Public expectations of and responses to WEA message content
Risk communication is crucial to building resilient communities because it allows multi-directional information exchange about a hazard event and its associated risks among stakeholders, and it seeks to promote protective behavior among at-risk populations. Public response to alerts and warnings and inclination to take protective action, however, are influenced by several factors, including message content and style (accuracy, consistency, and clarity), message source and frequency of delivery, language and technologies used for dissemination, and the socio-psychological characteristics of message recipients. Using the Protective Action Decision Model (PADM), this chapter examines the role of language preference of at-risk individuals on their response to alerts received from authoritative sources (i.e., Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) messages) and via Online Social Networks (OSN) (i.e., social media). An analysis of survey responses of a sample of residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast was conducted to determine the (1) socioeconomic characteristics influencing public response to warnings – specifically, response to evacuation notice; and (2) role of language preference on public use of specific communication channel. The southeastern United States is home to diverse ethnic and sociocultural communities whose first language is not English. The results of this study provide evidence that will contribute to efforts to make risk communication more inclusive of greater segments of society, ensure integration of local knowledge, and contextualize messages to promote more effective public response.