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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Incomplete & confusing messages cause more confusion


WEA sent 12/15/2022


Wireless Emergency Alerts frequently serve as the channel to reach populations in "the last mile," that is, those who are hard to reach otherwise. Because of this, they are received by everyone within that polygon who has a WEA-enabled device. For this reason, as well as many others, they must be complete and internally consistent to prevent people from delaying action. One way to improve a WEA is by using all 360 characters available. The one here is 85 characters long and the same text is used for a 90-character message. In this example, the message does not include a source (it is from the PA Department of Transportation), a location (I-80 WB could be a very long stretch of highway), or the protective actions recommended. Furthermore, the use of ETA (estimated time of arrival) is a confusing way to reference time; if crews are already on scene, who or what is arriving in several hours? A quick look at the PA DOT Twitter page provides no additional information, but posting to it (or other social media) would be a pretty simple way to extend the message to the population and to provide updates about the current conditions. If WEAs remained limited to only 90 characters, this would serve as an example of a moderately good message (especially with the inclusion of the link to more information and the report that crews are on scene). When there is space for more detail, it's in the interest of the message writer (and message receiver) to provide it.

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