Incomplete messages lack key details that message receivers NEED and want in order to understand what is being communicated. In this case, the warming center notification lacks content about the sender, the hazard/threat, and the protective actions that they should take. Because WEA is localized, we can assume that some of the people who receive this message will understand that it is meant for them and it is being sent because of the cold temperatures, but not everyone will. It's up to the communicator to be specific and clear with their content in order to demonstrate competence in communicating. This is especially important in conditions of life and death.
We have revised the message to include the following to content:
Source: Durham County
Hazard: Extreme cold resulting in widespread power outages.
Location: Durham County
Guidance: if you are without power and need assistance, come to the warming center.
We also offer additional information that people might have questions about, such as sleeping arrangements: will there be cots for sleeping on? Yes. And, because we know that a lot of people will choose NOT to evacuate or use available services if they cannot bring their pets, we've added information about this as well.
We do not include a website for additional information because the power is down and they wont likely have access to power. More information could be provided about the additional impacts of power outages (such as refrigerated food or electrical device safety), but in this case we are interested in life safety only.
By providing this content, we also eliminate the need for calls placed to 211, 411, or 911 that will undoubtedly eat up resources and personnel time. By using WEA wisely, you can reduce impacts on the organization and promote life safety in the community.
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.
Feel free to post this on your social media site, just remember to attribute it to The Warn Room and include the web address: TheWarnRoom.com - Thank you!
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