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Communication Of Emergency Public Warnings: A Social Science Perspective And State-of-the-Art Assessment

D. Mileti, J. Sørensen
Published 1990 · Engineering

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More than 200 studies of warning systems and warning response were reviewed for this social science perspective and state-of-the-art assessment of communication of emergency public warnings. The major findings are as follows. First, variations in the nature and content of warnings have a large impact on whether or not the public heeds the warning. Relevant factors include the warning source; warning channel; the consistency, credibility, accuracy, and understandability of the message; and the warning frequency. Second, characteristics of the population receiving the warning affect warning response. These include social characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and age, social setting characteristics such as stage of life or family context, psychological characteristics such as fatalism or risk perception, and knowledge characteristics such as experience or training. Third, many current myths about public response to emergency warning are at odds with knowledge derived from field investigations. Some of these myths include the keep it simple'' notion, the cry wolf'' syndrome, public panic and hysteria, and those concerning public willingness to respond to warnings. Finally, different methods of warning the public are not equally effective at providing an alert and notification in different physical and social settings. Most systems can provide a warning given threemore » or more hours of available warning time. Special systems such as tone-alert radios are needed to provide rapid warning. 235 refs., 8 figs., 2 tabs.« less
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