In 2014, the United States was directly exposed to the Ebola virus, which was at that time relatively unknown on domestic soil. The nation was underprepared to manage the public relations issues associated with this scenario. Since that time, roundtables have been conducted, responder trainings have been created, and information has been disseminated to better prepare responders and inform the public. However, there is a delicate balance when informing the public of potential threats: provide enough information to mitigate new exposure risks, but do not overhype the threat.
Promoting panic through lack of information or misinformation could lead to further crisis scenarios. As such, public health and security must both be considered: a public health outbreak could lead to security vulnerabilities; and a security breach could increase health risks. In the United States, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce is the latest public health crisis to raise nationwide concern. As the exact source of the contaminated greens remains unknown, public information sharing has been the greatest mitigation strategy to prevent additional cases from emerging.
Whether managing a public health or a security crisis, leadership, training, and communication are three key pillars for a strong community resilience foundation. Open communication and information dissemination help prevent or mitigate all-hazard threats. Generalized skills in combination with specialized trainings provide effective responses when needed.
Combating concerns related to public health or security requires a whole community approach. Informed citizens, trained responders, and effective leaders equip communities with the tools they need to build resilience when faced with any disaster.