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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

5-Star Wildfire Warning during dire conditions


wildfire warning message issued for Beaver County


Wildfires and fire weather are arguably some of the most difficult events to communicate about and to effectively guide people to safely. As winds shift directions and new (and old) populations are put at risk, new messages must be issued quickly, with complete and actionable information. On February 27, 2024, wildfires were sweeping across two states - Texas and Oklahoma - devouring acres of land and putting many people on high alert to evacuate at a moment's notice.


We've written about wildfire trigger language before - it tends to be technical or operational, lacking plain language. You can read about our research on Ember Alerts

where we discuss the inconsistency between terms and the language that requires public education in order for it to be actionable without additional details in the message.


In this message, however, we see a different approach from the standard of practice found in most Ember Alerts. Here, we see a complete message that includes clear information about the hazard (Wildfire), it's impacts (visibility reduced, roads blocked, leave now or become trapped), the location (NW Slapout), the guidance (LEAVE areas), and the time (now). Importantly, they use the language that law enforcement tends to require "Mandatory Evacuation" and also explains what that means - leave now.


The style of the message is direct and clear; it uses ALL CAPS to emphasize key words and to help them stand out among the rest of the content.


It appears that this message draws directly from the content in The Warning Lexicon, and it follows the structure found in the Message Design Dashboard. By using these contents and following this structure, Alerting Authorities can help to create consistency of messages across the country, for all hazard types. We hope this becomes the case because this message receives 5 Stars and other communities deserve the same.


For more recommended contents, be sure to download The Warning Lexicon - it's free and offers step-by-step instructions on how to write a better warning message.

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