In November 2001, prominent risk communicator, Peter Sandman, examined the 9/11 attacks in a long article trying to clarify the impact and the context of the attacks. Shortly after the attacks I had the chance to interview Peter Sandman for the online magazine I was then publishing, safetyATWORK. Below is the text of that 2001 interview.
PS: I was very lucky. I live a sufficient distance away, that neither I nor anyone really close to me was lost. But lots of people close to people close to me were lost. Everybody in this part of the country is one or two steps removed from someone who died that day. But, professionally, I’m trying to think through, as I assume anybody in risk communication would be trying to think through what we can say to our countrymen and countrywomen about living in a dangerous world. This is obviously a situation where the outrage is entirely justified. The last thing I want to be doing is telling people they ought not to be outraged. But it’s also a situation where the hazard is serious. Most of my work is in either a high-outrage low-hazard situation, where the risk communication job is to reduce the outrage, calm people down; or a high-hazard low-outrage situation, where the job is to increase the outrage, get people to protect themselves. September 11 and its aftermath have to be described as high-hazard high-outrage. Neither paradigm works. And yet clearly the message to people has got to be you need to live your life. You need to take what precautions you can take and recognise that you’re not going to be completely safe and live your life anyway. You need to get on aeroplanes, and go to ball games. You need to go into big cities. I think in the months ahead people like me are going to be trying to figure out how to say that and say it honestly and honourably and credibly to a population that desperately needs to hear it and understand it. Continue reading “Peter Sandman interview in the aftermath of 9/11”