Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Wireless Emergency Alert messages: Influences on protective action behaviour

Abstract The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system delivers text‐based alert and warning messages to notify citizens of imminent, local disaster threats and recommended actions. Although this is a promising new practice in emergency communication, research about how people respond immediately after receiving these messages in real time is sparse. Using a mixed‐methods approach, this study addresses this gap by assessing people's reactivity to WEA messages using experimental simulations of an active shooter and an explosion on a college campus. Only about one in five message recipients took immediate protective action. Quantitative analyses and qualitative interviews suggest individual, message, and situational factors influenced protective action behaviour. These findings inform recommendations to create effective WEA and other text‐based alert and warning messages.

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