Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What not to do in a crisis

Number one: Do not withhold information from the public, and above all don't just tell people not to panic, or not to worry, without fully and openly explaining exactly what is happening, including what you don't know.

People generally speaking do not panic in an emergency. Obviously if you're in a building that's on fire there can be a stampede to get out, but that isn't the situation in Japan. People actually have been told to evacuate from a large area, and to remain indoors in an even larger area, and that hasn't caused any counterproductive behavior, as far as I know. What does cause fear and anger is the reactor operator not telling us what the situation is. All sorts of rumors and speculation are flying around the world, but we don't exactly know the truth.

Naturally, that leads everybody to suspect that the most dire possible scenario is the truth. Maybe it is. If so they need to tell us. That would be a ruptured pressure vessel in at least one of the reactors, and possibly a breached containment structure as well, inability to keep water on the core, and ongoing fuel damage and melting with a high probability of a full core meltdown and breach of the containment. Is that happening? Is it possible? I do not know. That is worse than knowing that it is true, if it is true. If it is not true, why don't they say so and tell us what is true?

It's long past time.

Update: And Robert Alvarez gives us one more thing to worry about, the spent fuel stored at the site. Again, they need to answer this. What exactly is going on?


C. Corax said...

What also ticks me off is that the soothing words and downplaying of the risk encourages people to stay put, who are ambivalent about leaving their homes and everything they own in order to evacuate. Telling them the truth would certainly push at least some, if not most, to evacuate while it's still relatively safe to do so.

kathy a. said...

i think the japanese government is upset about not hearing, too.

on the flip side -- we have just had days of "nuclear meltdown" headlines when that was not what was happening. then. i've found a lot of the media coverage about the nuclear stuff very driven by drama, not so much by information.

Cervantes said...

Well exactly. When info is scanty, confusing, and evidently untrustworthy people fill in the blanks with the worst. said...

I read so much helpful data above!