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Human Response to Emergency Communication: Guidance on alerts and warning messages for emergencies in buildings



Hidemi Omori, Erica D. Kuligowski, Steve Gwynne, Kathryn Butler


The purpose of this article is to provide guidance on enhancing human response to emergency communication. This guidance can, in turn, help engineers improve the design of emergency notification and messaging systems, which, as a result, can help inform occupant response, reduce occupant evacuation time, and increase occupant safety. The article begins with a literature review on how people respond to emergencies. The Protective Action Decision Model, which describes the decision-making process that precedes human response in disaster events, also provides a framework for the literature collected as part of this review. Next, the method used to create the guidance document is explained, including the steps taken to review the literature collected (from 162 engineering and social science sources), generate findings from this literature, and compile the key statements found in the guidance document. Guidance on alerts, visual/audible warnings and dissemination of warning messages are provided, organized by alert/warning type and dissemination method. Finally, guidance on emergency message testing, including language, readability and fire drills as a means of response testing, is provided. It is envisioned that this guidance informs the practitioner on the design of future emergency communications and subsequently enhances evacuee performance through a better understanding of the manner in which emergency information is processed and the tools available to provide such information.
Fire Technology


emergency communication, alerts, warnings, guidance, human response


Omori, H. , Kuligowski, E. , Gwynne, S. and Butler, K. (2017), Human Response to Emergency Communication: Guidance on alerts and warning messages for emergencies in buildings, Fire Technology (Accessed July 19, 2024)


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Created April 2, 2017, Updated October 12, 2021