Advice on asteroid warnings



In a previous post, I reported on the establishment of an International Asteroid Warning Network and the first meeting of IAWN’s steering committee in Boston this past January.

At that meeting, the steering committee decided to hold a workshop on communication issues. That workshop took place in September in Broomfield, Colorado, and a report on the workshop is now available.

As part of my consulting work with NASA’s Near Earth Object Observations Program (NASA is a member of IAWN), I was tasked with organizing this workshop. The Secure World Foundation hosted the workshop, and SWF project manager Laura Delgado Lopez worked with me as my co-organizer, co-facilitator, and report co-author (many thanks, Laura!).

Here are a few of the findings and recommendations that came out of the workshop:

  • Findings:
    • Cultivating and maintaining public trust, issuing notifications and warnings in a timely fashion, maintaining transparency in communications, understanding its various audiences, and planning for a range of scenarios are important to effectively communicate NEO impact hazards and risks.
    • Quantitative and probabilistic scales are of limited value when communicating with non-expert audiences. Qualitative measures of characterizing impact hazards and risks and describing potential impact effects may be more effective communication tools.
    • Employing a common language to communicate about asteroid impact hazards across the different IAWN institutions could help IAWN build its identity and credibility. Establishing mechanisms for routine communication could help increase NEO awareness.
  • Recommendations:
    • IAWN should establish a five-year plan with near and mid-term actions for becoming the global trusted and credible NEO information, notification, and warning network. This plan should consider the fundamental principles of risk communication.
    • IAWN should sponsor briefings and workshops for reporters to improve NEO education within the mass media community.
    • IAWN should develop and employ a new, non-probabilistic scale for characterizing asteroid impact hazards and impact effects. The Broomfield Hazard Scale is proposed for IAWN’s consideration as an impact effects scale.

The IAWN Steering Committee will be meeting in Tucson, Arizona, next week, and members will be briefed on the workshop proceedings there. The steering committee has not accepted, endorsed, or approved any of these findings and recommendations as yet.

I’ve posted the report on this site (see left menu). We made it short on purpose, so people would read it. Please do!

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