Kovacs, Daniel & Gibson, Ginger & Chess, Caron & Hallman, William K.. Outreach materials about risk management plans: guidance from pilot research. Retrieved from https://doi.org/doi:10.7282/t3-bhrk-ee85
AbstractMore than sixty thousand facilities are faced with the communication challenge of disclosing by June 1999 their “worst case” scenarios for accidental release of a toxic or flammable gas into the areas surrounding their facilities. Although the rules under the Clean Air Act about developing Risk Management Plans (RMPs) do not require companies to provide data directly to the public, the information will be available through other sources, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
There are a range of predictions about public responses to RMPs. While some industry managers express concern about causing undue alarm, other states with similar laws have not received many requests for information (McNulty et al. 1998). Risk communication research suggests that public response will vary among communities. Local factors such as the operating history of a site and its role in the community will likely be major influences on how RMPs will be viewed (Irwin et al. 1998).
According to trade reports and the Center for Environmental Communication’s (CEC) discussions with 12 industry managers, many companies have decided to release their RMP information directly to the public rather than to have government or activists do so as was often the case in the release of Toxics Release Inventories (TRI) required under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986. Industry decisions to provide information about RMPs directly to citizens also conforms with EPA’s recent suggestions.
Based on our discussions with industry managers, it seems likely that many companies are planning to use brochures to communicate RMP information. Some companies are mailing brochures to every person in the worst-case release area while others are presenting them in community events. Therefore, CEC’s research focuses on public response to brochures and ways to improve them. Due to the small number of people in our study and because the tested brochures were based on scenarios from a hypothetical plant, the following conclusions should be seen as tentative rather than definitive:
• A brochure can help people understand complex RMP information.
• Those who receive a brochure sent directly by industry may worry less about chemical accidents and may trust industry more than those who don’t.
• Clarifying maps of potentially impacted areas may help people to distinguish the risks at different locations.
• For some individuals involved in this study, brochures we tested didn’t provide sufficient information about accident prevention, emergency response, and self-protection.
• Modifications we made to a basic industry RMP brochure were seen as significant improvements
by activists. However, except for clarifying map information the changes did not make a significant difference with a lay audience.
• We do not recommend industry merely adapt the improved brochure developed as part of this research (Appendix 2). All outreach materials should be pre-tested in surrounding communities to ensure that they are relevant and address local concerns and questions.
SubjectsWorst case scenarios, Risk management plans, Risk communication
RightsCopyright for scholarly resources published in RUcore is retained by the copyright holder. By virtue of its appearance in this open access medium, you are free to use this resource, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings. Other uses, such as reproduction or republication, may require the permission of the copyright holder.