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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Warning has been lifted...but what does that mean?

WEA sent 10/16/2022 at 11:47am

Back in January 2018, following the ICBM WEA that will go down in infamy, it became pretty clear that risk communicators need a strategy for announcing an "all- clear" to populations that were instructed to take an action. We haven't yet seen evidence-based guidance on how to do this effectively (although I know of a research group working on this...) but let's look at this message as an example. Here, the specific guidance to message receivers is not provided; instead actions are implied with the statement that the "evacuation warning has now been lifted." It suggests that those who were subject to an evacuation warning may have been told to evacuate and that they can now return. However, is knowledge that the warning has been lifted enough to reduce uncertainty about the safety of the area? If a person evacuated, can they now return to their home/community? (This seems especially problematic for wildfires where a warning may precede a mandatory evacuation order.) Until researchers confirm differently, following the guidance to make every warning message clear and complete, regardless of hazard type, would be a safe suggestion. A simple addition to this message, such as "evacuees can now return safely to their communities" would improve message clarity and reduce the need for information seeking to better understand what the sender was communicating.

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