Guidelines for the design of emergency communications were derived from primary research and interrogation of the literature. The guidelines were used to re-design a nuclear emergency preparedness leaflet routinely distributed to households in the local area. Pre-test measures of memory for, and self-reported understanding of, nuclear safety information were collected. The findings revealed high levels of non-receipt of the leaflet, and among those who did receive it, memory for safety advice was poor. Subjective evaluations of the trial leaflet suggested that it was preferred and judged easier to understand than the original. Objective measures of memory for the two leaflets were also recorded, once after the study period, and again one week or four weeks later. Memory for the advice was better, at all time periods, when participants studied the trial leaflet. The findings showcase evaluation of emergency preparedness literature and suggest that extant research findings can be applied to the design of communications to improve memory and understandability. Statement of relevance: Studies are described that showcase the use of research-based guidelines to design emergency communications and provide both subjective and objective data to support designing emergency communications in this way. In addition, the research evaluates the effectiveness of emergency preparedness leaflets that are routinely distributed to households. This work is of relevance to academics interested in risk communication and to practitioners involved in civil protection and emergency preparedness.