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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Creating internal consistency across messages

Three messages sent from 11:41 pm to 4:55 am in one night.

While its uncommon to find multiple messages issued over the course of the same event, it's actually a good practice, especially if there is no clear endpoint for the incident response. This set of three messages offers an opportunity to discuss one stylistic feature of WEAs and other alerts and warnings: consistency.

We've written about this before, but now

we can see it in practice. The original message, shown from left to right based upon timing, describes a hazardous material fire that is later described as a

chemical fire. In the third message, the hazard is no longer mentioned, so we assume that this message receiver will be aware of the first two warnings (I remember what my Marine-corps dad used to say about assuming... so it may be good not to follow that path). It also appears that the initial evacuation request was upgraded to a mandatory evacuation. The location information remains consistent, and the sending organization clearly indicates that it will provide further notice of the event (which it does).

We do note that there are a few suggested edits - the first is to include the source of the message in all of the messages and to add the time at which each message is issued. Adding both of these elements will increase understanding about who is issuing the warning and when the actions (evacuation) should be initiated, continued, or completed.

We also suggest that the organization add a URL pointing members of the public to additional sources of information. And we provide a few additional details about the potential impact of the event on populations at risk and use ALL CAPS to highlight specific words. And finally, we offer some suggestions about re-ordering content so that it becomes consistent in format and structure, making it easier to read across messages.

All in all this series of messages appears to be fairly clear. While individually, they are not complete, nor are they entirely consistent across the event, each one contains elements about the hazard, it's location of impact and the population area affected, and clearly articulates information about safety (guidance on where to go).


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