Prioritizing Communication about Radiation Risk Reduction in the United States: Results from a Multi-criteria Decision Analysis

Rennie W. Ferguson, Daniel J. Barnett, Ryan David Kennedy, Tara Kirk Sell, Jessica S. Wieder, Ernst W. Spannhake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The lack of radiation knowledge among the general public continues to be a challenge for building communities prepared for radiological emergencies. This study applied a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) to the results of an expert survey to identify priority risk reduction messages and challenges to increasing community radiological emergency preparedness. Methods: Professionals with expertise in radiological emergency preparedness, state/local health and emergency management officials, and journalists/journalism academics were surveyed following a purposive sampling methodology. An MCDA was used to weight criteria of importance in a radiological emergency, and the weighted criteria were applied to topics such as sheltering-in-place, decontamination, and use of potassium iodide. Results were reviewed by respondent group and in aggregate. Results: Sheltering-in-place and evacuation plans were identified as the most important risk reduction measures to communicate to the public. Possible communication challenges during a radiological emergency included access to accurate information; low levels of public trust; public knowledge about radiation; and communications infrastructure failures. Conclusions: Future assessments for community readiness for a radiological emergency should include questions about sheltering-in-place and evacuation plans to inform risk communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-726
Number of pages9
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 23 2021


  • Emergency risk communication
  • multi-criteria decision analysis
  • radiation preparedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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