food and beverage available?
       Flip chart and newsprint?
       Markers, chalk, etc.?
       Masking tape and/or push pins to hang newsprint and other visuals on the walls (and
       permission to do so)?
       Audio-visual aids tested and ready? Extra bulb, extension cord, remote control switch,
       Name tags for speakers?
       Sign-in sheet?

   You also might want to do some thinking before the meeting about how you will react and
respond during the meeting. Some things you may want to be prepared for are:
	  Going over the agenda at the beginning of the meeting and, to the extent possible, mak-
       ing changes that people suggest.
	  Changing gears in your presentation based on audience reaction.
	  Dealing with outside groups you hadn't invited or counted on.

Being prepared to respond to suggestions, concerns, requests.
Being prepared to stay after the meeting to answer individual questions.
Handling conflict if it erupts.
Dealing with more people than you expected to attend.
Dealing with fewer people than you expected to attend.
Dealing with someone in the audience who starts giving a speech.
Dealing with people .who monopolize the meeting.
Dealing with the media.


   Agency practitioners recognize that improv-
 ing their communication requires a conscious
 effort to find out more about what is working
 and what is not-preferably while there is still
 time to change direction as appropriate.  In
 fact, feedback is essential to ensure that your
 communication effort is working and may save
 you time by helping you make mid-course cor-
 rections in your plans.  But in practice, evalua-
 tion is often neglected in the press of other,
 more urgent tasks-especially if it has not been
 planned for in advance.

   To make it easier for agency people to elic-
 it feedback on  their communication efforts,
 the Environmental Communication Research
 Program at Rutgers University (funded  by
 NJDEP's Division of Science and Research)
 has written a report that describes "quick
 and easy" tools an agency can use to get feed-
 back on their communication efforts.   These
 "quick and easy" methods are most appropri-
 ate for small-scale risk communication efforts
 for  which statistically reliable,  more
 resource-intensive  evaluation methods are
 not suitable. Agency staff looking for ways to
 evaluate their  communication work  should
 consult Evaluating Risk Communication
Programs:  A Catalogue Of Quick and Easy"
Feedback Methods, by  Mark Kline, Caron
Chess, and Peter M. Sandman.
   The checklist that follows is designed to
help you integrate the recommendations of
that report into your  communication plan-
ning.  Like the report  itself, the checklist is
divided  into  four sections, "Audience
Analysis," "Message Pretesting," "Assessment
of Communicator Style," and "Outcome
Assessment." For each category, check one or
more evaluation tools that seem like they
might be appropriate for your project.  Read
the relevant sections of the report to deter-
mine which are actually the most appropri-
ate.  Then indicate when in the communica-
tion process it will be suitable to use each of
the tools you have identified.
   You may well find it difficult to select
appropriate evaluation methods if you have
not read the "Quick and Easy" report. If risk
communication is  a small part  of your job
(and communication  evaluation a  smaller
part), you may find it more efficient to seek
advice on which evaluation tools to use from
someone else  in the agency who is already
familiar with  the report's  recommendations.
The first chapter of the report also provides a
brief summary of all  the  tools discussed in
detail later. The important thing is  to make
sure evaluation is not omitted from your com-
munication planning
Audience Analysis

	  1.  Policy Profiling Questionnaire (to identify stakeholders in an issue and organize agency
       perceptions of them)

	  2.  Audience Analysis Matrices (to identify relevant audiences and organize agency percep-
       tions of their reactions, involvement, or position in a communication effort)

	  3.  Audience Information Needs Assessment (to gather questions from relevant audiences
       in advance of public meetings so a response can be organized and presented)

	  4.  Analysis of News Clippings (to identify audiences and their concerns; to develop some
       historical knowledge of a community to help in planning future phases of a communication

	  5.  Public Opinion Polling (to assess audience opinion or reaction; to find out what people
       see as important problems, what issues and events they are aware of, and how they evalu-
       ate social and political institutions)

	  6.  Public Opinion Polling/Pollstart (to organize and analyze polling data on personal com-
       puters available within the agency)

       7. Qualitative Questionnaires (to collect information from people whom agencies have
       involved in a communication effort)
       Other tools
When will you use each tool?
Message Pretesting
	  L Rightwriter (to review documents written on computer word processing programs for
       errors in grammar, style, usage, and punctuation)
	  2. Smog Readability Grading Formula (to evaluate the level of reading comprehension
       a person must have to be able to understand a piece of written material)
	  3. Signaled Stopping Technique (to examine how readers process information as they
       read written materials and through this procedure to get feedback on those materials)
	  4. Self-Administered Pretest Questionnaires (to get feedback on pretest materials)
	  5. Central Location Intercept Interviews (to get feedback on pretest materials or to
       examine an audience's attitudes and opinions)
	  6. Theater Testing (to get feedback on visually presented pretest materials)
	  7. Focus Groups (to get feedback on and generate ideas about pretest items; to get a
       "feel" for the attitudes and beliefs of the target audience)
	  Other tools	
When will you use each tool?
Assessment of Communicator Style
	  L Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (to provide feedback on the communication styles of
       agency staff)
	  2. Strength Deployment Inventory (to identify the strengths of agency staff and sug-
       gest ways these strengths can be used to communicate more productively with others)
	  3. Conflict Management Survey (to provide feedback about a respondent's approach to
	  4. Communication Style Survey (to provide feedback on the respondent's style of inter-
       personal communication)
	  Other tools		

When will you use each tool?
Outcome Assessment
	  1.  Meeting Reaction Form (to get feedback about participants' reactions to a public
	  2.  Verbal Meeting Feedback (to get direct feedback from participants at a meeting)
	  3.  Speech Evaluation Checklist (to get feedback on how a speech or presentation went)
	  4.  Observation and Debriefing (to get feedback on speeches and presentations)
	  Other tools	

When will you use each tool?	


