In 2011, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began authorizing emergency management officials to broadcast Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) to cellular phones and other mobile devices to help notify people of imminent hazards. WEAs are 90-characters long, geographically targeted emergency messages sent by government alerting authorities through the nation’s mobile telecommunications networks, which, for the first time, allow officials to directly notify at-risk publics where they live and work. The use of WEAs has outpaced investigation of their benefits, limitations, and actual and potential consequences. To address this critical gap in scholarship and public understanding, we integrate literature from the fields of public warning, instructional crisis communication, and mobile health communication. Combining these literatures, we outline a theoretical and applied communication research agenda for public warning messages delivered over mobile devices.
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