Effective communication during an emergency response requires preparation and practice. There are many things public health departments can do now to prepare for communicating during a smallpox emergency, if one ever happens.

  • Be ready to answer questions from the media and the public about smallpox. This requires knowledge about smallpox infection, how smallpox is spread, the incidence of smallpox, and recommendations for vaccination. Make sure you have knowledgeable people on staff who are able to talk to the media and the public. CDC’s Crisis & Emergency Risk Communications website has training and materials to help you prepare. Make arrangements to establish an around-the-clock hotline on short notice.
  • Identify the media outlets to use to inform the public about the smallpox vaccine, clinic locations, and who should be vaccinated. Keep in mind how to reach and communicate with people in the community with functional, language, or cognitive needs.
  • Review rapid-alert communication systems to ensure rapid communication capability between the state and local public health and medical communities. Upgrade the systems if necessary.
  • Clearly identify the relative roles of state and local public relations offices.
  • Prepare sample alert messages for key public health partners. Consider multiple mechanisms for communicating these messages to partners. Offer regular teleconferences to partner organizations to build working relationships and increase familiarity with notification processes.
  • Prepare sample alert messages for the community. Format these messages for different media, including broadcast, print, web, and social media.
  • Translate messages into different languages spoken in the community. Confirm accuracy and cultural appropriateness of messages.
  • Develop plans for conducting press conferences. Identify location and key people to be involved.
  • Assure that spokespersons are technically knowledgeable and trained for media communications.


Crisis and Emergency Risk Communications