   Most of the checklists and tools in this
workbook are designed to help you figure out
what to  do to make your communication
effort a success. The essence of a timeline is
to help you decide when each step needs to be

   A timeline is -the key-to getting -from  a
mere list of things you hope to accomplish to
a plan for accomplishing them.  The more
thoroughly you work through the other parts
of this workbook, the more ambitious a com-
munication program you design, the more
need you will have for a timeline. When an
agency does not use a timeline, key elements
of its communication strategy are likely to be
implemented ineffectively  or abandoned
entirely simply because essential preliminary
steps were not taken; by the time the agency
got around to focusing on  the element in
question, it was too late.

   Using a timeline, in other words, forces
the agency to consider when it will hold that
meeting  with local farmers (for example),
what it must do to get ready for the meeting
(find a hall, send out a mailing, prepare a
handout, discuss a possible agenda with  rep-
resentative farmers, etc.), and when it  will
take each of these preliminary steps. Because
the agency used a timeline, the meeting with
farmers is more likely to happen and more
likely to be a good meeting.

   Timelines  also serve other purposes in
communication planning:

   1) They facilitate the assignment of tasks  to
particular staffers, so everyone's responsibilities
are clear.
   2) They help identify overcommitted periods
(suggesting a need for extra staff, rescheduling, or
some other solution) and slack periods (suggesting
an opportunity for additional communication
efforts and a possible problem if the agency hopes
to maintain momentum).
   3) They make it easier to see gaps in the com-
munication plan—particular audiences that will
not be reached, for example.
   4) They help the agency respond to changing
conditions (adding elements to the timeline in
response to  new concerns, moving elements for-
ward or back in the timeline as needed.

   But their key role is that they clarify what
needs to be done when, and thus make it less
likely that important deadlines will go unno-
Steps in Building  and Using a Simple
L  Draw a literal "timeline"—a long line (hori-
   zontal or vertical) that represents calendar
   time. Start with the current date. Choose
   an appropriate ending date—one year later,
   the next fiscal year, the deadline for com-
   pleting the new regulations, etc. Divide the
   timeline into months (or weeks if the peri-
   od covered is relatively brief).
2. Insert all relevant dates that have already
   been determined and cannot be changed,
   including those determined by external
   forces—the date of a scheduled referen-
   dum, for example, or a legally mandated
3. List the major elements in your communi-
   cation plan so far—the questionnaire you
   want to distribute, the groups you  intend
   to meet with, the public hearing you must
   have, etc. Choose an appropriate date for
   each and add it to the timeline.
4. For each element identified in #3,  list all
   the steps necessary to make sure that ele-
   ment is successful. Think about prelimi-
   nary contacts with affected  audiences,
   logistical preparations, substantive prepa-
   rations, handouts  and other materials,
   liaison with other programs and other
   agencies, pretesting and evaluation, etc.
   Do not forget follow-up steps—sending out
   the minutes of a meeting, for example, or
   calling  key people who could not come  It
   will be  helpful to involve other staff mem-
   bers in brainstorming these steps  so that
   you do not  miss any  important ones.
   Choose an appropriate date for each step
   and add it to the timeline.
 5. Now examine the timeline  for complete-
   ness, feasibility, and efficiency Is there
   anything you ought to be doing that is not
   there?  Is there anything there  that can-
   not be  done  in the time allotted with the
   resources available? Are there slack peri-
   ods when there will be little to be done?
   Adjust the timeline as appropnate

6. If several people are involved in the com-
   munication effort, copy the timeline onto a
   blackboard, poster paper, or some similar-
   ly visible medium,  and put it where  all
   staff members can see what needs to be
   done. Make sure the medium you use per-
   mits changes.

7. Decide jointly with other affected staff
   members how .the-timeline will be kept up
   to date—a procedure for adding, abandon-
   ing, and moving items in  response to
   changing conditions. Make sure everyone
   understands that the timeline is a plan-
   ning tool—it should be  neither forgotten
   nor followed slavishly. For example, if it
   becomes clear that a particular step can-
   not be completed on deadline, the staff
   should think through the problem and
   adjust the timeline.
More Complex Timelines
   For complex communication programs, a
simple timeline is likely to provide inadequate.
Too many elements and steps, organized only
according to date, are likely to crowd each
other and make it difficult to follow the overall
communication strategy and to tease out the
principal threads. In such cases, the timeline
will be a more valuable planning tool if it is
organized more complexly.
   One way to improve a complex timeline is
color-coding, by means of colored chalk,
marking pens, underliners, and the like. If it
is crucial to keep track of which staff member
is responsible for  which items, for example,
each person's responsibilities can be in a dif-
ferent color.  Or  a different color can be used
for each audience—efforts to reach local gov-
ernment in blue, interactions with environ-
mental  activists in red, etc. Or a different
color can be assigned to each communication
element and its various steps.  Or you may
want to color-code by format—blue for meet-
ings, red for publications, etc.

