top of page
  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Law enforcement notifications and message consistency.

law enforcement notification for a missing person who may be handcuffed

When WEA was first initiated, messages addressed imminent and actionable threats, requiring public response to increase the safety of a broad population. Law enforcement notifications about an escaped, potentially dangerous person can fit into this alerting category, such as a recent event in Pennsylvania when a prisoner escaped and was not recaptured for two weeks. Increasing awareness of potentially dangerous individuals can help to keep a population safe and also aid law enforcement in their efforts by enlisting the help of an observant public.

If law enforcement messages about a danger to the public are to be issued as WEA, we may as well consider how the Warning Response Model can be applied to their content.

In this case, the message order and contents follow the Warning Response Model (WRM) guidance on effective messaging - it includes the source, the hazard (a person with description included), the recommended actions (call 911, lock doors and vehicles), and the location (where the person was last seen). Although it employs jargon (FMI = for more information) and directs people to search for information by finding the relevant FB (facebook) page, it is fairly complete (lacking time).

However, the message itself is a bit inconsistent when considering the guidance to "lock doors and vehicles" when "there is no immediate threat known." We don't know if this is a case of 'better safe than sorry' or if there are extenuating circumstances that may have resulted in this message being issued. However, internal message consistency is a key style factor for all warning messages that helps people to understand and act upon the content provided. When a message is inconsistent it results in information seeking and could decrease believability (in this case, trust in the sender).

The editors at The Warn Room are very interesting in learning how the use of WEA by law enforcement can be improved. Because the majority of WEAs are issued for broad issues of public safety, there is a need to consider how messages like these are perceived and acted upon by the public.

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: - Thank you!

You may click on the keywords below to find other entries with similar topics.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page