Facilitation of risk communication during the anthrax attacks of 2001: The organizational backstory

Caron Chess, Lee Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The anthrax attacks of 2001 created risk communication problems that cannot be fully understood without appreciating the dynamics among organizations. Case studies of communication in New Jersey, consisting of interviews with a range of participants, found that existing organizational and professional networks facilitated trust among decisionmakers. This interpersonal trust improved communication among agencies and thereby risk communication with the public. For example, "white powder scares" were a problem even in places without contamination. Professionals' trust in each other was vital for responding productively. Conversely, organizational challenges, including conflict among agencies, hindered communication with key audiences. Although centralization and increased control are often seen as the remedy for communicative confusion, they also can quash the improvisational responses needed during crises.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1578-1583
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 9 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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