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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Your evacuation messages shouldn't be so confusing

WEAs issued 8/29/23 (click image to enlarge)

If you are a Warn Room reader, you know that we usually write about the use of "trigger language" in reference to levels of risk that are generally applied to wildfire events. Level 1 means something different from Level 2, which means something different from Level 3. They can be clarified by including a label with each level, such as "Level 2 - prepare to evacuate" or "Level 3 - mandatory evacuation order," although if you're spending the time and effort to define the technical language in a warning, maybe you should just go for the plain language approach and leave out the jargon. Today, we see the use of "Level A" and "Level B" as a hurricane approached, but in this case, it doesn't appear that these Levels have much to do with the level of risk. Or do they? Instead, it looks like they are zones or geographical areas. It's not clear. But looking at one emergency manager's secondary messaging about these WEAs, they clearly understand that people in their community are likely to be confused because they are sending them to a website to look for more information. These are some of the same issues related to the use of zones. When geographic areas are reduced to numbers or letters and called levels (that's really just downright confusing) or zones (a little less confusing), the message sender is relying on the message receiver to do additional work to figure out what they are being told to do. WEA 2.0 gives additional space to provide geographical information (and levels) about the area at risk or the area under evacuation orders. Why not use it and give people actionable information immediately?


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