action should be taken),1 the use of social media for delivering alerts and warnings, and other applications of social media in disaster management. Dennis Mileti, University of Colorado, Boulder, described what is known about how the public responds to alerts and warnings. Kristiana Almeida, American Red Cross (ARC), described how the ARC uses social media during disasters and provided results of ARC research on social media use. Edward Hopkins, Maryland Emergency Management Agency, discussed barriers to the use of social media by emergency managers. Emre Gunduzhan, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, described current and emerging technologies for disseminating alerts and warnings and enhancing situational awareness using social media.


More than 60 years of interdisciplinary research on disaster response has yielded many insights about how people respond to information indicating that they are at risk and under what circumstances they are most likely to take appropriate protective action. Much of this knowledge has been captured in the “Annotated Bibliography for Public Risk Communication on Warnings for Public Protective Action Response and Public Education” that lists more than 350 publications.2 This body of research covers natural disasters such as Hurricane Camille and the Mount St. Helens eruption; terrorist attacks such as those on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001; hazardous material spills such as those that occurred during the 1979 Mississauga, Ontario, train derailment and the 1987 Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, factory fire; building fires such as those at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in 1980 and at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital; and technological accidents such as the 1979 incident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in Pennsylvania. Mileti outlined some of the key results from research on how the public responds to alerts and warnings:


1 The difference between alerts and warnings can be unclear because a warning can also serve as an alert, and an alert may be accompanied by some information about protective measures. Technology has further eroded the distinction. For example, on mobile devices, the Commercial Mobile Alert service will simultaneously deliver both a distinctive tone (the alert) and a brief message with additional information (a warning). Similarly, sirens have evolved to provide both a siren sound and a spoken message.

2 The extensive “Annotated Bibliography for Public Risk Communication on Warnings for Public Protective Actions Response and Public Education” was compiled by Dennis Mileti, Rachel Bandy, Linda B. Bourque, Aaron Johnson, Megumi Kano, Lori Peck, Jeannette Sutton, and Michele Wood and is available at

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