First FEMA PrepTalk: Modernizing Public Warning Messaging

In case you missed it, in February, as part of their efforts to improve disaster warning systems and disaster preparedness, FEMA released their first PrepTalks Presentation. The inaugural video presentation, Modernizing Public Warning Messaging, details strategies and decision making processes that have worked in the past for industry experts such as Dr. Dennis Mileti, the speaker in this presentation. Among the issues addressed by Dr. Dennis Mileti were:

  1. Alerts for Rapid Onset Events - Events that occur shortly after being detected.
  2. Removing Delays from the Warning System - Main Delay points typically occur during warning issuance, audience dissemination, and public action initiation.
  3. Disseminating Alert and Warning Messages Wisely - Use a diverse group of diffusion methods to reach a variety of unique subpopulations.
  4. Issuing Messages that Reduce Public Action Delay – Humans instinctively begin milling when they receive an emergency alert or notification. This milling behavior includes actions like searching for information regarding the event, talking to others about what to do, and deciding if the alert relates to a danger serious enough to take action.

Dr. Mileti emphasizes that to ensure the above factors are handled successfully, the most important aspect of an emergency alert is the content of the alert. The message must be very specific in describing the at-risk population, and describe exactly what to do and where to go if one is a member of that population. The message must also be clear in explaining the threat to those in the impacted area. These steps help to ensure that individuals receiving these alerts will spend less time milling online or talking to their neighbors about what the threat could be. Reducing milling behavior also reduces the impacted individuals’ reliance on unofficial or subjective assessments of the threat.

Future PrepTalk videos will include discussions of pandemics, disaster survivors, and public approval and support of disaster efforts.


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