A significant gap remains for most alerting authorities in local jurisdictions across the United States, where the focus has been on technology for message distribution (that is, how to get the message to those at risk) rather than education, training, and tools to improve message design for imminent threat communication. Indeed, the need for message templates, including appropriate content to populate templates for a range of hazards, has been reinforced by emergency managers and risk communicators across the U.S. (see, for example the DHS S&T Report on Alerting Tactics, August 2018).
This project will address this gap by developing a tool - the Message Design Dashboard (MDD) - to help emergency managers to write effective messages for public alert and warning, and develop presentations, training materials, and workshops to educate alerting authorities on how to develop effective public alert and warning messages. At the conclusion of the MDD design, project team members will conduct training seminars/workshops at events and conferences as directed by FEMA.
Kuligowski, E. D., Waugh, N., Sutton, J., & Cova, T. (accepted). Ember alerts: Assessing wireless emergency alert (WEA) messages in wildfires using the Warning Response Model. Natural Hazards Review.
Writing Effective Warning Messages: The Message Design Dashboard. Presented by Jeannette Sutton at the FEMA Alert and Warning Conference, May 2022
When Minutes Matter: Alert and Warning Communications. Presented by Jeannette Sutton at the FEMA-IPAWS Community of Practice Webinar, January 2022.
Other Relevant Presentations:
NOAA Seminar (April 2019) Dr. Jeannette N Sutton and colleague Dr. Erica Kuligowski discuss Creating Alerts and Warnings for Short Messaging Channels
Nick Bassill (PI) with Jeannette Sutton, Eric Stern and Chris Thorncroft (Co-PIs)
When one imagines deadly weather conditions, hurricanes, snowstorms or tornadoes are generally the first phenomena to come to mind. However, extreme heatwaves (and extreme temperature in general) are significantly more deadly on an annual basis. Extreme temperature impacts are also modulated by a variety of factors both socioeconomic (e.g. access to air conditioning) and geographic (e.g. proximity to water bodies, sea-breezes, etc.). Despite these characteristics, extreme temperature products issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) are rarely more granular than county-sized. The New York City (NYC) urban environment is the embodiment of many of these challenges given its high-density population, varied urban landscape features, proximity to many water bodies, and the presence of socially vulnerable groups.
In this project, Jeannette will focus on communicating extreme heat to non-expert users and members of the public. Her research team will conduct card sorting interviews, quantitative content analysis, and user interaction studies.
Communicating about Extreme Heat: A Usability Study. (January 2022) Presented at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, 10th Symposium on Building a Weather-Ready Nation, Session 13 Innovation Leading the Way toward a Weather-Ready Nation. Houston, TX.
Earthquake Hazards Program Project (2021). Jeannette Sutton and Michele Wood, Co-PIs. Understanding the best ways to craft earthquake early warning (EEW) messages to motivate people to take action is essential to realizing the potential benefits afforded by ShakeAlert and other EEW systems. ShakeAlert currently sends a single message through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), regardless of users’ location or situation despite research demonstrating that personalized, detailed messages are more effective at motivating protective action than more general warnings (Frisby et al., 2014; Lindell & Perry, 2012; Sellnow et al., 2012; Sutton et al., 2018; Wood et al., 2018); however, this limitation may change in the future. The purpose of this study was to examine the potential benefit of including additional specificity in EEW messages by including information about the earthquake epicenter, countdown to shaking arrival, anticipated shaking intensity, anticipated impacts, and guidance.
Sutton, J. & Wood, M. (2022). Testing the effects of increased message specificity for earthquake early warning: Collaborative research with the University at Albany, SUNY and California State University, Fullerton. Final Technical Report. U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program. Awards No. G21AP10009-00 and G21AP20010-00.
McBride, S. K., Bostrom, A., Sutton, J., de Groot, R. M., Baltay, A. S., Terbush, B., Bodin, P., Dixon, M., Holland, E., Arba, R., Laustsen, P., Liu, S., & Vinci, M. (2020). Developing post-alert messaging for ShakeAlert, the earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States of America. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 101713.
Sutton, J., Fischer, L., James, L. E., & Sheff, S. E. (2020). Earthquake early warning message testing: Visual attention, behavioral responses, and message perceptions. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 101664.
The risk information seeking and processing (RISP) model allows scholars to model how individuals process information about a perceived hazard. Most studies using the RISP model have focused on how individuals process information to slow moving environmental or health hazards. However, less is known about how individuals process fast moving meteorological threats that require more immediate decision making. Even less is known about how individuals process visual risk messages.
In this project, Sutton and Co-PI Laura Fischer investigate individual processing of visual risk images during a fictitious tornado threat. Drawing from RISP, we will identify if individuals process risk information systematically (i.e., attempts to thoroughly understand or evaluate through careful thinking and intensive reasoning) or heuristically (i.e., the activation of well-learned judgments through cues such as source credibility and visual salience) through the allocation of visual attention to maps. To do so, we will conduct eye-tracking experiments to investigate how individuals with varying levels of hazard experience process visual information for a meteorological hazard to reduce their information insufficiency.
Findings from this research will provide empirical evidence to develop a preliminary model of Visual-Risk Information Seeking and Processing and will offer applied benefits to risk communicators in their design of risk imagery.
Fischer, L. M., Orton, G., Sutton, J., & Wallace, M. (accepted). Show me and what will I remember? Exploring recall in response to NWS tornado warning graphics. Journal of Applied Communications.
Sutton, J. Fischer, L. M., & Wood, M. M. (2021). Tornado Warning Guidance and Graphics: Implications of the Inclusion of Protective Action Information on Perceptions and Efficacy. Weather, Climate, and Society.
Sutton, J., & Fischer, L. (2020). Understanding visual risk communication
messages: An analysis of visual attention allocation and think aloud responses to tornadographics. Weather, Climate, and Society. 13(1) 173-188 DOI:
Calls To Action in Short Warning Messages: A Comparative Study of 3 Hazards. Presented at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, 17th Symposium on Societal Applications: Policy, Research, and Practice, Session 10 Utilizing Social Media for Weather Research, Education, and Risk Communication. Houston, TX.
A recording from the AMS 5th Conference on Weather, Warnings and Communication by Dr. Jeannette Sutton on June 14, 2019
A recording from the American Meteorological Society annual meeting, Phoenix, AZ by Dr. Jeannette Sutton on January 8, 2019
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