   Another way to organize the timeline is to
create an "array"  of parallel timelines, all
representing the same period but with each
timeline assigned to a different aspect. The
top line is usually reserved for  the calendar
and external events. Meetings and meeting
preparations can be on the second line, publi-
cations  on the third, etc. Or—depending on
which organizational principle is most signifi-
cant  for the particular communication
effort—each staff person,  each  audience, or
each element can have its own timeline.
   If you use both color-coding  and multiple
timelines, of course, you can organize by two
aspects  at once.
   At the start  of a communication program,
a timeline may seem like more work that it is
worth. But halfway through the program, the
timeline will have proved its worth as a way
of keeping track of what needs to  be done

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs1
A Catalogue of "Quick and Easy" Feedback Methods
Mark Kline, Caron Chess, and Peter M. Sandman
     Agencies that deal with environmental health issues are paying greater attention to
how they can communicate with the public more effectively. There is also an increasing
body of literature directed to agency practitioners, suggesting how risk communication
principles might be translated meaningfully into reality.
     As these principles are integrated into practice, agencies should also be evaluating
their efforts. Communication efforts, like technical ones, can improve with feedback. The
lack of such feedback may lead the agency to repeat the samecommunication mistakes and
fail to duplicate successes.
     Unfortunately, it may be difficult for agencies to identify evaluation strategies that
are practical, useful, and affordable.  The term  "evaluation" has multiple meanings,
including making critical judgments about the worth of a program. Therefore, evaluation
activities may seem threatening to agencies already immersed in "crisis" communication
efforts, usually with limited resources. In addition, some forms of evaluation may seem
too elaborate and difficult to implement in this context.
     The goal of this catalogue, which was funded by a contract from the Division of
Science and Research of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, is to
identify and recommend specific evaluation methodologies with the greatest potential for
agency use in small-scale communication efforts where a full-scale evaluation may not be
feasible. These tools arc also likely to have application in nsk communication efforts by
industry and advocacy groups.
'Submitted to the Division of Science and Research, New Jersey Dcpartmant of Environ-
mental Protection, September 22,1989, by the Environmental Communication Research
Program, New Jersey Agricultural Experimental Station, Cook College, Rutgers Univer-
sity, 122RydcrsLane,New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903; this paper summarizes the full

                                        Evaluating Risk Communication Programs

 Strengths and Limitations of Quick and Easy Evaluation
      In its most general sense, the term "evaluation" refers to a process of interpreting and
 judging events, a process that human beings engage in much of the lime. Evaluation ranges
 alongaconunuum, from informal,subjccuvcimprcssionsatonccnd.toformal,scientifically
 conducted and controlled evaluation research at the other (Rossi and Berk, 1988). In the
 middle of this continuum are assessment and feedback methods that are more structured
 and systematic than subjective impressions, but less rigorous than evaluation research.
 Because these intermediate methods require much less lime, resources, and expertise than
 evaluation research, wccall them "quick and easy" methods. In our view when most people
 think of evaluation they tend to think of approaches that give an overall assessment of a
 program's worth.  Such approaches, including "summative evaluation" (Rossi and Berk,
 1988) and "impact evaluation", lie at one end of the previously mentioned continuum.
      Many programs go without any evaluation whatsoever because impact evaluation is
 seen as the only form of evaluation and these efforts are beyond agency capabilities and
 resources. Practitioners may be left with only their own impressions of how they fared in
 a communication effort, with no basis beyond intuition and guesswork for correcting
 communication errors and repealing communication successes.
      Evaluation experts have generally  accepted this state of affairs because of their
 conviction that data from poorly designed evaluation research studies can be misleading.
 Rossi (1988) has  noted that a bad evaluation can be worse than not  doing one at all.
 Proponents of rigor have  seen less  rigorous research badly abused, leading  them  to
 conclude  that agencies  are  better off knowing nothing than obtaining questionable
      We believe  that partial feedback can be belter than none at all if the strengths and
 limitations of this feedback arc fully understood. Agencies should not, for example, rely
 on feedback from "quick and easy" approaches for impact evaluation.  Drawing reliable
 causal inferences aboutthecffcc is of a communicaiioneffon requires scientific evaluation
      This catalogue focuses on approaches that we feel arc useful when practitioners face
 limitations on time, expertise, and other resources. These approaches can be practical for
 less resource- iniensivccommunicauon efforts, where impactcvalualion is not appropriate
 or possible.
      In lieu of formal impact evaluation, agencies can rely on feedback from quick and
 easy approaches to guide the development of their risk communication programs. This is
called "process evaluation," and iiexamincs the ongoing processes and procedures of a risk
communication effort. "Formative evaluation" techniques, which assess the strengths and
 weaknesses of materials before full implementation of a program, can also be adapted to
 sun less resource-intensive communication efforts. Some techniques used in "outcome
evaluation," which explores the reactions of audiences after a phase of a communication
effort, can also be adapted for quick and easy use.  Since the use of "quick and easy"
methods generates feedback which is more systematic and disciplined than that found in
typical practice, the use of these methods creates programs that may be ultimately more
amenable to rigorous impact evaluation, should resources become available.

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
      If "quick and easy" approaches are viewed as a means of obtaining a snapshot—
rather than a full picture—they can provide useful input to agency risk communication
efforts. Practitioners can use quick and easy strategics to gather some information that will
inform their pracuce in the absence of a full study. In particular, quick and easy strategies
can yield information that can lead to mid-course corrections and bring new ideas into the
process.  This feedback can be  even more critical to agency efforts than retrospective
analyses. (It may be ultimately more useful for practitioners to know they are about to light
communications fires than to evaluate their firefighting efforts.) Information gathering of
this type is common in the public relations field, where it is viewed as "developmental"
input for generating hypotheses rather than as conclusive data that are reliable and
general izable.
      Feedback can be viewed as an opportunity to turn bad news into good. Agencies can
use feedback suggesting that a program is off-course to put the program back on track.
Even scathingly negative remarks can be fodder for making a program more effective.
When viewing feedback as information to succeed rather than as justification, superficial
praise about a meeting or brochure may be less useful than critical remarks that include
suggestions for change. The latter provide the agency an opportunity for improving its
materials and the added benefit of being responsive to the public.
      Agencies should not abandon rigor entirely when gathering information. Quick and
easy methods can be more valuable if agencies attempt to be as rigorous as possible within
the constraints of their resources. For example, keep in mind basic principles of objective
data gathering, carefully defining target groups, choosing representatives typical of the
target groups, and asking  questions in a consistent and unbiased manner. More rigorous
methods increase the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from feedback. Awareness
of the need for rigor can also allow agencies  to refrain from drawing  sweeping and
misleading conclusions from developmental feedback.

