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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

An incomplete LOCKDOWN message for law enforcement activity

lockdown message for police activity

Law enforcement messages with instructions to lockdown are HARD to write. Especially when you have limited time and need people to take action immediately. This message was issued as both a 90 and 360 character WEA, leaving out a lot of relevant information that message receivers needed to prevent delayed action. Included here is the hazard (law enforcement activity), the action (lockdown), and the location (Bay Point). Without additional information, it could be difficult to know what actions to take and how to do so successfully.

But I'm pretty certain that the message writers thought they sent a LOT more than just this message. In fact, when you take a look at the pbs.warn webpage, you'll see that a COMPLETE message was included, but it was entered into the instruction field of the software, not the message field. This means that persons with Android devices may have received additional information; those with other devices were left with this message alone.

Learning the capabilities and features of alerting software is so important - it can save time and also ensure that the effort invested in a good message has some return.

Given that the COMPLETE message was included in some form, let's take a look at it too. They wrote the following:

LOCKDOWN due to Law Enforcement Activity in Bay Point. More info at This is a message from The Contra Costa Office of the Sheriff. There is currently law enforcement activity in Baypoint. People NEAR CHADWICK LANE, LANCASTER CIRCLE, and LANCASTER LANE are advised to LOCKDOWN IN THE NEAREST PLACE OF SAFETY. Go inside, close and lock all windows and doors. Stay off the phone and do not call 911 unless you need to report a life-threatening emergency. To report suspicious activity, contact the Contra Costa Office of the Sheriff at 925-646-2442. Stay indoors until you receive further official instructions.

This is a pretty good message! It includes all of the content that would be recommended for an imminent threat event. Notably, the sender makes use of the phrase "lockdown in the nearest place of safety" which empowers message receivers to identify a place where they feel safe at the time they receive the message. Bonus points can be given for explaining how to lockdown (go inside, close and lock all windows and doors) and providing instruction about using 911 or how to report suspicious activity. They make use of ALL CAPS sparingly and direct people to a webpage where additional information can be found.

We didn't find evidence of "further official instructions" being issued via WEA and the message was cancelled several hours after the initial message was sent. Perhaps people knew to look at the County Alert website for more information or to rely on social cues of police activity ending.

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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