USGS IPA: Wireless Emergency Alerting and ShakeAlert Message Testing

  • Fischer, Laura (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


The delivery of messages through the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) component of the FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), as well as testing the overall ShakeAlert message, are key social science research questions to be addressed by the ShakeAlert community. As one of key research questions of ShakeAlert, the message delivered to end users is critical. The Warning Message Focus Group (WMFG) convened by the ShakeAlert Joint Committee for Communication, Education, and Outreach (JCCEO) in 2017 developed a ShakeAlert for cell phones (including functions such as sound, text, tone, and voice) based on a solid research-based foundation. One of the key recommendations from the WMFG is that the next step is to test the efficacy of the message. Prior WEA message testing has been based upon think alouds, focus groups, and survey research to identify individual perceptions, cognitions, and behavioral intent in response to a short message. Threats included in early testing included a radiological event, active shooter, and tsunami. Earthquake Early Warnings (EEW) differ from a longer notice event (that is, those with more than a few seconds before taking action) suggesting that goal of EEW message testing should not be exclusively focused on message interpretation. Instead, this work should investigate how quickly end users can read, process, and act (appropriately) in response to a ShakeAlert. While there is certain value in asking end users what they think about a message, a better measure of cognition and action focuses on message comprehension and the actions that follow. Message length and the ability to include illustrative content are likely to be key as well as having pre-experiment awareness of how to act when a message is received. 1. Searching and evaluating current literature: The IPA extends to a brief literature review, to determine if any new findings have been developed since the initial literature review on messaging was aggregated in 2017. 2. Develop a Research Plan: including methods, analysis, and publication of results. As co-researcher, Dr. Fischer will develop a research plan to answer a fundamental question(s) for the ShakeAlert program: 1. Is the current message for ShakeAlert effective for inducing the correct protective action in users taking into consideration reading time, processing, behavioral action, under a set of specific conditions? If not, what modifications can be made to optimize the ShakeAlert for its intended purpose?
Effective start/end date4/3/193/31/20


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