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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

A Well-Written Cancellation Message for a Boil Water Advisory.

The National Weather Service has done quite a bit of research on the use of the terms "watch", "warning", and "advisory", demonstrating that members of the public do not find the words to be easily understood in terms of their escalating risk/impacts, nor for their call to action. They are part of jargon used by experts and carry some statutory athority when combined with words like "voluntary" and "mandatory" and their limited value to the public has caused NWS to simplify their hazard communication.

A message stating that the boil water advisory has been lifted and people can use the water again.

Boil water advisories and orders fall into a similar category of technical language that is most meaningful to the message sender. However, when jargon is accompanied by content that EXPLAINS what it means and it's impact on the message receiver, it becomes more easily and accurately understood.

In this case, we find a message from the local township declaring that the boil water advisory has been lifted (with the date and location). Importantly, they also include HOW they know that the advisory can be lifted - due to testing - and explain the impacts in clear language - the water is now safe to use. For those who have remaining questions, they provide a phone number.

The message order and contents follow the Warning Response Model (WRM) guidance on effective messaging - it includes the source, the hazard, the recommended actions, and the location, and the time. Although it employs jargon, it also clarifies the nature of the hazard and emphasizes safety.

Communicating the end of a threat can be difficult to do. In this case, the message delivers a clear conclusion supported by evidence.

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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