Infectious disease outbreaks have killed more people than hurricanes, wildfires or earthquakes. The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history, with death estimates ranging as high as 50 million worldwide. Almost 700,000 deaths occurred in the U.S.; in some cases, entire families died.
Because these events are so outside our understanding of what is normal, they create high levels of uncertainty. We don’t know what is happening. And we don’t know what to do to avoid and mitigate the harm.
Crises are also time-sensitive events that require quick decisions and actions to reduce and contain the harm. Delayed evacuations for hurricanes, for example, can lead to more deaths. Failure to issue advisories to boil water can result in disease outbreaks. Telling people what to do during a crisis – boil water, evacuate, shelter in place – is critical to limiting and containing the harm.