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October 16, 2014
'Could Have' Makes For Horrible PR
 
Who would have thought that the Centers for Disease Control would have been so hidebound as to stick with lax infection control procedures when faced with controlling Ebola in the U.S.? “In retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, “we could have sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from Day 1.”

The New York Times adds that Sean G. Kaufman, an infection-control trainer now working in Liberia for Samaritan’s Purse, says he warned the CDC that its protective guidelines were lax. “They kind of blew me off,” he added, “I’m happy to see they’re changing them, but it’s late.”

My gosh. A key benefit of not having to face a disease outbreak most of the time is, or should be, that you’re effectively prepared if one occurs. That includes training and drilling to have the safest procedures down by rote – so that you don’t have to adapt to challenging conditions under stress.

Anything less, CDC Director Frieden might now agree, makes for a blighted response and horrible public relations. Training in emergency procedures and risk communication, along with the fortitude to stick with them, is indispensable, and should be viewed as such. Who would have thought it would be otherwise at the CDC? What other federal agencies might be waiting to surprise us under stress? 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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