[ RadSafe ] Risk Communication

Conklin, Al (DOH) Al.Conklin at DOH.WA.GOV
Mon May 13 11:12:29 CDT 2013

I talk to the public a lot, and handled almost all public inquiries
during the Fukushima event. The public got very spun up due to the news
media's reporting of the "deadly" radiation cloud approaching our coast,
and a few so-called scientists spouting the same things.
I handled 1954 calls and e-mails (yes, I counted them). I never talked
to them like a bureaucrat or a scientist, but as a neighbor, father and
grandfather, who is just as concerned about the safety of my family as
the callers were; and just happens to know more about radiation than the
average person. If something was hogwash, I called it hogwash and had
the data to back it up. It worked really well. Of all those questions, I
only had 3 people who were still mad and/or scared.

Al Conklin
Lead Trainer and Health Physicist
Radiological Emergency Preparedness Section
Office of Radiation Protection
Department of Health
office: 360-236-3261
cell: 360-239-1237
-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of KARAM, PHILIP
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 11:18 AM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) MailingList
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Risk Communication

Really interesting piece, Mark - thanks for bringing it to our

I'd just add one comment to what the author said - if we are going to
talk to the public directly or via the media we can't talk like
scientists and engineers. We have to be able to put our knowledge,
logic, and reasoning into terms that will resonate with the
non-scientist and we have to remember that the target audience is the
public and not our peers. If we are talking to a reporter and thinking
of potential criticism that our peers might make then we are going to be
either very self-conscious or we're going to start sounding like
scientists and we'll lose the intended audience. 

Since I know that my father is going to be watching (or listening)
anytime I'm interviewed I just pretend I'm talking to him - he's a smart
guy who's got a good education, but his grasp of science isn't all that
great. So if I can explain something in terms that would make sense to
him I figure I'm also reaching most people. This also means it's OK to
give a less-than-complete explanation, to use a simple analogy, or even
to leave out some details - it's even OK to leave out some of the
scientific caution we might otherwise be tempted to throw in - since the
goal is to communicate with the general public.

Thanks again for sending out this link, Mark -


P. Andrew Karam, PhD, CHP
Director of Radiological Operations
NYPD Counterterrorism
(718) 615-7055 (desk)
(646) 879-5268 (mobile)

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Miller, Mark L
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 12:59 PM


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