This study focused on the uniformity of Web sites operated by local emergency management agencies (EMAs) as they pertain to the availability of relevant emergency preparedness and response information. Of the 3,128 counties (or county equivalents) in the United States, we found Internet homepages for 1,612 local EMAs (51.5%). We reviewed each homepage to document the presence (or absence) of nine elements deemed to be essential for effective communications during emergency or disaster situations. Local EMA Web site homepages had a mean of 4.5 (± 1.5) elements. Among the findings, this review revealed that about four out of five (82.3%) of the local EMAs included the agency phone number, more than half (52.0%) provided links to other agencies with emergency preparedness information, and about two in five (38.3%) listed an agency email address. A few more than one in five (21.1%) of the local EMA homepages reviewed allowed visitors to sign up for automatic alerts or notifications. The nine communication elements identified in our study provide a minimal standard for content. We suggest that these results be used as a starting point in developing a uniform template containing the nine homepage elements. Such a template compliments National Incident Management System (NIMS) protocols and can provide a recognizable source of consistent and reliable information for people during emergency or disaster incidents.
©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston