Know the facts before panicking

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 3, 2003

Knowing all the facts - that's rule No. 1 in journalism.

Helping prevent panic from taking over the general population, that's one of the big ones too. Especially when you can work with other organizations to "head it off at the pass."

Sometimes, people with the best of intentions tend to over react when they hear something. They may not hear the whole story, or they may have only half of the story.

Those people, in turn, call other people, who then call even more people. When that happens, you have a potential public panic situation on your hands.

It's our job to dispel that panic by assisting the proper authorities and agencies.

We understand human nature in these situations. We know that some people may just be concerned over the issue of public safety, public health, and the general well-being of the population.

But, we also know that if there truly is a case where the public's welfare is in jeopardy, the proper authorities will report that information to the public - immediately.

There are times when the public must be notified that something could be jeopardizing their welfare. In those situations, the authorities are bound, by law, to inform, educate and assist.

And they do.

In Covington County recently, there was an incident where a concerned citizen heard about an illness that had afflicted an area resident.

By simply switching one word around, a situation that could have potentially caused a public panic nearly occurred. Some actions that were taken as precautionary measures added to this concern, and before anyone knew it, a situation was very close to getting out of hand.

Fortunately, the proper authorities knew what to do and were able to dismiss any cause for panic.

But it's a lesson well learned.

What we can all learn from this lesson is that in situations where the whole truth isn't known, it's best to call the proper officials seeking information and the whole truth before acting out.

Quite frequently, one misunderstanding, hearing only part of a conversation or not understanding the true nature of an illness or situation can and has caused panic throughout the ages.

History books prove this. But today, we must continue to think before we speak, and think of the consequences before we act.

To be curious is simply human nature, but to truly know the whole truth can be divine - especially when public welfare is at stake.