Alerting phase (phase 3)

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Characteristics of the alerting phase


  • In this phase the emergency is inevitable and the response organisations and the public need to be notified without delay:
  • It is important that the core content of the warning is the same for all members of the general public while additional information is given to specific public groups.
  • Monitoring whether people need more information on certain issues is important.
  • Voluntary groups are vital assets in this work.

Public Perception and Motivation

  • Part of the public is urgently looking for more information, but there are always groups or individuals who ignore a general alert and need to be specifically addressed.
  • The target population is often mobile and a large percentage of the target may be outside their home area (e.g. tourists) and thus more vulnerable and without means to cope.

Recommendations supporting empowerment in the alerting phase

  • The level of urgency is high and so communication should address all target groups in a timely and inclusive way, using multiple channels and also contacts with intermediary organisations and associations.
  • Guidelines for effective messages should be known, and prepared basic messages, customised for this particular situation, may be used. Important instructions should be repeated. Instructions should be separated from background or affective information. The focus is on what people need to do, to prevent or reduce harm. Negative phrases and jargon are to be avoided. Additional information may be made available, for example, in a multi-channel approach using links.
  • Normally, people have a tendency to act and they often help each other; the ‘panic myth’ in that sense is not true. People should be encouraged to help each other, for example, in the case of an evacuation. In some cases, people may also need to be protected from harming themselves.
  • Natural behaviour should be taken into account, for example, picking up one’s children, despite advice to stay indoors.
  • It should be taken into account that people are mobile and may not be at home with their families; some may be at work or in traffic, while others may be visitors to the region and have difficulty coping with the situation.
  • Mobile technology enables individuals to be reached whenever and where ever. Location-based alerts are possible and in the near future smart phones apps may also show the way out of a danger area or facilitate a reply. Social media can also be used to report that one is safe.
  • Monitoring social and news media is important to see if warnings and instructions are followed, or if there are problems that need attention.

Technology aspects and how it supports the alerting phase

Technology Aspects

  • The technology usually continues to function during this phase, although some communication channels may become congested.
  • The need for mobile communications and targeting special groups is also a matter of technology.

How technology can support public resilience

  • To ensure that the critical information will be received by the target audiences, multimodal warnings and alerts need to be used (for example, text messaging, voice calls, electronic displays, outdoor sirens).
  • Location-based data can be used to target the information; mobile devices can be used to determine the geographical position of individuals and to target notifications and more *accurately identify those actually affected by the emergency.
  • Structured alert messages (see WEA, below) can assist urgent communication, and smart phone features may facilitate different language versions.
  • Social media platforms offer easy, fast and direct sharing of information.

Examples of best practices