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June 25, 2014

6 Key Takeaways from Colorado’s Devastating Flooding

Each year hundreds of emergency management researchers, academics and practitioners gather to discuss the state of research across fields and hazards. The Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop is held just south of Boulder, Colo., in Broomfield, making the devastating flooding last September a natural fit as a focus throughout the conference. Representatives from Boulder and Lyons spoke about the current state of the response as well as how they had prepared their communities in advance of the flood, and researchers addressed what they observed during the emergency, including the use of emergency alerts. The following are six takeaways about the flood response that were shared during the conference.

ALERTS NEED TO BE SPECIFIC — What’s the best way to alert residents about an emergency? While the ideal order to list information has been debated, one thing has become clear from studies of emergency alerts: be specific. “Explain to people what you mean when you say ‘evacuate,’ otherwise they will make it up themselves,” said Dennis Mileti, director emeritus of the Natural Hazards Center, which hosts the workshop. Social scientists have said that warnings must tell people what to do, and Mileti said this was alive and well during the flooding in Boulder last September. For example, he cited an alert from the Boulder Office of Emergency Management that went out on Sept. 12, 2013, that said, “Shelter in place but move to upper floors, if possible. If this is not possible, these individuals should seek higher ground, at least 12 feet above creek level, without crossing the creek.” Mileti said he’s read all of the warnings that were issued during the flood and that Boulder did a “wonderful job” issuing warnings during the event.

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http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/6-Takeaways-Colorados-Devastating-Flooding.html