Developing a Message
Collaborate with Your Communication Network
Drinking water advisories are issued in response to a specific incident or situation. Communication materials can be prepared in advance by collaborating with your partners.
Basic background information about the water system can be captured in the Water System Information Worksheet. [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 [DOCX - 1 page]
- Quick Reference Facts [DOCX - 1 page]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Boil Water Advisories [DOCX - 6 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Do Not Drink Water Advisories [DOCX - 4 pages]
- Fact Sheet About What to Do During a Boil Water Advisory [DOCX - 4 pages]
- Hoja informativa acerca de lo que debe hacerse durante una advertencia de uso de agua hervida [DOCX - 4 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Coliforms and Drinking Water [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions about Cyanobacterial Blooms/ Cyanotoxins/HABs and Drinking Water [DOCX - 3 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Nitrates and Drinking Water [DOCX - 4 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About Groundwater Rule Advisories [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Frequently Asked Questions About What to do After a Drinking Water Advisory [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Preguntas frecuentes sobre lo que debe hacerse después de una advertencia de uso del agua potable [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Point of Contact for Coordination During an Advisory [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Guidelines for Schools and Childcare Facilities During a Boil Water Advisory [DOCX - 3 pages]
- Guidelines for Hotels and Motels During a Boil Water Advisory [DOCX - 1 page]
- Guidelines for Food Service Facilities During and After a Boil Water Advisory [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Recommendations for High Rise Buildings Before and During a Water-related Emergency [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities During and After a Boil Water Advisory [DOCX - 2 pages]
- Considerations for Dialysis Centers Before and During a Water Advisory [DOCX - 2 pages]
Basic background information about the water system can be captured in the Water System Information Worksheet [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.
Translate and Format Messages
Provide the public with a clear concise advisory by:
- Limiting messages
- Using simple, clear language
- Providing supporting information
- Maintaining consistent messages
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 Handbook and Consumer Confidence Reports 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 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.
- Page last reviewed: March 20, 2017
- Page last updated: March 20, 2017
- Content source: