About this Framework
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pursues its mission to protect
human health and the environment, EPA staff practice risk communication
every day. Effectively communicating science and potential health risk is
one of the most important jobs we have. The SALT Framework is based on a
process of Strategy, Action, and Learning and is supported by Tools that
together provide a research-based approach and best practices for
communicating our work to the American people.
The SALT Framework:
	Includes an overview of key risk communication principles,
	Outlines some of the science and research behind those principles, and
	Provides clear, practical guidance for implementing a consistent
approach to communicating risk across all EPA activities and programs.
Risk communication is communication intended to provide a general or specific
audience with the information they need to make informed, independent judgments
What Is	about risks to their health, safety and the environment. Risk communication
D, |	should be meaningful, understandable, and actionable. Risk communication
works best when it is a two-way process where the Agency listens to, learns from,
Oommunication? anc' mee+s +he needs of specific audiences. In practice, this is not always possible
in the short term or in all situations, but improving our understanding of the needs of
our audiences and responding to those needs should remain an ongoing EPA goal.
EPA often needs to communicate about risk during an immediate threat
to human health or the environment during a crisis situation that we were
unable to, or did not appropriately, plan for. Crisis communication is a
subset of risk communication in response to an event or a crisis. All the
elements of risk communication apply in crisis communication, but
urgency is paramount, and audience stress is typically elevated.
What is the Difference
Between Risk
Communication and
Crisis Communication?
This framework is for anyone who communicates risk on behalf of EPA. Due to the
Who is this nature of EPA's mission to protect human health and the environment, communicating
risk is inherent to any mission-relevant work at the Agency. Risk communicators at EPA
include a wide spectrum of employees, including staff working on policy, in public
for?	affairs, and as scientists, in addition to those working directly on community outreach
and engagement, and in emergency operations.


-i	m ii  i	'  i 	 t
Moving Away from the Deficit Model
Many people start risk communication with the view that if they can just give their audience the facts, it will
change their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors related to a given risk and EPA's work to address it (this is known as
the knowledge deficit model of communication). Decades of research from the psychological and decision, risk,
and management sciences has shown that this is not true. People make decisions for many complex reasons, and
not all of them have to do with what a scientist or EPA official might see as a numerical, factual risk. The good
news is that there is also much research that points the way to what does work. One of the first steps to moving
beyond the deficit model is to broaden goals and objectives that go beyond providing information strategically.
Strategic risk communication should include: taking stock and leveraging existing sources of knowledge; setting
big picture goals and corresponding objectives; and matching platforms and tactics to those goals and
objectives. This process should also focus on how success will be measured and how the project will be refined as
needed to achieve it. The strategic planning step can end with a simple list or a more formal risk communication
plan that includes many parts and roles. The important thing is to use this planning process to design risk
communication activities to achieve EPA's goals and objectives.
Strategy Steps and Definitions:
Take Stock
Leverage knowledge
inside the Agency
and with partners
before undertaking a
risk communication
Example: Seek out
information from
colleagues in the
Region, from the EJ
office, and from other
offices that have a
history in the
community, the
contaminant, or other
relevant issues.
Establish Goals
Goals are the big
picture of what you
hope to accomplish
with a risk
communication effort.
Goals will be
connected to the
Agency mission to
protect human health
and the environment.
Example: Decrease a
specific risk taking
behavior in an
Set Objectives
Objectives are
measurable interim
steps clearly linked to
achieving the goal.
Objectives typically
involve beliefs and
feelings held by an
audience and/or
increasing their
Platforms are
sometimes called
vehicles or channels.
They are the way the
message will reach
your audience.
Example: Increase
self-reported trust in
EPA as a messenger on
issues of health in the
Example: Website
content, social media
content or public
Match Tactics
Tactics are
techniques used to
build or convey
content. Some
tactics are shown to
be more effective
than others at
reaching specific
audiences or
achieving specific
Example: Narrative
storytelling vs.
standard Q and A,
accessible interactive
meeting design vs.
public forum style.
Considering Risk Communication Factors to Help Ensure a Positive Outcome
When it comes to taking action and implementing the plan developed in the strategy step, it is important to
consider a variety of factors that can affect the success of a given risk communication. Research shows that
these risk communication factors have a clear impact on whether an audience can hear, understand, accept and
act on a specific message. While some of these factors cannot change, taking them into account and using
appropriate tactics can improve outcomes. A few examples of these factors are listed below, but this list is not
exhaustive. Considering these factors can help the communicator take steps to improve the chances that an
activity will achieve strategic risk communication goals and objectives.

