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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

The downside of templated messages.


WEA issued 7/9/2023


Templates for alerts and warnings certainly have their place. They have the advantage of providing pre-scripted content in an order that (generally) makes sense and can be used in a snap when time is short. Pre-scripted messages have the benefit of time because they were created when the message originator was not under pressure to think through the hazard, it's potential impacts, and the actions a person should take to protect themselves. In this case below, we see where a templated message goes wrong. The threat, it turns out, was an active shooter situation and message recipients needed to shelter in place or stay away from the scene. That is not what they got in this WEA. Given that we at the Warn Room haven't chatted with the author of this message, we're making some assumptions about how things went down. But if you look closely at this message - it is a template that was 1) incomplete/unfinished and 2) delivered protective action information that was not relevant to the threat. Looking at public responses posted to Twitter, people were rightly confused, frightened, and frustrated by what they received. Some asked their followers if the reason to turn off ventilation was due to an airborne contaminant related to the shots they heard fired earlier in the morning. Those who were truly alarmed were concerned that this could be an attack and their lives were at risk. Templates can be incredibly useful. In this case, the message originator didn't take the extra steps to edit and confirm that what was being sent was complete and accurate. This is a way to loose audience trust and, potentially, restrict public willingness to follow instructions in the future.

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