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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Warning messages must include the hazard

WEA issued 7/10/2023

It's entirely possible that a local message recipient will know why they are advised to evacuate immediately. If they have been paying attention to environmental cues or the social cues around them, exchanged messages with friends and neighbors, or have an awareness of forecast conditions, they may know exactly the reasons for an evacuation message. But sometimes they will not.

We know from decades of research on warning message design that including the type of hazard and the impacts that the hazard can bring are vital for message understanding as well as personalization. When we say "personalization," we mean that they recognize the threat can directly affect them. This changes perceptions of risk, which motivates behavior.

Recent research has shown that messages that do not include information about the hazard have resulted in decreased trust in the message sender, affecting their credibility and reputation.

In the message to the left, we show the original message (absent the name of the hazard and its potential impacts) and the edited message that includes hazard and hazard impact content. We also add the name of the message sender and use CAPS to call attention to key action words.

Simple changes can result in improved messaging that also reduces the possibility of organizational reputation harm.


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