This research project examines the current state of the practice for disaster public communication, the distrust of government, the training available to public information officers, and the literature available to guide the design of effective public outreach messaging, especially for rapid on-set events. Growing distrust in government had led to lack of public confidence in public agency messaging during emergencies, yet public agency public information officers are using multiple pathways, including both traditional and social media resources, to try to reach impacted communities effectively. The introduction explains the development of wildfire events in the West and their context. A literature review displays the sociological and political research that guides the development of public outreach, warning and evacuation. The findings display the SCU Complex Fire and CZU Complex Fire of 2020 as case studies of outreach efforts during rapid onset wildfire events and explains techniques of data scraping that could enhance public messaging. The analysis categorizes a variety of best practices in disaster communications. The project concludes with a white paper outlining a pathway toward creating a cell phone app that would provide event, time and location specific information about a disaster event, using official sources and social media.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Security and Counterterrorism

Digital Object Identifier


MTI Project



Emergency management, Disasters and emergency operations, Emergency communication systems


Emergency and Disaster Management | Public Policy | Transportation

Project 2254 RB.pdf (2300 kB)
Research Brief