When there is a confirmed Ebola outbreak, it is important to mobilize leaders, response staff and institutions to get information out quickly. This is why conducting mapping exercises and identifying trusted sources prior to such an event is crucial.
Conducting rapid assessments continuously throughout the outbreak will ensure that the team addresses the barriers that might spread the virus. Having accurate information and using credible and trusted spokespeople at this phase is key to minimizing confusion, rumors and misinformation. Spokespeople need to communicate scientific information and accurate facts in a way that is understandable to the general public.
- Activate the emergency risk communications cell and link up with the overall emergency response. Expand the team as needed.
- Make the first announcement about an Ebola outbreak immediately in order to establish leadership and acceptance as a credible source of information and advice.
- Set up regular media briefings.
Maintain close contact with the MOH staff involved in incident management, case identification and investigation to ensure accuracy of information. The lead or chair of the committee should be part of the national incident management team to allow better synergies between all aspects of the response.
- Ensure that the internal communication protocols are in place and followed. To protect against potential stalls in communication, identify alternate contacts in the event that primary points of contact are unavailable or unreachable.
- Enlist public opinion leaders to speak, including the head of government and traditional and religious leaders, and when appropriate include opposition leaders to show national unity of the response.
Ensure that the committee is tracking all rumors and feedback from the public so these can be addressed immediately.
- Conduct rapid assessments, and report results and suggested actions to central and localized SM committees.
- Continue researching the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) related to Ebola, and update any pre-outbreak studies.
- Assess the impact of the response interventions on communities’ perceptions and reactions and adapt them as needed.
- Determine the most affected populations and rapidly determine current perceptions and fears. If possible, utilize quick on-the-spot interviews with the public to get a reading of what their thoughts are and consult community or other leaders.
- Identify the actions that the public should take and incorporate those into the messages.
- Agree on set messages, depending on the severity of the situation, and ensure consistency and accuracy across institutions.
- Have spokesperson(s) make initial announcement and respond openly to all questions.
- Inform media as to when and how additional information will be provided.
- Roll out messages to the public, while also targeting local leaders, religious leaders and other multipliers. Listen to and address their concerns.