 Barriers to the Use of Quick and Easy Evaluation
      We believe these strategies can help communicators develop and maintain an open
channel to those outside the agency.  However, even the best feedback is of little value if
it is not heeded. Audiences may already be skeptical about whether agencies will use their
input and respond to their needs. If practitioners gather evaluative feedback, they must be
open to using it. Furthermore, they should be prepared to assess how the feedback was
used—what role it played in the decision that was ultimately made—and also to demonstrate
any positive effects to the public. Agencies,  in short, should be accountable not only for
gelling input from the public, but also for using it and showing that they used it. If audiences
sense that their lime and effort have gone to waste, they may be even more disenchanted
with agencies than they would have been if no feedback had been solicited.
      Agencies that operate as closed sysiems may have little organizational investment
in this kind of feedback. In such an agency, decisions are made on the basis of an internal
process. Staff are accountable lo their supervisors who are in turn accountable to higher-
ups. Communication efforts may be designed to take into account this internal input and
keep things running smoothly.  Staff who aitcmpt lo bring in new ideas based on public
mpui may noi be supporied.  Agencies of this kind may atlempt to lend an occasional ear,
pass out an  occasional survey, and make an occasional telephone call in an effort to solicit

                                        Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
public input, but the system's incentives make it unlikely that such input will be used
      Even the best evaluation tool can be subverted by this sort of agency process. For
quick and easy tools to function well in maintaining an open channel, they must be
supported by agency management and policy. Without this support, front-line practitio-
ners may gather information only to have it ultimately ignored, leaving them with an even
more imtatcd public than in the first place.
      Part of quick and easy evaluation involves agency management encouraging staff to
be creative in opening the channel with the public—even when what emerges from the
channel is critical of the agency staff members conducting the communication program.
      Agencies, therefore, must be prepared to turn bad news into good. Critical feedback
provides an opportunity to improve a communication effort and a chance to be responsive.
Agencies that are not willing to make mid-course corrections in response to feedback from
the public will have little  use for these tools. Agencies may be tempted to use quick and
easy strategies to justify what they did rather than to find out what they can do differently.
Aside from  being a  tedious exercise, using these tools  in this way defeats  their  very
purpose—to introduce new ideas and feedback through an open channel.
      Risk communication and quick and easy evaluation arc both value-laden processes.
The valucsand climate of an agency can have great impact on whether these tools help open
the door to the public or help keep it shut. We have attempted to identify tools that support
commonly accepted risk communication principles, hopeful ihatagcncics will use them in
the spirit of an open, ongoing dialogue with the public.

Development of This Catalogue
     This investigation  took the  form of a scavenger  hunt. Through telephone and
personal interviews,  literature reviews, networking, and  a computer database literature
search, we attempted to identify feedback approaches that we could recommend for agency
practice. We looked for techniques that:

      •  Arc easy to use
      •  Can be implemented inexpensively
      •  Yield results quickly
      •  Are relatively non-threatening to both the audience and the agency
      •  Give feedback which translates to behavioral change
      •  Reinforce commonly accepted risk communication principles

        Our search was intensive but by no means exhaustive. We talked to a large group
of people, including risk communication practitioners, those with evaluation experience,
consultants, public relations specialists, industry practitioners, and academics. We looked
into their suggestions and reviewed literature they recommended in addition to literature
we were unearthing.  From this rich mix of sources, we identified the evaluation methods
and instruments reviewed in this catalogue.
     We recognize that we may have missed some instruments, though our networking
efforts did yield confirmation of many of the tools we describe from a variety of different

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
sources. This catalogue is not intended to be the final word on quick and easy evaluation
strategics. We encourage agencies to continue to look for and develop tools for this kind
of feedback.

How to Use This Catalogue
     Our review of quick and easy evaluation methods is not in the form of a quick and
easy evaluation manual. After agencies have some experience with the instruments we
recommend, development of a step-by-step guide may well be appropriate. We assume
this catalogue will be of most interest to those who have a fair amount of commitment to
and expertise in risk communication. We hope they will use the catalogue as a resource for
assisting policy-makers and technical staff with evaluation.  Nonetheless, we recognize
that most agency staff may not have the time to read a full review of each tool before
deciding which one will be useful to their risk communication efforts.  The following
summaries of twenty-two tools give a brief overview of each. Readers can use these
summaries to decide which tools might  prove useful to their communication effort.
However,  readers will want to review the detailed reports about instruments that interest
them in order to get more in-depth information. (See the full report, as listed on page 45.)
These reports include a) detailed descriptions, including examples of how the instruments
have been used; b) discussion of strengths and limitations; and c) how  to order the

                                       Evaluaung Risk Communication Programs

I.  Planning
     The key 10 effective risk communication is effective planning. Just as scientific
research without planning can slow down an assessment due to the need to rethink and
rcsamplc, it is ultimately more wasteful and time consuming to develop a brochure or
presentation without planning.
     It is quite difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate a risk communication effort unless
you have planned a program so that you know what you want to achieve and how you are
going to achieve it. Because planning is so critical we have developed a separate document
on planning entitled, "Improving Dialogue with Communities: A Risk Communication
Workbook" (Hance et al., 1988).  This workbook, available in 1989  from NJDEP's
Division of Science and Research or the Rutgers Environmental Communication Research
Program, includes checklists and worksheets to help those with little communication
background to identify communication goals, audiences, audience concerns, methods of
reaching  people, key content points, and other components of successful planning.
     Our research for this evaluation catalogue did locate some comprehensive planning
systems (Green, 1980; National Cancer Institute, 1989) that could have application in risk
communication efforts, but  they  arc not "quick and easy" tools appropriate for this
catalogue. Other planning tools we located needed significant modification to be useful
in agency settings.

