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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Shelter in Place; completing the message


emergency alerts for gas leak

The messages shared here are real. If you are a reader of The Warn Room, you know that this is representative of WEAS that we see frequently. So, let's get back to basics.

Effective messages will be complete. A complete message contains all 5 contents that have been identified in the Warning Response Model, addressing the primary questions that a message receiver will have under conditions of imminent threat. These questions include:

  • Who is the message from?

  • What is the hazard that I should be aware of?

  • Where is the hazard occurring/who will be affected by it?

  • When is the hazard occurring/when should I take action?

  • What action should I take and how should I do it correctly?


In these messages issued for a gas leak, we see that most of those key contents are missing.


We can take a guess that the writer was being brief because they were trying to stick to 90-characters, but knowing that most phones are now capable of receiving 360 character messages, and WEAs are able to include links to additional information, there really isn't much of a reason to send out a message that is so lacking in detail. And, dear reader, shortly after these WEAs were issued, the organization used their X page to provide these missing details.


To improve this message, we would do something like this:


revised emergency alert for a gas leak that is complete

This revised format is consistent with the Warning Response Model. It addresses all of the relevant questions plus it replaces the language of "shelter in place" with plain language instructions about remaining indoors with windows closed.


Certainly there is room for improvement with this message, but by providing the most basic information to message receivers, it is more likely to be actionable and motivate the behaviors that will keep them safe.


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.

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