Tale of Seven Alerts: Enhancing Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) to Reduce Cellular Network Usage During Disasters

Demetrios Lambropoulos, Mohammad Yousefvand, Narayan Mandayam

In weather disasters, first responders access dedicated communication channels different from civilian commercial channels to facilitate rescues. However, rescues in recent disasters have increasingly involved civilian and volunteer forces, requiring civilian channels not to be overloaded with traffic. We explore seven enhancements to the wording of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) and their effectiveness in getting smartphone users to comply, including reducing frivolous mobile data consumption during critical weather disasters. We conducted a between-subjects survey (N=898), in which participants were either assigned no alert (control) or an alert framed as Basic Information, Altruism, Multimedia, Negative Feedback, Positive Feedback, Reward, or Punishment. We find that Basic Information alerts resulted in the largest reduction of multimedia and video services usage; we also find that Punishment alerts have the lowest absolute compliance. This work has implications for creating more effective WEAs and providing a better understanding of how wording can affect emergency alert compliance.

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