Does Scary Matter?: Testing the Effectiveness of New National Weather Service Tornado Warning Messages

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Disaster, Fear Appeals, Hazards, Risk Communication, Tornado, Warning

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In Spring 2011, record-level tornadoes in the South and Midwest United States resulted in significant human injury and death. In response, the National Weather Service (NWS) developed new warning messages for the 2012 storm season, utilizing more frightening warning language and more specific directions. The current study tested the effectiveness of these new messages by showing participants four different experimental stimuli: regular TV warning messages, new scary TV warning messages, regular radio warning messages, and new scary radio warning messages. Results indicated that behavioral intentions were not affected by any of the experimental stimuli. However, regular warning messages were perceived as more credible than the new scary messages. We also examined characteristics of individuals in relation to severe-weather information use and found that women and those with more storm experience used more sources of severe-weather information.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Communication Studies, v. 65, issue 5, p. 484-499