Conceptualising a disaster app: consolidating public alerting authorities’ social media and broadcast messages

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Tan, Marion
Prasanna, Raj
Stock, Kristin
Hudson-Doyle, Emma
Leonard, Graham
Johnston, David

Multiple agencies in New Zealand are mandated to warn the public of risks, hazards, or emergencies. The agencies have a plethora of public alerting options; including the capability to deliver alerts to the public through mobile devices. The options directed to mobile devices currently available in New Zealand include SMS-text message, phone calls, and more recently, social media, smartphone applications (apps), and broadcast messaging. Each of these new technological options has its strengths but also has its weaknesses.
The prototype app proposed in this poster tries to address some of the challenges posed by these various mobile delivery options. Apps can be useful platforms for communicating localised and time-critical information. The proposed app targets citizens as end-users and tries to aggregate information from authorised agencies. Apps can contribute to the public’s disaster resilience; however, they can also be impractical if not designed according to users’ needs.

In this study, a usability inquiry was conducted with 18 members of the public to understand their perspectives, needs, and expectations from a disaster app. The proposed app received an overall positive response from participants. Moreover, the results from the inquiry with the users showcased particular considerations for disaster apps; such as making critical information salient, reducing cognitive load, and leveraging usability to build trust between the app and the user.

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