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Public safety is always an important issue, but the pandemic saw public safety take on a new meaning. State, local, and tribal governments, first responders, and healthcare professionals were tasked with taking steps to ensure public safety, including informing the public about the threat from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the risks of contracting COVID-19.
During this extremely difficult time, many other safety issues emerged, and local officials and first responders had to inform the public, protect them, and respond to public safety issues that were not linked to the pandemic, while overcoming major emergency communication challenges.
To shed light on these communication challenges in emergency situations and how they affected state and local agencies and first responders, Rave Mobile Safety commissioned the independent market research firm Researchscape to conduct a national survey.
The survey was conducted in 2020 and 2021 on more than 1,000 American adults to find out how the public perceives information provided by state and local officials and which methods of communication are the most trusted. The results of the survey have now been published.
The survey revealed there is a lack of trust in the information the public receives from local officials, with only 22% of respondents completely trusting the information provided. First responders are trusted more than local officials, but only 59% of respondents completely trusted paramedics and EMTs, and only 33% completely trusted information provided by the police.
Trust in local officials with respect to the coronavirus was better, with 31% of respondents having complete trust in the updates provided. The most common reason provided for the lack of trust were the facts used by local officials to make recommendations (57%), and a feeling that the severity of the pandemic was being overexaggerated (44%). The most trusted method of communication, rated as completely or somewhat trustworthy by 77% of respondents, was phone/text alerts.
Even though trust was low, 85% of respondents said they would be very or somewhat willing to provide background information about themselves and their family members to first responders if they felt it would be useful in a variety of emergency situations.
The survey revealed the public has a low level of confidence in the ability of states to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, with only 37% of respondents completely or very confident in the ability of their state to rollout the vaccine. One of the main problems is the public is largely unaware about their state’s plan, even though it is already underway. This suggests there is a lack of effective communication.
Only 38% of respondents said they had either an excellent or good understanding of their state’s vaccine rollout plan. 53% of individuals said they had heard about the state’s vaccine rollout plan and 43% said they had not.
If people do not trust the information they are provided, it can make it extremely difficult for business leaders and local officials to maintain credibility during emergencies and convince the public to do what needs to be done.
You can view the results of the 2021 Survey of Public Trust: Emergency Communication and Public Safety here.