Objective: Although the field of crisis risk communication has generated substantial research, the interaction between social determinants, communication processes, and behavioral compliance has been less well studied. With the goal of better understanding these interactions, this report examines how social determinants influenced communications and behavioral compliance during the 2010 Boston, Massachusetts, water crisis.
Methods: An online survey was conducted to assess Boston residents' knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, mass and interpersonal communication, and preventive behaviors on emergency preparedness topics dealing with the water crisis. Of a total sample of 726 respondents, approximately one-third (n = 267) reported having been affected by the water crisis. Only data from affected participants were analyzed.
Results: Following an order to boil water, 87.5% of respondents refrained from drinking unboiled tap water. These behaviors and other cognitive and attitudinal factors, however, were not uniform across population subgroups. All communication and behavioral compliance variables varied across sociodemographic factors.
Conclusions: Crisis communication, in conjunction with other public health preparedness fields, is central to reducing the negative impact of sudden hazards. Emergency scenarios such as the Boston water crisis serve as unique opportunities to understand how effectively crisis messages are conveyed to and received by different segments of the population.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2012;6:349-356)