2.  Audience Analysis
      One of the keys to successful communication is understanding your audiences in
advance.  Agencies need to identify the audiences involved in their communication efforts
and get a  sense of what groups already know, what they need and want to know, and what
they expect from the agency. Audience analysis tools provide a means for practitioners to
clarify  their perceptions of audiences in organized ways or to solicit feedback from key
audiences before, during and after a communication program. Such feedback can help
practitioners maintain an open channel between the audience and the agency throughout
the communication effort. These strategics arc common in public relations and advertising
practice,  where ongoing feedback from an audience is important to respond to changes

2A  ConccPliinl/Orgnni/mp Techniques
     These techniques do noi involve any data collection from audiences. Rather they arc
frameworks to help communicators systematically organize and analyze their impressions
about different types of audiences.

2A-1. Policy Profiling Questionnaire
      Purpose:                  To identify stakeholders in  an  issue and organize
                                agency perceptions  of them.
      Lead Time:               Low
      StalT Time:                Brief—might include a meeting of involved staff.

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
      Budget:                  Low
      This tool helps agencies assess their perception or the potential impact thai important
actors can have on a decision or course of action. Agency staff identify stakeholders and
numerically rate each of them in three categories: issue position, power, and salience.
These ratings allow a calculation to determine whether the stakeholder might oppose,
support, or be neutral toward a decision. This tool guides the agency's internal asiCbsmcm
of relevant stakeholders and involves no formal datacollcciion. It is a means fororgamzmg
and comparing perceptions of stakeholders to anticipate reactions to a decision or issue.
However, the ratings arc based solely on the perceptions of agency suiff and arc only as
valuable as those perceptions.

  2A-2.  Audience Analysis Matrices
      Purpose:                 To identify relevant audiences and organize agency
                                perceptions of their reactions, involvement, or posi-
                                tion in a communication effort.
      Lead Time:               Low
      Staff Time:               Brief
      Budget:                   Low

        Matrices are developed which identify relevant audiences and cross-reference the
audience with another important variable— such as issue position, anticipated reactions,
or issue importance.  These matrices allow a  graphic representation  of groups in a
communication effort while also encouraging greater awareness of the specific audiences
and their qualities. These matrices arc based only on the perceptions of agency staff—they
involve no data collection. The instrument may be limned by the degree of knowledge,
intuition, and sensitivity present within the agency.

2B. Preliminary Audience Fccdhnck
         These techniques involve collecting information  about an audience in advance
of communicating to help anticipate the audicnccs's needs and interests.

2D-1. Audience Information Needs Assessment
      Purpose:                 To gather quciiioni from relevant audiences in ad-
                                vance of public meetings so a response can be orga-
                                nized and presented.
      Lead Time:               Moderate to high—requires a number of weeks to
                                mail out inquiry, receive responses, and organize the
                                information. Lead time may be decreased if telephone
                                contacts arc used instead of mailed  inquiry.
      Staff Time:               Moderate
      Budget:                  Low to moderate

        Questions from an audience arc gathered in advance of a public meeting soagcncy
staff can develop a meaningful response. The agency response may involve both written

                                        Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
 and verbal answers to ihcqucsuons. This approach, which helpsagencies meetcommunity
 needs, establishes a precedent of listening to the audience and responding to its concerns.
 However, it may require too much lead lime for a crisis situation,and the answers generated
 in advance may still meet with disagreement and dissatisfaction from the audience.

 2B-2. Analysis of News Clippings
      Purpose:                  To identify audiences and their concerns. To develop
                                 some historical knowledge of a community to help in
                                 planning future phases of a communication effort.
       Lead Time:               Variable, depending on how  far back in time the
                                 analysis goes.
      Staff Time:                Variable, depending on the extensiveness of the re-
      Budget:                   Low

         Background information about on-going issues is obtained by locating appropriate
 newspapers and clipping articles relevant to the issue in question.  The clippings can be
 analyzed for a variety of factors, including perceptions of prior agency behavior, public
 concerns, principal actors, key events, and community mood. While a useful source of
 input and background information, news clippings may reflect media biases, journalistic
 sensationalizing, and the inaccuracies of the rush of daily reporting.

 2B-3. Public Opinion Polling
       Purpose:                  To assess audience opinion or reaction; to find out
                                 what people see as important problems, what issues
                                 and events they are aware of. and how they evaluate
                                 social and political institutions.
      Lead Time:                Moderate, depending on how formal a poll is required.
      Staff Time:                Moderate
      Budget:                   Moderate to high—may involve contracting with a
                                 polling Firm to obtain useful results. A low estimate
                                 for a very  brief formal poll with a relatively small
                                 sample is about $2000. Informal telephone surveys
                                 may require fewer resources.

        Pol ling can give agencies a sense of public attitudes and perceptions so the agency
can better target its communications. Carefully constructed polls can help prevent
surprises and provide a baseline for the later  evaluation of the communication effort.
Agencies may hire firms to design and conduct polls on specific issues. These polls benefit
from careful development of the polling questionnaire and random sampling to increase
the reliability of the data. They may also be quite expensive.  Informal telephone surveys
involve briefer questionnaires and  smaller samples.  Informal surveys may be more
practical and less expensive, but also less reliable.  Polls and surveys lend to consist of

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
closed-ended questions that limit the richness of the data and can fail to convey  the
complexity of public perception.

