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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Abbreviations and incomplete messages are difficult to understand and act on

Emergency alert missing person

An important characteristic of an effective message is it's completeness while being concise. The goal is to deliver enough content that people will be able to act upon your alert without delay as they look for additional details that haven't been included in the original message. When a message uses abbreviations, it decreases readability. When it leaves out key information, such as the reason that the alert is being issued, it decreases understanding among message readers.

In this case, the original message uses three abbreviations (W/M; blk; and Dr) and leaves out any context about why there is an interest in this person. Is this W/M missing? Is he a suspect? Is he dangerous? Is he in danger? The message also fails to indicate who is looking for the person, when they began to look for the person, and any way to obtain additional details. When a WEA is sent at 7:34AM, an unwelcome time for most people to receive an alert, these are important characteristics to include.

One can assume that the author wrote this WEA with the goal of sticking to the 90-character limit and stopped there. By writing to the 360-character count, there are opportunities to write a CLEAR message that eliminates abbreviations and follows the recommended contents from the Warning Response Model described in The Warning Lexicon.

Revised alert for missing person

In this revised message, we've added the message source, hazard type (in ALL CAPS), location and time. We also removed abbreviations and added protective actions (DO NOT approach) and provided a link for more information. While there are additional details that would be useful for the message receiver (the age of the individual, if they are walking) the revised message makes it much more possible for the message receiver to protect themselves and to take the action that is recommended.


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