Outrage Management is one of the most important posts Rod has written. Excerpt:
I’ve been searching for a way to improve our ability to calm the fears that have made investments and careers in nuclear energy more risky than they should be. In the 1980s, Dr. Sandman formulated an equation for risk.
Risk = Hazard + Outrage
In his formula, hazard is the classic measure that risk assessment professionals have been taught: risk = consequences x probability of occurrence. Outrage is a measure of the risk that people believe an activity entails. It is just as real and may even be more measurable than hazard even though it does not normally result in any blood, injuries or dead bodies.
In contrast, outrage is often quite visible and measurable to an accuracy of several decimal places. At its extreme, outrage can result in injuries (people being trampled by a panicked crowd trying to leave a place of perceived danger), illness, and even death. It can cause long term negative effects and entail huge economic costs.
According to Dr. Sandman, outrage management is the type of risk communications effort that is needed when the risk of an activity is dominated by outrage. Even if there are rarely, if ever, any dead bodies, –indicative of a low level of hazard — nuclear energy often tops the lists of risky activities in polls that ask people to rank a set of activities.
I believe that nuclear professionals have a moral imperative to make vast improvements in our ability to manage and reduce outrage to a level that is more commensurate with the demonstrably low hazard of our technology. Our technology should be serving people, not causing them to live in fear or causing them to avoid beneficial applications because they have been taught to worry about what might happen if magical forces make layers of steel, water and concrete disappear or if “hot particles” somehow find their way, undetected, into their bodies.