Writing a Public Health Crisis Communication Plan

A crisis is any event that triggers an elevated level of public interest and media inquiry that requires a significant increase in staffing and/or resources to make a reasonable media response.

Why Write a Crisis Communication Plan?

Crisis communication plans and strategies provide the means to gather and release information as quickly as possible during a crisis. These plans perform a vital function by helping an organization provide accurate and specific information on a very short notice to the public, media and stakeholders who are demanding immediate answers during a crisis.

A crisis communication plan will make it easier to provide the public with information so individuals can make the best possible decisions for themselves and their families. Quite often, the first forty-eight hours of the event are most important to establish an agency’s credibility.

A well-designed crisis plan provides policies and procedures designed to effectively communicate within your agency, with the public, stakeholders and the media. This includes (among other things) identifying a spokesperson, developing key messages, working with the media, employing social media, rumor control and securing resources needed to communicate timely and accurately. A crisis communications plan should be a key component of an organization’s overall disaster response plan.

Specific objectives may be to:

  • Anticipate crises and prevent them when possible
  • Respond to crises effectively (e.g., accurate verification, timely notifications, rapid assembly of crisis teams, effective response to rumors)
  • Provide timely, accurate and helpful information to the public, partners, media and other audiences during crises

What follows are guidelines for developing your agency’s specific crisis and emergency risk communication plan.

Included here are:

  • Key Elements of a Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Plan
  • Outline of a Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Plan
  • Communication Tools

CDC Crisis Communication Plan (PDF)