Public Health Emergency Risk Communication and Social Media Reactions to an Errant Warning of a Ballistic Missile Threat — Hawaii, January 2018
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Public Health Emergency Risk Communication and Social Media Reactions to an Errant Warning of a Ballistic Missile Threat — Hawaii, January 2018

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  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep
    • Description:
      On January 13, 2018, at 8:07 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time, an errant emergency alert was sent to persons in Hawaii. An employee at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (EMA) sent the errant alert via the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) during a ballistic missile preparedness drill, advising persons to seek shelter from an incoming ballistic missile. WEA delivers location-based warnings to wireless carrier systems, and EAS sends alerts via television and radio (1). After 38 minutes, at 8:45 a.m., Hawaii EMA retracted the alert via WEA and EAS (2). To understand the impact of the alert, social media responses to the errant message were analyzed. Data were extracted from Twitter* using a Boolean search for tweets (Twitter postings) posted on January 13 regarding the false alert. Tweets were analyzed during two 38-minute periods: 1) early (8:07-8:45 a.m.), the elapsed time the errant alert circulated until the correction was issued and 2) late (8:46-9:24 a.m.), the same amount of elapsed time after issuance of the correction. A total of 5,880 tweets during the early period and 8,650 tweets during the late period met the search criteria. Four themes emerged during the early period: information processing, information sharing, authentication, and emotional reaction. During the late period, information sharing and emotional reaction themes persisted; denunciation, insufficient knowledge to act, and mistrust of authority also emerged as themes. Understanding public interpretation, sharing, and reaction to social media messages related to emergencies can inform development and dissemination of accurate public health messages to save lives during a crisis.
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