2B-4. Public Opinion PollinglPollstart
      Purpose:                 To organize and analyze polling data on personal
                                computers available within agencies.
      Lead Time:               Moderate to high, depending on extensiveness of the
                                poll,  expertise in polling  design available, and
                                knowledge of personal computers.
      Staff Time:               Moderate—depends on previous expertise and skills.
      Budget:                   Moderate.  Pollstan software costs $98.00; Public
                                Opinion Polling, a book that guides use of the software,
                                cosis $19.95.

        Pollstart is a piece of computer software which allows agency staff to tabulate and
analyze polling data on a typical office  personal computer. The manual for Pollstan
provides step-by-step guidance on how to encode the data within computer files and how
to generate "frequency reports" and "cross-tabulations." Public Opinion Polling provides
useful background on polling and a useful outline of the steps in planning and developing
a poll. The book was written as a companion volume for the software. While this system
provides an excellent review of polling issues, it docs not make the reader a survey design
expert, and  less experienced  readers may still  have difficulty designing  appropriate
surveys.  The software is also not capable of doing more complex data analysis.

2B-5. Qualitative Questionnaires
      Purpose:                 To collect information from people whom agencies
                                have involved in a communication effort
       Lead Time:              Low  to high, depending on the complexity of the
                                questionnaire and the time needed to develop IL May
                                also require at least two weeks to receive responses to
                                mailed questionnaires.
      Staff Time:               Low to moderate—depends complexity of feedback
                                to be tallied.
      Budget:                   Low  to moderate

        Questionnaires are developed, usually in-house, to assess audience positions on
issues or responses to agency process. Because they may involve a small  sample, the
feedback may not be statistically accurate or gencralizablc. These questionnaires can sull
provide early input about specific directions an agency might take, or reasonably rapid
assessment of audience reactions. Questionnaire development, distribution, and tallying
can take considerable effort.

3. Message Pretesting
        Agencies can  obtain useful feedback on written materials by having them
reviewed (pretested) in advance of production and distribution. This inputcan significantly

                                        Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
 improve materials so they are more easily understood and communicate the intended
 message more effectively.  Message prcicsung may involve surveys and questionnaires.
 discussion groups, and/or re views of the language used in a document. Agcnciescan assess
 whether the document is loo complicated for the intended audience, the amount of jargon,
 and other aspects of the writing style. We found the work of the National Cancer Institute
 (1984, 1989) to be of great value in exploring and assessing these techniques.

 3A  Brief Annronchcs
         These techniques give feedback in a short amount of umc.

 3A-1. Riyhlwriter
      Purpose:                 To review  documents written on  computer word-
                                processing  programs  for errors in grammar, style,
                                usage, and punctuation.
      Lead Time:               Low
      Staff Time:               Low
      Budget:                  Rightwritcr software currently costs S9S.OO.

      Rightwritcr reviews documents on computer and creates a "mark-up" copy, includ-
 ing feedback on grammar, style, usage, and punctuation in the text, as well as a summary
 of the analysis.   This  summary includes a readability  quotient, a strength  index, a
 descriptive index, a jargon index, and a sentence structure analysis. The summary also
 includes a list of words which readers might find difficult to understand. The program is
 easy to use and quite rapid. While it can provide a useful feedback mechanism for written
 materials, Righiwntcr docs not  "understand" the content of the text  and can give no
 feedback about tone or appropriateness.  In addition, some Righiwritcr  feedback may be
confusing, difficult to understand, or irrelevant.

3A-2. SMOG Readability Grading Formula
      Purpose:                  To evaluate the level of reading comprehension a
                                person must have to be able to understand a piece of
                                written material.
      Lead Time:               Low
      StulfTiine:               Low
      Budget:                  Low

        This approach involves reviewing a sample of  text from a written piece and
 performing some simple mathematical calculations to obtain a SMOG grade,  which
 represents the reading grade level a person must have reached in order to understand the
 text. The higher the grade level, the more sophistication  is necessary to understand the
 material. Assessment of readability, along with a knowledge of the target audience's level
of sophistication, can allow agency staff 10 produce materials that will be more accessible
 to their audiences. Readability quotients are useful as a "first cut" in reviewing drafts of
 materials for the public, but they give no feedback on style, format, tone, or content  In

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
addition, frequent use of long terms that may be necessary in scientific reports may inflate
the SMOG grade.

3A-3. Signaled Stopping Technique
      Purpose:                  To examine how readers process information as they
                                read written materials and through this procedure to
                                get feedback on those materials.
      Lead Time:               Low
      Staff Time:               Low
      Budget:                   Low

        In this approach, respondents read through a document and put slash marks where
they stop*. They are then provided with a coding scheme to notate why they stopped at each
slash. These reasons for stopping provide feedback to the writer. Respondents may stop
due to being confused, needing to re-read, having a question, wanting to think about the
idea, or agreeing or disagreeing with the writer. This technique can help writers recognize
confusing or controversial statements within a piece of text and consider revisions, but its
value may be diminished if the reader is unmotivatcd or uninterested.

3B. More Extensive Feedback Methods
       These methods give richer feedback but also take more lime to administer.

3B-1. Self-administered Pretest Questionnaires
      Purpose:                  To get feedback on pretest materials.
      Lead Time:               Moderate—allow at least two weeks if questionnaire
                                is mailed.
      Staff Time:               Moderate
      Budget:                   Low to moderate

        Questionnaires about written material arc developed to elicit both quantitative
and qualitative feedback from readers representative  of the intended audience.  The
questionnaire may include questions about format, comprehension, reaction, interest in the
materials, and any other relevant opinions. Questionnaires may include open-ended or
closed-ended questions, depending on the items being pretested and type  of feedback
desired. The approach may be limited by low response rates to mailed questionnaires and
the amount of follow-up time needed to insure a meaningful response.

