Wildfire smoke warnings don’t come soon enough | Technology

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Environmental and public health agencies often don’t warn people about smoke-choked air until it’s already swept in, a new study suggests.

The study in the journal BMC Public Health provides recommendations for how public institutions can more effectively communicate wildfire smoke and its risks to provide people ample time to prepare.

Looking at the Pacific Northwest in particular, researchers from the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon examined the frequency and content of federal, state, and local agencies’ health communications on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In an analysis led by Catherine Slavik, a postdoctoral researcher in the school’s Center for Science Communication Research, she found that public health messages were primarily reactive: More than half of wildfire-related tweets authored by 32 institutional accounts in 2022 were posted during peak smoke levels, when the risk of exposure was highest.

“On the one side, these institutions are doing a great job of highlighting the risks when the risks are present,” Slavik says. “But going forward, hopefully more of these conversations on smoke will be had before it’s potentially already in the air and too late to prepare.”

Slavik and her colleague Daniel Chapman, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Science Communication Research and collaborator with the UO’s Center for Wildfire Smoke Research and Practice, also found that most tweets discussed the hazards but not the actions to…

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