Over the past few weeks, we have all received a crash course in pandemics and become more familiar with the world players in the public health arena. We have also been reminded of how small the world really is, especially when it comes to a highly contagious virus with a propensity to spread quickly across physical borders.

Besides following the advice of health professionals on how to keep ourselves and family safe, we can also equip ourselves with information to gain a better understanding of our situation. But with round-the-clock news coverage and the proliferation of social media – a.k.a. information overload – separating facts from fakes and warding off hysteria takes a concerted effort. We often discover conflicts and contradictions, which leaves us wondering what to believe.

Hillard Heintze’s security experts place a high value on accurate information. We invest the time necessary to carefully analyze and interpret available data, so our clients know how to prepare for, mitigate and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We emphasize that it’s okay – and normal – to be scared, but you should still avoid hysteria.

You’re Not Alone – Modern Media is Designed for Information Overload

The COVID-19 crisis will likely go down in history as the most significant news story of our time. Media outlets are churning out article after article tracking the virus’ trajectory and how governments, public officials, scientists and other experts – and non-experts – around the world are responding to it. Many have even removed paywalls to disseminate their COVID-19 coverage to a larger audience.

Three out of four Americans are under some form of lockdown, and views on news sites are up at least 30 percent. This makes sense since we’re constantly looking for answers and updates – and contemporary media is designed to catch and keep your attention. Headlines must grab our attention and elicit an emotional response to maximize clicks.

It’s important to separate facts from hysteria and keep perspective. Not every news story is relevant to your specific circumstances, nor is every news story supported by facts. The following tips will help you determine what to listen to – and what is just noise.

3 Ways to Get the Best Information for You and Your Family

While each of our client engagements requires a unique and tailored approach based on the organizations’ or individual’s circumstances, we have a few tried and true lessons I would share with anyone navigating their way through the current crisis.

  1. Not everyone is an expert, and no one has all the information. Data and articles require diligent analysis and careful interpretation. Because the situation is constantly evolving and full of unknowns, even experts may provide conflicting insights. Take a moment to verify the sources you rely on for accuracy and relevance. Even then, you should still approach everything with an understanding that facts may change as new information becomes available. This is not the time to take just anything as “gospel.”
  2. Crisis is a breeding ground for fake news. In our 2020 blog on trends in investigations, our experts predicted that it would become increasingly difficult to find truth in a world of alternative facts. What we could not have predicted was the perfect storm of a pandemic, economic crisis and social isolation, which all fuel the fake news fire. Though social media platforms are attempting to stop the dangerous spread of fake news, it’s an almost impossible battle. It’s up to each of us to stamp out fake news when we see it, approach purported facts with a critical eye and report inappropriate or dangerous content when we see it.
  3. Focus on the preparations that make sense for your family. One thing public officials have made clear is that essential business can continue to operate during mandatory shelter-in-place orders. The definition of essential businesses varies from state to state, but the idea is that companies that support the fundamental, daily needs of the public and the companies that support those businesses will continue to function. Still, if you’re ordered to stay in the house as much as possible, you want supplies on hand to do exactly that.

It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of buying unnecessarily large quantities of goods because you see other people doing it. You don’t want to be left without, right? Try not to. A stay-at-home order issued by the local or federal government does not mean that you need to hoard toilet paper. But it does mean that you need to have things like an emergency plan in place, an up-to-date list of emergency phone numbers (don’t rely on your smartphone contacts list) and enough food and supplies to get you through two weeks of complete self-isolation if it becomes absolutely necessary.

In these trying times, it is important to remember the basics and to stay calm. Social distancing works to curb the pandemic and staying informed in order to better protect ourselves and the public at large is one of the best things we can do.