3B-2. Central Location Intercept Interviews
      Purpose:                  To get feedback on pretest materials or to examine an
                                audience's attitudes and opinions.
      Lead Time:               Moderate
      Staff Time:               Moderate to high
      Budget:                   Low to moderate

                                        Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
        Interviewers arc stationed at a place frequented by a target audience. They recruit
participants who review materials and then respond to a series of multiple-choiceor closed-
ended questions.  The structured interviews provide feedback that can be summarized
quantitatively. Careful planning when using this approach can increase the reliability and
gencraJizability of the data, but central location interviews typically reflect anon- random
sample weighted in favor of those who are able to gel to the particular site.  In addition, the
necessity of using closed- ended questions may deprive the agency of richer feedback from
a more extended discussion.

3B-3. Theater Testing
      Purpose:                 To get feedback on visually presented pretest mate-
      Lead Time:               Moderate
      Staff Time:               Moderate
      Budget:                  Moderate to high

        Films, public-service announcements, slide shows, or other audio-visual mate-
rials are observed by a group of respondents in a theater or auditorium.  After watching the
film, participants  fill out a pretest questionnaire to provide the agency with feedback.
While very useful to improve visually presented messages, this approach may require a
great deal of time  and logistical arrangements, in addition to design of the message itself
and the questionnaire.

3B-4. Focus Croups
      Purpose:                 To get feedback on and generate ideas about pretest
                                items. To get a "feel" for the attitudes and beliefs of
                                a target audience.
      Lead Time:               Moderate to high
      Staff Time:               Moderate
      Budget:                  Moderate to high

        A focus group is a discussion session run by a trained moderator. It may include
six to twelve participants, who discuss pretest materials or issues of importance to a
communication effort  Areas covered in a focus group discussion  are outlined in the
moderator's guide, which is developed before the session. Focus group discussions
generally yield qualitative feedback as summarized in  a report by the moderator. These
reports can give an in-depth sense of participants' language, their reactions to the materials,
and suggestions for improvement.  Formal focus groups require careful  planning and
moderation and may therefore be too resource-intensive for the average agency.  'Target
audience meetings." involving brief informal discussions with a neutral moderator, a group
typical of the target audience, an agenda planned in advance, and some procedure for note-
taking, can be useful and less expensive.

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
  4.  Assessment of Communicator Style
        Although agency staff may traditionally focus on "facts" as opposed to relation-
ships, conflict in styles can lead to tremendous frustration as well as impasses in a given
communication. Armed with the facts alone, practitioners may be doomed to skirmish with
audiences whose very style of perceiving the world and communicating about it differs
from theirs. Tools in this category can help communicators examine what they bring to the
communication process. Mostof these toolsarcsclf-assessmcmsurveysihaiarccomplcied
and then scored, providing a profile of the respondent's style, type, and/or motivational
pattern. This profile provides a model for understanding communication situations, which
in turn  can  help practitioners gain flexibility within their own  style, recognize their
strengths and limitations, identify the communication styles of people in their audiences,
and recognize and deal with communication impasses resulting from a clash in styles.

4-1. Myers-Brings Type Indicator
      Purpose:                  To provide feedback on the communication styles of
                                agency staff.
      Lead Time:               Moderate to lengthy, due to time needed to secure
                                services of consultant.
      Staff Time:               Low
      Budget:                   Moderate

        The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a self-report inventory consisting of
126 questions. It provides feedback on respondents' communication styles in terms of four
scales: Extroversion-Introversion,  Scnsing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-
Perceiving.  The profiles generated in terms of these four scales include feedback about
communication strengths and weaknesses. Communicators can become aware of their
own strengths and weaknesses while learning to recognize differing communication styles
in their audiences.  The MBTI model has been used in consultation with risk communi-
cators and has helped foster flexibility in communication style. However, the psychological
theory of type underlying the tool may not fully capture the diversity of personality styles.
and the feedback from this tool is of limited value without a consultation to set it in context

4-2.  Strength Deployment Inventory
      Purpose:                  To identify the strengths of agency staff and suggest
                                ways these strengths can be used to communicate
                                more productively with others.
      Lead Time:               Moderate to lengthy, due to lime needed to secure
                                services of contractor.
      Staff Time:               Low
      Budget:                   Moderate.  Each Inventory form costs  $3.45; con-
                                sultation is additional.

        The Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) consists of twenty questions, some of
which refer to situations where things arc going well, and some of which refer to situations
where things are going wrong.  The SDI is self-scoring, and respondents identify whether

                                        Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
 they arc characterized by any of seven style patterns, each of which implies different
 strengths, weaknesses, and motivations which may be reflected in interpersonal com-
 munication.  The inventory is easy to complete and provides quick feedback about an
 individual's style.  The SDI model is one way of understanding differences in personal
 styles and Uicir impact on communication. A consultation should accompany the tool for
 maximum benefit.

 4-3. Conflict Management Survey
      Purpose:                 To provide feedback about a respondent's approach
                                to conflict.
      Lead Time:               Moderate to lengthy, due to time needed to secure
                                services of consultant.
      Staff Time:               Low
      liudgct:                  Moderate.  Each survey form costs S5.60 and con-
                                sultation is additional.

        The Conflict Management Survey presents scenarios in each of the following
 areas: personal views of conflict, interpersonal conflicts, the handling of conflict in task
 groups, and conflict in relationships among groups. Respondents note how they would
 respond to each conflict scenario, and after a self-scoring exercise, a style preference is
 determined, which represents the respondent's preferred mode of managing conflict.
 Through consultation, respondents become able to understand the implications of their
 style preference and develop the flexibility to use other styles if situations dictate this.
 Feedback from this tool may seem threatening if not accompanied by a good consultation.