Risk Communication Factors
A wide variety of factors can impact if an audience can hear, understand, accept and act on a given risk
communication message. While some of these factors cannot themselves be changed, taking them into account and
using appropriate tactics can improve outcomes.
Hazard Factors
f df)
Audience Factors
EPA and
Science Factors

Hazard Factors
There are certain factors inherent in a given
hazard that can affect how an audience feels
about the risk. Many of these factors are defined as issues
of "risk perception" in the research. Risk perception issues
are issues of perspective. They are valid ways for an
audience to assess risks, but they may not strictly align
with the data. For example, people generally are more
concerned with risks that are seen as uncontrolled or
related to children.
Two tactics that can help are: 1) to put the risk into context
and 2) to provide meaningful and achievable action steps
that can help reduce stress and make risk-reducing behavior
change more possible.
Relationship Factors
These are variables that are based on the
relationship between the communicator
and the audience. Trust is one example.
Trust underlies an audience's ability to hear a message
and willingness to act on it. Trust can be hard to build,
especially if it has eroded over time.
Establishing shared values early in a communication is one
tactic to build trust.
Audience Factors
These are variables that are related to
the audience. Some examples include
language, literacy, numeracy, identity, cultural norms and
biases, community history, time and economic stressors.
One example of a tactic that can help with all audiences but
especially those with low numeracy is to include visual
representations of risk.
Communicator Factors
These are variables that are connected
directly to the communicator. Several
examples include identity, competence and expertise,
stress level, and comfort with engagement.
Tactics that can help include mock presentations, selecting
communicators who share identity characteristics with the
audience, or matching the right communicator to the task.
EPA and Science Factors
These are factors that connect directly
either to EPA's role or to the science that
drives our decision making. Sometimes,
the regulations governing a specific contaminant affect
the messaging about it. As one example, during risk
reviews of the regulations governing air toxics, EPA
determines an "acceptable cancer risk" expressed as
the number of cancer cases per million people resulting
from a lifetime exposure. At other times, uncertainty in
data must be addressed, such as in the results of a
monitoring study. These are inherently complicated
concepts to explain, and, in many communities, no
cancer risk is going to be considered "acceptable."
Two tactics that can help are 1) to show empathy for the
very real concerns of the audience regardless of whether
those concerns are seen as falling under EPA's regulatory
mandate, and 2) be transparent about what we know and
what we don't know.
Coordinating with Partners to Make
Messages More Meaningful
Sometimes a community partner can be a far better
communicator of EPA risk communication messages
than EPA staff. There are times when issuing
communications jointly with other trustworthy sources
(for example, credible university scientists, physicians,
or trusted local officials) can lead to a more positive
outcome than EPA communicating alone. It is important
to take time to coordinate communications both within
EPA and across organizations in order to make
messaging from all partners more meaningful,
understandable and actionable. With credible and
authoritative intermediaries, determine who is best able
to answer questions about risk. Audiences typically do
not distinguish between different governmental
partners. Coordinating in advance can improve
perceptions of trust in all partners.


An integral component of implementing the risk communication plan is using a process to evaluate and learn from
risk communication efforts across the EPA. Evaluating risk communication efforts by soliciting feedback from
audiences and colleagues can produce valuable insights to inform future efforts. Through using a reflective practice
model (see text box), communicators can identify new knowledge and lessons learned that will help them continually
improve their risk communication practice.
What is
Reflective Practice?
Reflective practice is an approach to continuous learning and
improvement. In EPA's risk communication work it includes the the
following steps:
Lay out clear expectations for what you want to achieve with your communication in the risk communication strategy:
	What are my/our expectations?
	What informs those expectations (identify potential assumptions and biases)?
i Collect individual and/or group reflections after communication occurs:
	What happened?
	Did it meet the expectations laid out in our strategy? Why or why not?
	What did l/we learn? What insights did l/we gain? What would l/we do differently next time, and why?
Incorporate insights and lessons learned into next communication:
 What changes will l/we make based on learnings through reflective practice?
How to Incorporate Reflective Practice into
your Risk Communications
A reflective practice approach identifies lessons learned but
goes further by specifying how this learning will inform
future individual or group efforts. It also helps risk
communicators apply the strategy in this framework to a
variety of situations by encouraging learning from past
outcomes. Following the steps of reflective practice have
been shown to improve future outcomes.
The practice can be implemented both internally on the
individual or team level and with external audiences. By
using guided discussion, a short survey, or focus groups,
reflective practice can easily become a routine part of risk
communication. It will help identify how audiences are
responding to risk messages and point to key adjustments
that will help ensure improvement over time. Whether the
process is formal or informal, it is important to document
results, so they are available to inform future efforts.
Example: "I expect the stakeholders will have a lot of
questions about this message, because it is significantly
different than our original communication with them. I
expect there will be gaps in their understanding, and they
will want an explanation to help them understand what
has changed."
When you engage in a debrief, hot wash, or focus group to
assess the experience against your strategy's expectations,
identify insights and surprises, and consider changes you
might make in your approach.
Example: "Stakeholders were more interested in our
current assessment than in how it has changed from the
past, so I overestimated the level of detailed explanation
they would want about that. Next time I might want to
assess that at the beginning of the meeting, so I don't
provide unnecessary information."
Examples of Reflective Practice: After-action assessment,
such as a debrief, "hot wash," or other type of assessment is
a key part of a reflective practice approach. When using
this approach, it is important to incorporate questions approaches,
about your expectations and the reasons for them in
your strategy (the first step in the SALT framework) so
you can assess whether you met those expectations
The cycle of reflective practice continues when the
insights gathered are applied to the next risk
communication effort to inform expectations and
The tools that support this document are currently being
built and will include contaminant specific toolkits, case
studies, practical tools and templates, and more. Visit
our EPA Risk Communication website to discover the
most up-to-date resources and tools.