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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

"All clear" messaging; emphasizing event resolution

We frequently get questions about 'what conditions warrant a follow-up WEA' and 'what content should those messages include'? In general, if the initial message says "more information to follow" or "until further notice," a follow-up WEA is necessary because it has set the expectation that more information will be coming to the population that received the initial alert. This is especially true for persons who are asked to shelter in place (letting them know they can come out of their shelters) or to be on the lookout (letting them know the situation is resolved). But the contents should the message contain is an empirical question that is currently under investigation with some early results.

Recent research conducted by Sutton, Cain, Waugh, and Olson (2024) examined post-alert messages from April 2012-June 2022 to identify the contents they contain and the language variants used to express that the event is "all clear." The abstract is posted below:

a journal abstract about post-alert messaging

What this looks like in practice can be viewed in this example from Jackson County Emergency Management, who sent a WEA following a police incident [spelling errors in the original message have been corrected here].

an example of a post alert message

The message includes the source (Jackson County Emergency Management Agency), the location (Baugh Street and State Street), the hazard (an incident), and language that indicates the incident has been resolved (complete) and the roadways are back open. This information implies that the recommended action posted in the initial message (avoid the area if possible) is no longer applicable and message recipients can return to the area.

This post-alert message is resolution focused and, as indicated by Sutton et al., is likely to reduce message receiver uncertainty about the conditions and their safety.

If you want to learn more about "all clear messaging," we encourage you to take a look at their paper. It was published in an open-access journal and the tables are useful for understanding how plain language can be used to communicate safety.

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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