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First Hours: Overview


Two sources were used for the messages and resources on this Web site:

  1. CDC-ASPH Pre-Event Message Development Project (PEMD)
  2. HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)

The CDC-ASPH Pre-Event Message Development Project

The Pre-Event Message Development Project (PEMD) was precipitated by the public communication challenges brought on by the anthrax attacks of 2001. Work on PEMD was conducted from 2002 through 2006 and included extensive research, message development and testing, and the creation of short- and long-format radio live-read scripts, as well as other resources for four agents:

  • Botulism
  • Pneumonic Plague
  • Nerve Agent (VX)
  • Dirty Bomb (Radiological Emergency)

In addition to these materials, other resources were developed for public health professionals preparing to communicate with the public in a terrorism emergency. These materials include the following:

  • Research reports by agents
  • Secondary research reports by special audiences
  • Verification analyses to compare key findings with published research
  • Searchable database of resources

This project was led by the CDC ’s Emergency Communication Branch in conjunction with four schools of public health:

  • Saint Louis University
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham

HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs worked with CDC to develop messages for additional potential terrorism agents. HHS applied CDC research for related agents as appropriate. HHS developed messages for all Category A biological agents, including the remaining agents:

  • Anthrax
  • Smallpox
  • Tularemia
  • Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF)

HHS also developed messages for the following:

  • Chemical Agents Nuclear Weapons Suicide Bombs

Two types of messages were developed for this part of the project:

  • Short messages, intended to deliver the most critical information
  • Extended messages, which provide additional background information on the agents in a question and answer format. These will be most useful as resources for message development.

The use of risk communication principles is critical for effective leadership during a crisis. Because these messages are models only and were developed without the framework of an actual event, only basic risk communication principles were applied. In an actual event, communicators will have specific information upon which to apply these essential principles. The CDC has developed several resources to support this effort. See Resources at (the resources part of the site).

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