Seven years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and in the wake of many major natural disasters, nearly half of U.S. states either have no state-level emergency plan or do not provide it readily to the public, a study by Mason communication professor Carl Botan reveals.
Twenty-two states were unable to provide an emergency operation plan (EOP), withheld the plan on security grounds, or made it difficult for even trained researchers to gain access.
Botan and study co-author Paul Penchalapadu, MA Communication ’08, analyzed the EOPs for three criteria: whether the plans had a two-way communication component, whether they addressed the communication needs of vulnerable populations, and whether they treated public communication as important enough to specifically address it in the plan.
Botan found that out of the 29 jurisdictions that did supply an EOP, 16 of them make explicit or implicit provisions for two-way public communication, such as community forums. Only two plans—Washington, D.C. (which is treated as a state-level entity for this purpose) and New Mexico—received a perfect score of 8 for communication.
“When minutes may make the difference between life and death in an emergency situation, the population should not have to waste precious time looking for answers or whom to turn to,” says Botan.