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Lauren B. Cain:

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In the United States, alerting authorities are authorized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to notify the public of imminent hazards and threats by sending Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). Although recent efforts have been made to examine historical WEA compliance with frameworks such as Mileti and Sorenson's (1990) Warning Response Model, less attention has been paid to information included in WEAs that is not prescribed by message design frameworks from risk communication scholarship. This paper explores the presence of Situational Crisis Communication Theory's (SCCT) instructing and adjusting information in terse mobile alerts. The authors conducted a content analysis of 4777 WEAs sent between 2019 and 2022 to determine how often and in which contexts (i.e., hazard types, 90‐ or 360‐character messages) these strategies are used. We find that the limited definition of adjusting information used in prior research (e.g., direction to mental health resources) is rarely included in WEAs. Additionally, we identify differences in use by message length (90‐ vs. 360‐characters) and hazard type. We conclude that adjusting information in WEAs most frequently takes the form of organisational response information, thereby amending prior definitions of adjusting information to more closely align with the objectives and goals of warning message design.


This is the Author's Accepted Manuscript. The version of record can be found here:

Cain, L. B., Sutton, J., & Olson, M. K. (2023). Wireless Emergency Alerts and organisational response: Instructing and adjusting information in alerts. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 1–11.

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