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Report published on International Symposium on Communicating Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies to the Public


Am I safe? This short question is often difficult to answer for public communicators during a nuclear or radiological emergency. Doing so requires translating complex technical information into plain language, notes a new report summarizing the IAEA International Symposium on Communicating Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies to the Public.

The report details expert-level discussions that were held on addressing this and other communication challenges. Its recommendations include the use of clear and empathetic language that puts radiological health hazards into perspective.

At the Symposium, held in Vienna in October 2018, almost 400 communication and emergency preparedness and response (EPR) experts discussed how to better protect the public through more effective communication in a nuclear or radiological emergency.

The recently published Symposium Report  offers emergency response and communication professionals  lessons learned, insights and advice in communicating with the public during a nuclear or radiological emergency. The report contains easy-to-navigate, concise summaries of the presentations and discussions from 10 sessions and six panels.

Symposium President Jason Cameron, Vice-President of the Regulatory Affairs Branch and the Chief Communications Officer at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, distilled the Symposium discussions into a summary and President’s recommendations for the work of emergency communicators globally.  These are featured in the report, as are the lessons learned and best practices shared by Symposium speakers.

Interactivity was an essential component of the Symposium; the entire week was live streamed and participants responded to over 440 questions posed on real-time, interactive polls, whose results contributed to recommendations included in the Report. The Symposium also featured a  youth competition, a virtual reality exhibit and an interactive wall, all of which are summarized in the report.

The President’s recommendations and discussion at the Symposium contribute to the IAEA’s work to support Member States as they strengthen capacities for effective public communication in a nuclear or radiological emergency. The IAEA is finalizing a new safety guide  on the topic, revising its  EPR publication series on public communication, developing training materials for future workshops, and integrating a social media simulator into IAEA EPR exercises. A Coordinated Research Project on handling online misinformation in an emergency is underway.

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