One of the things I’m working on right now is developing an action plan for disseminating emergency warning through a newly purchased technology. There are a variety of methods to disseminate emergency information, and depending on a variety of factors, alerting authorities have to choose where to post their messages. Some of these methods have limitations, such as word limits, inability to transmit dynamic media (ie. videos, photos etc.) and lack of penetration in low-income or low-English populations.
Recently while attending the Houston Integrated Warning Team meeting (#HGXIWT – if you’re interested), NWS staff showed that research indicated that a majority of weather information is being disseminated by television and radio still. I’m sure Emergency Management research would probably indicate a similar pattern. What was interesting though, is that we are working on assumptions being made 5 years ago. (the article they referenced was from 2009).
My thought is this: Can the research on warning and emergency public information dissemination keep up with changing technology? Secondly, are we seeing research done in the quality of the messaging in each of these channels?
We may be chasing new technologies that seemingly have higher message penetration, and while the number of recipients might be there to prove it, are people actually trusting the information we send out?
What are actions we can take as alerting authorities to ensure that selection of the warning channel is appropriate given the demographics, social vulnerability and perceived credibility within a specific area? Is that something that can be easily distilled into procedures and operating guidelines?
I think so, but it will take additional research in the areas of risk communication, hazard perception, warning method selection etc. Also, in order for this type of research to actually matter, it has to go beyond the Academic echo chamber and be read and implemented by emergency managers across the corporate, local, tribal, state and federal spectrum.