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Before an Event: Developing a Message

Collaborate with Your Communication Network

Drinking water advisories are issued in response to a specific event or situation. Communication ma

Icon Key

tool icon Tools and Templates

resources icon Resources

terials can be prepared in advance by collaborating with your partners. The Essential Information list outlines the questions and information that a drinking water advisory must address.

Message Development

What’s a Message?

Information a specific audience MOST needs or wants to know.

Tools and templatestool icon that can help guide pre-event message development include:

Basic background information about the water system can be captured in the Water System Information Worksheet.tool icon[DOC - 2 pages]

Health Literacy

Health literacy is the ability to receive, understand, and act on basic health information needed to make good decisions. Nine out of 10 people in the United States have limited health literacy—regardless of their education levels. Since advisories require customers to understand a message and take action, health literacy is an important factor for messages and materials.

A first step to ensuring that your advisory can be easily understood by most audiences is to check the readability and grade level of the advisory content. For a general audience, the grade level should be between 5th and 8th grades. Word-processing programs can provide information about a document’s readability. If you are not sure how to check for readability, go to the “Help” section on your word-processing program and search for the term “readability.”

For more information on health literacy guidelines, see Appendix B: Online Resources, Health Literacy.resource icon

Translate and Format Messages

Advisories need to be translated to reach many customers. Consult with local government to identify the main languages in the service area. Public health departments are a very good resource. Many states and local governments have programs and resources specifically for translation, including sign language and Braille.

Other strategies include partnering with community-based organizations or contracting with a translation service. The EPA Revised Public Notification Handbook [PDF - 180 pages] and Consumer Confidence Report guidance have key phrases translated. The Washington Department of Health has advisory content translated into several languages.

Community organizations provide a direct, trusted link to diverse populations. Incorporate their skills and outreach strategies into advance planning for preparing and distributing advisories. Many community organizations have language and sign language translation services. Use these or professional translation services. Avoid using online dictionaries or other computer software to translate messages.

What is Readability?

Readability is a general scale that measures comprehension, or how understandable the text is in a document.

Community organizations can also format messages in forms that are accessible to people who are blind or have low vision, who need pictures or images to understand the message, or who need text or Video Relay Services (video phone) messages.

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