Warning Mechanisms in Emergency Response Systems

August 1987 (VOL. 5, NO. 2)

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The principal alternative mechanisms are described that might be considered by local governments for achieving prompt notification of the public in natural or technological emergency. These alternatives include face-to-face warnings, mobile loudspeakers, sirens, commercial radio and television, NOAA Weather Radio, newspapers and telephones. Each of the alternatives is evaluated on the basis of the number of people who can effectively be warned, specificity of the message that can be transmitted, degree of message distortion, coverage of the population at risk, dissemination time and cost. Data collected following the eruption of Mt. St. Helens are presented that illustrate how rapidly informal warning networks act to disseminate threat information in an emergency.