Developing a Message
Basic background information about the water system can be captured in the Water System Information Worksheet. word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
What’s a Message?
Information a specific audience MOST needs or wants to know.
- Who you are
- What action customers should take
- What event occurred and a description of the problem
- Where it occurred
- When it occurred
- Expected duration
- Why it happened
- Who is affected
- Basic information on the water system
- Current actions being taken
- Requested agency responses
- What public notice is required when appropriate
- Where to get more information
Tools and templates that can help guide pre-incident message development include:
- Q&As and fact sheets:
- Q&As and Fact Sheets—Advisory Advice word icon[DOCX – 1 page]
- Quick Reference Facts word icon[DOCX – 1 page]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Boil Water Advisories pdf icon[PDF – 6 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Do Not Drink Water Advisories word icon[DOCX – 4 pages]
- Fact Sheet About What to Do During a Boil Water Advisory pdf icon[PDF – 4 pages]
- Hoja informativa acerca de lo que debe hacerse durante una advertencia de uso de agua hervida pdf icon[PDF – 4 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Coliforms and Drinking Water word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions about Cyanobacterial Blooms/ Cyanotoxins/HABs and Drinking Water word icon[DOCX – 3 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Nitrates and Drinking Water word icon[DOCX – 4 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Groundwater Rule Advisories word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About What to do After a Drinking Water Advisory word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
- Preguntas frecuentes sobre lo que debe hacerse después de una advertencia de uso del agua potable word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
- Point of Contact for Coordination During an Advisory word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
- Guidelines for Schools and Childcare Facilities During a Boil Water Advisory pdf icon[PDF – 3 pages]
- Guidelines for Hotels and Motels During a Boil Water Advisory word icon[DOCX – 1 page]
- Guidelines for Food Service Facilities During and After a Boil Water Advisory pdf icon[PDF – 2 pages]
- Recommendations for High Rise Buildings Before and During a Water-related Emergency word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
- Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities During and After a Boil Water Advisory word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
- Considerations for Dialysis Centers Before and During a Water Advisory word icon[DOCX – 2 pages]
Basic background information about the water system can be captured in the Water System Information Worksheet word icon[DOCX – 2 pages].
Health literacy is the ability to receive, understand, and act on basic health information needed to make good decisions. Nine out of ten 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 C: Online Resources, Health Literacy.
What is Readability?
A general scale that measures comprehension, or how understandable the text is in a document. Some word processing programs have built in measures for determining the reading level of a document
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 Handbookexternal icon and Consumer Confidence Reportsexternal icon have key phrases translated. The Washington Department of Healthexternal icon has advisory content translated into several languages.
Community organizations provide a direct, trusted link to diverse populations so make them key contacts in your message distribution plan. Incorporate their skills and outreach strategies into planning for advisory preparation and distribution. 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.
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.