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Course Title

POPG 5012 Emergency Risk Communication in Disaster and Humanitarian Crisis

Module Coordinator

Gloria Kwong Wai Chan (



Date & Time

Monday (Evening 18:30-21:30) and Saturday (Day-time: 9:30-12:30)


In a crisis, every word counts. The need to communicate risks as accurate as possible in a timely manner arises as much from public expectation as professional need. Communication not only helps build resilience of the community but also prevent disease, disability and death, and restore dignity of the people facing disasters. This course offers theoretical and practical framework of effective advocacy and emergency risk communication in an evolving media landscape, and covers cases ranging from outbreaks to natural disasters in humanitarian settings.

I. Content


Contents/fundamental concepts

Critical Function of Communication in Disaster and Humanitarian Crisis

1. Defining emergency risk communication

2. Disasters and humanitarian crises

3. Role of communication in disaster

4. Core public health capacities in International Health Regulations (IHR)

5. Risk communication in IHR

6. The risk of disaster

Psychology of People Facing Disaster

1. Denial, stigmatisation, fear, anxiety, avoidance, withdrawal

2. Perception of risks

3. Bad communication practices

4. Communicate effectively in a crisis

5. Case study

Communication and Crisis Development

1. Stage models

2. CDC's crisis and emergency risk communication model

3. Crisis communication plan in different stages

4. Case study

Communication and Warning

1. Detection of risks

2. Transparency and first announcement

3. The first 48 hours

4. Hear-confirm-understand-decide-respond model

5. Protection action decision model

6. Case study

Messages, Audience and Spokesperson

1. Audiences of disaster communication

2. Role of spokesperson in an emergency

3. Media plan and strategy

4. Understanding the media and perspectives on the industry

5. Interacting with media during disasters

Stakeholder and Partner Communication

1. Crisis coordination and crisis collaboration

2. Community partnership

3. Dealing with angry public

Emergency Risk Communication in New Media Landscape

1. Media convergence; digital media: online and mobile

2. Journalists as curators

3.Social media as part of the comprehensive disaster communications programme

4. Strategic use of social media during disasters

5. Challenges and opportunities of using mobile devices in disasters

II. Learning Outcomes or Objectives of the Course

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  1. Understand the principles and issues of emergency risk communication in disaster and humanitarian settings
  2. Demonstrate a strong awareness of various communication models in different phases of emergency management
  3. Realize the challenges and opportunities to engage media in disaster programmes
  4. Reflect on partnership and timely engagement with the public in crisis
  5. Conceptualize and apply the knowledge to develop an effective communication strategy in disaster and humanitarian crisis

III. Course Schedule (Term 2) 










29 Apr 2019 (Mon)

18:30 – 21:30


Critical Function of Communication in Disaster and Humanitarian Crisis


Gloria Chan

3/F TR


4 May 2019 (Sat)

9:30 – 12:30


Psychology of People Facing Disaster


Gloria Chan



6 May 2019 (Mon)

18:30 – 21:30


Communication and Crisis Development


Gloria Chan



11 May 2019 

9:30 – 12:30


Communication and Warning


Gloria Chan



18 May 2019 (Sat)

9:30 – 12:30


Messages, Audience and Spokesperson


Gloria Chan



3/F TR = Tutorial Room, 3/F, School of Public Health, PWH
KCTCRC = 1/F, JC School of Public Health and Primary Care, PWH

IV.  Assessment (for registered MPH students only)

Assessement Scheme



In-class quiz

Short quizzes will be conducted in class, either at the beginning or by the end of class per week


Presentation/ Role Play

Students will be divided into groups to present, or role play, the first announcement of a specific disaster or crisis in a media conference. There will have a lucky draw on Monday 20 May 2019  for the topic to announce on Monday 27 May 2019  per group. Each presentation group will be given very brief outline of the crisis. Announcement: 20 minutes max.   The rest of the class will automatically take up the role of media to ask questions proactively in the media conference. Q&A: 20 minutes.


Term Paper

Each student is required to submit a term paper in 2,000 - 2,300 words (in English) to evaluate the success or failure of the crisis and emergency risk communication effort of the public sector and/or an NGO in charge of response or relief in a specific disaster or humanitarian crisis.

It is expected that students draw upon course materials in the evaluation, and provide improvement suggestions for future crisis when necessary. All reference materials must be cited properly in the report. The paper should be submitted to the TA by email together with the signed Veriguide declaration.


Students are required to hand in the assignment on time. Late submission will be penalized with 20% deduction of marks per day. Deadline of submission: Monday 17 June 2019 at 12:00 noon (HKT).


V. Learning Resources for Students

Recommended readings or resources


Recommended readings:

  • Disaster Communications in a Changing Media World 2nd Ed. / George D. Haddow, Kim S. Haddow / 2014 Elsevier, Inc.
  • Theorizing Crisis Communication / Timothy L. Sellnow, Matthew W. Seeger / 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Risk Communication and Public Health 2nd Ed. / Peter Bennett, Kenneth Calman, Sarah Curtis, Denis Fischbacher-Smith / 2010 Oxford University Press
  • Crisis Emergency Risk Communication / 2014 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Other readings:

  • Crisis Communication and the Public Health / Matthew W. Seeger, Timothy L. Sellnow, Robert L. Ulmer / 2008 Hampton Press, Inc.
  • The Sourcebook for Journalists / 2013 The Alliance for Health Reform

Other resources:

  • Centre for Health Protection, Gov HK
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

VI. References on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

Information regarding the academic honesty and plagiarism policy in the University is located at Some further advice is given below. Any assignment which shows evidence of plagiarism will be penalized severely. Plagiarism is the copying of passages from other sources without proper citation or attribution. In the case of plagiarism, the minimum penalty is one demerit and a zero mark for the assignment.

VII. Teaching Staff (Teacher & TA inclusive) 


Ms. Gloria Kwong Wai Chan                   

Office Location:

Rm 308, SPHPC

Phone / Email:

2252 8468 /

VIII. Channels for Feedback for Evaluation

Evaluation will be sent to students in the last lecture. Students are also welcome to give comments and feedback at any time during the class. Stop by to talk to the lecturer and a cup of coffee can always help. You can also send me emails.