In April 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released Improving Public Messaging for Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place: Findings and Recommendations for Emergency Managers from Peer-Reviewed Research. The purpose of this research report is to provide emergency managers with:
- Findings on public understanding and decision-making for evacuation and shelter-in-place protective actions.
- Recommendations for improving public messaging to inform the public about risk and to increase compliance with instructions to evacuate or to shelter-in-place.
Some key recommendations to emergency managers include:
- Understand the potential impediments to action and take steps to address these barriers in advance.
- Make evacuation decisions easier by only issuing mandatory evacuation orders.
- Provide residents and tourists with multiple ways to know if they are in a zone under an evacuation order.
- Use multiple, authoritative messaging channels that include photos or links to other visual information about the hazard and encourage individuals to share this information with friends and families.
- Provide frequent updates with information that can reduce the stress of the unknown related to evacuation.
Although this literature review identified similarities and differences in attitudes and behaviors related to multiple types of hazards, the largest set of research is associated with hurricanes. The research team acknowledges more research should be conducted on little- or no-notice incidents, such as wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes, as well as manmade emergencies such as chemical spills.
Read the full report on FEMA’s website, in its “Planning Guides” resource collection.