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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Edits to an incomplete message about a power outage

WEA issued on 7/20/2023

Sometimes a message will be issued that lacks so much context, we have to do some digging to figure out what it's about. Turns out, this message below was issued due to a power outage and the sender is alerting the peninsula population about an open cooling center. A message that meant to deliver good news, "cooling center, yeah!" instead delivers confusion.

How to fix it? A few simple additions, drawing from research, can make spiffy improvements to increase message clarity.

Let's start with the source. By adding the name of the sender, the message receiver will know who the message comes from and can decide if it's spam or worth paying attention to. Knowing that WEAs are highly disruptive, a message receiver will want to know who has alerted them and why they should pay attention. We provide the complete name of the source so that the receiver doesn't have to guess what GCEM means. Organizational acronyms are generally unfamiliar to the public, so we avoid them.

Next, we tell people in CAPITAL LETTERS what the message is about. This is about a POWER OUTAGE. The message sender could just as well have capitalized EXTREME HEAT because those are the conditions that led to or could make the power outage more deadly. By telling people why they are being alerted about a power outage, they'll also understand why they are being told about a cooling center being opened.

Where is this POWER OUTAGE occurring? According to our sleuthing, it's the entire peninsula. So, we've added that both for context and to help the receiver know that this is a widespread event.

Next, we add a little detail about time. Even though the message sender knows when the event begins, when to take action, or when the message expires, the message receiver doesn't. Here, we let people know when the cooling center opens.

And finally, we tell people what to do. There's a cooling center open, and they should go there if they are hot. We don't know how long power will be out, but we do know we can help people to be more comfortable and safe. As a bonus, we offer a phone number or URL for assistance or more information. Those who may need help getting to the cooling center would certainly value this information. And it shows that the message sender is a transparent and communicating organization.

Voila! That's it! Quick little changes that make an incomplete message complete.


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