Ebola is such a huge topic right now, there’s strong potential value in suggesting to the public that they sign up for your local emergency alert system in case there’s an outbreak in your area. “Ride the wave” as my daughter would say.
To be clear, we don’t think there’s much risk of an Ebola outbreak in the US. And we don’t want to encourage fear-mongering.
But, as this New York Times article suggests, the level of fear about Ebola is affecting the public’s behavior, regardless of how rapidly the disease is, or is not, spreading. So getting folks signed up for alerts can serve multiple purposes anytime there’s a potential public health crisis:
1) Getting out the facts. Emergency alerts can be used to alert the public to sources of factual information – including information that can calm unnecessary fears.
2) Correcting misinformation. According to the article, some parents pulled their kids out of school because the principal had traveled to Zambia. But Zambia has had no cases of Ebola and Zambia is further from the part of Africa with Ebola than France is.
3) Directing people to help when there’s a real crisis. We doubt that Ebola will amount to much of a disease threat in the US, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be real threats in the future. If and when that happens, we’ll want to be prepared. And getting citizens signed up for emergency alerts is one small but important part of that preparation.