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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

The problem of the unnamed hazard

WEA sent 12/17/2022

Shelter in place, and its cousin evacuate now, are orders that are frequently included in WEAs as well as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). Unfortunately, this kind of order without the inclusion of the hazard name is not likely to lead to the kind of immediate behavior that it is intended to prompt. Instead, this kind of directive will lead most people to delay action as they look for information about the hazard and determine if they believe that there is a threat, if they are personally at risk, and if they should take action. They are also likely to look for information about who the message comes from, a problem that faces those who receive the incomplete 90-character message. One of the key lessons that we scholars have learned about human beings is that it is hard to get them to believe that they are at risk. Telling people to take an action without giving them context (or a source that they can trust and believe) is an ill-fated strategy. The 360-character message could easily provide additional information; especially about where to get updates. Secondary to this particular WEA instance is the fact that no follow up message was sent to this population. Instead the message was allowed to expire and the alerted population got to figure out on their own if they were safe to come out from their shelter, if they took action in the first place.

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