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New NOAA project aims to improve all hazards risk communication

With first award from NOAA, START will investigate false alarms, complacency and awareness

Tornadoes have devastating effects on communities throughout huge portions of the United States, especially in areas where communicating emergency alerts is difficult. START’s Risk Communication and Resilience team isPhoto of a tornado siren working to help fix that, thanks to funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Under the guidance of Dr. Michael Egnoto and Dr. Brooke Liu, START is working with NOAA to better understand how complacency and false alarms about weather emergencies impact tornado awareness in an effort to reduce this risk by improving communication strategies. A false alarm occurs when a warning is issued for an expected hazard (such as a tornado), but that hazard never materializes.

“Intuitively, we have thoughts on how false alarms might influence our response to events, but little research exists on how ‘crying wolf’ with weather events impacts reactions to storm warnings,” Egnoto said. “If we can improve understanding here and the associated cognitive mechanisms at work, we have a real opportunity to empower communities against preventable consequences of these types of disasters.”

The research team – Egnoto, Liu, Holly Roberts and Jung Kyu Lim -- will be traveling throughout the Southeastern United States conducting research that will identify and evaluate how complacency and false alarms are affecting community members.

By improving understanding of how current information on weather emergencies is being spread, the research team will be able to develop strategies to improve how these communities and emergency weather communicators can interact more effectively for the common good.

The one-year project, worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars, continues START’s Risk Communication and Resilience team’s dedication to an-all hazards approach to helping improve risk and crisis communication. The project also marks the first time START has been funded by NOAA.