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When Emotions Run High

This information is for historic and reference purposes only.  Content has not been updated since the last reviewed date at the bottom of this page.
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Crises often create heightened emotional responses. When emotions run high, it is often difficult to communicate public health messages effectively. As crisis communicators, it is our job to address these barriers to communication to promote positive community behaviors and emergency response outcomes.

The following basic circumstances are more likely to increase anger:

  • When people have been hurt
  • When they feel threatened by risks not of their own making
  • When they feel their fundamental beliefs are being challenged
  • When people feel weak in the face of others who are more powerful
  • When they feel like they haven’t been treated fairly or with respect
  • When people feel manipulated, ignored, or trivialized

If communicated in an insensitive way, emergency response messages may increase dissention and outrage.

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) principles offer tools for understanding and responding to public concerns. Communicators who allow an affected population to share their thoughts and feelings, ask questions, and participate in active listening can help people feel included in a solution. A community’s input may also inform the content of future messages. Following CERC principles can help communicators and communities work together toward a positive crisis resolution.

For more resources and information on CERC, please see Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2014 Edition or Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Pandemic Influenza, 2007.

Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.