 4-4. Communication Style Survey
      Purpose:                 To provide feedback on the respondent's style of
                                interpersonal communication.
      Lead Time:               Moderate to lengthy—surveys need to be mailed to
                                Chicago  for scoring, and a  consultation should be
      Stuff Time:               Low
      Budget:                  Moderate—standard fee of S140 per person which is

        The Communication Style Survey consists of a self-assessment form and "other-
 assessment" forms to be filled out by people who know the respondent well. The survey
 involves choosing among a set of words the term that most aptly describes the respondent
 The data arc processed to yield an assessmcntof communication style as some combination
 of Analyzing, Facilitating, Advocating, and Controlling. This Style Profile is accompa-
 nied by feedback on the respondent's oral communication competency and adaptability.
 Consultation is needed to help respondents understand the strengths and weaknesses of
each communication style and develop flexibility.

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
5. Outcome Assessment
      Agencies typically view evaluation as a means or finding out whether what they did
worked or not. As suggested earlier, carefully designed scientific evaluation research is
required to draw these kinds of conclusions.  When agencies have Hide time and few
resources, however, they may still need to find out how audiences have reacted to phases
of the communication effort and to the effort as a whole. The outcome tools we recommend
provide strategics for getting feedback on audience reaction and commun icator performance.

5A  Audience Reaction
        Audiences are asked what their reaction is to a presentation.
5A-J. Meeting Reaction Form
      Purpose:                  To get feedback about participants' reactions to a
                                public meeting.
      Lead Time:               Low to moderate, depending on whether the form
                                developed by  the Environmental  Communication
                                Research Program needs modification for specific
                                agency use.
      Staff Time:               Moderate—includcsprcparationof form, distribution,
                                and data analysis.
      Budget:                  Low

      The Environmental Communication Research Program has developed a form for
distribution  at public meetings which examines whether information was understood,
whether presenters were perceived as honest, whether people felt their concerns and issues
were understood, whether people felt their input would be used in decision-making, etc.
Other relevant issues can also be addressed. The particular form described in this catalogue
was designed to get feedback from various constituencies involved in a public participation
program run by the Bureau of Water Quality Standards and Analysis (B WQS A) of the New
Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. While it provides a quick, easy, and
inexpensive way to get feedback about a public meeting, the  form is not standardized or
scientifically validated and some feedback could be difficult  to interpret.

5A-2. Verbal Meeting Feedback
      Purpose:                  To get direct feedback from participants at a meeting.
      Lead Time:               Low
      Staff Time:               Low
      Budget:                  Low

        Time for a structured feedback discussion is planned in a meeting agenda.  The
meeting chairperson actively solicits and may even record this feedback on a chart for
everyone to sec. Participants should feel free to comment on any aspect of the meeting, and
conflicting statements are allowed. The goal is to generate as many idea as possible rather
than going into detail on any one idea. This approach is highly dependent on the skill of
the chairperson in creating a comfortable environment for feedback and inviting paru'ci-

                                        Evaluating Risk Communication Programs
pation. Less verbal members may not be heard, and it is difficult to know whether this kind
of feedback is in any way representative of the views of the group as a whole.

SB.  Performance of Presentation
      These techniques provide feedback more specific to how the communicator per-
forms than how the audience reacts.

5B-1. Speech Evaluation Checklist
      Purpose:                 To get feedback on how a speech or presentation
      Lead Time:               Low to moderate—depending on design of form.
      Staff Time:               Low
      Budget:                   Low

      The Speech Evaluation Checklist is a simple form to get feedback on a speech or
presentation.  It may include statements about the physical setting of the speech, the
speaker's appearance, rapport, comprchensibility, and other important areas. The forms
can be completed by one or a number of evaluators who observe the speech. Alternatively,
a speech can be audio- or video-taped for use for scoring by the presenter. The form is not
intended as a "report card," but as a chance to get some input on a speech that will improve
future presentations. This approach can provide immediate, relevant written feedback, but
the perceptions  of other agency staff may differ markedly from the perceptions of the

5B-2. Observation and Debriefing
      Purpose:                 To get feedback on speeches and presentations.
      Lead Time:               Low to moderate—time needed to develop an ob-
                                server checklist
      Staff Time:               Low
      Budget:                   Low

      One or a number of observers attend a presentation and take organized notes, using
their perceptions of the event and some kind of observer checklist based on the goals of the
presentation. An informal verbal debriefing session may be held after the presentation to
review important strengths and weaknesses with regard to both the speaker's performance
and the audience's reactions. The presenter can also use an audiotaped or videotaped
version for self-assessment.  While this is a quick and easy way to provide feedback on a
speech, it should not substitute for Finding out the audience's actual  reactions, and it can
be uncomfortable for the observers or the presenter depending on their roles within the

Evaluating Risk Communication Programs

 Briggs.K.C. and Myers. I.E. 1976. Mvcrs-Bripps Type Indicator. Form G. Palo Alto,
 CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.

 Green. L.W., Krcutcr. M.W., Deeds, S.G.. and Partridge. K.B. 1980. Health Education
 Planning: A Diagnostic Approach. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

 Hance, BJ.. Chess, C, and Sandman, P.M.  1988. Improving Dialogue with Commu-
 nities:   A Risk Communication Manual for Government.  Trenton, NJ:  New Jersey
 Department of Environmental Protecuon, Division of Science and Research.

 National Cancer Institute.  1984.  Pretesting in Health Communications:  Methods.
 Examples, and Resource': for Improving Health Menaces and Materials. Washington,
 DC: National Institutes of Health. NIH Publication #84-1493.

 National Cancer Institute. 1989. Making Health Communication Proprams Work: A
 Planning Guide. Bcthcsda, MD:National Institutes of Health. NIH Publication #89-

 Rossi, P.H. and Berk, R. A. 1988. A Guide to Evaluation Research Theory and Practice.
 Discussion Draft prepared for the Workshop.