Drew Smith

Drew Smith works as an Associate Consultant at SRA International Strategy and Performance Group, where he concentrates on research and development efforts in emergency alerts and warnings. He is currently focused on public response to alerts and warnings on mobile devices, particularly societal responses across population groups and effective practices surrounding message delivery. Tasks in support of this include performing a literature review of published social science materials and engaging the academic community across the country. Drew's previous experience includes tenures in the natural resources industry and in the United States House of Representatives.

Public Safety at the Speed of Light

On January 14, 2013, in Future Alerting, Uncategorized, by with SRA International

Recently, MIT researcher Ramesh Raskar presented an extraordinary TED talk on femto-photography, “a new type of imaging so fast it visualizes the world one trillion frames per second, so detailed it shows light itself in motion.” This fascinating presentation, which features an ultra-slow motion video of a laser beam passing through a bottle, is a great example of the ability of basic research to inspire us and change the way we think about the world around us.

So why is this video being featured on the AWARE Forum? It is certainly not a video about alerts and warnings. However, in the latter half of the presentation, Mr. Rashkar explains that this new technology now allows a camera to see around corners, with applications for cars to see around busy intersections or firefighters to look into inaccessible bedrooms. This is a great example of basic research having unexpected real-world benefits. These real world applications are years away, but their mention in this video shows that the public safety community has a stake not just in the sometimes frustrating worlds of interoperability and policy, but also in the most advanced technology of our day, including a camera that can take pictures at the speed of light.


Japan Issues Earthquake Warning Six Minutes Before Tremblor

On December 14, 2012, in News, by with SRA International

Last week’s earthquake off the coast of Japan brought to mind the devastating earthquake and tsunami that slammed into the island nation in 2011. While this earthquake caused relatively little serious damage, and thus becomes just one of many earthquakes to hit Japan over the year, there is one point that is particularly noteworthy: residents were warned a full six minutes before the earth shook. Continue reading »

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As reported in Gazette.Net, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland recently announced receipt of an award of almost a million dollars  by the Department of Homeland Security. Researchers at START will study the effects of emergency text alerts sent to mobile devices. Described by START as a “first-of-its-kind project” the research will investigate “how to best alert people to immediate dangers such as hurricanes or terrorist attacks.” This research will have particular impact on emergency managers as they begin to  use the newly available Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS), as the research will provide much needed guidance for how to construct an effective CMAS message.

A research group based at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been awarded nearly $1 million to determine how best to communicate major threats and emergencies through text messaging.

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START, received the grant from the Department of Homeland Security and its Science and Technology Directorate program, which aims to help authorities keep communities safe by determining how to alert residents to immediate dangers, according to a UM news release.

START’s project will review and analyze the contents of warning messages that are dispatched from government systems and law enforcement agencies, according to the release.

The research team will write sample messages of varying lengths about threats ranging from weather-related events to acts of terrorism and will include the alert of the event and information on what action to take. The messages will then be reviewed by warning experts and legislators during a November workshop in Washington, D.C., to determine what format of message is most effective, according to the release.

“Now that we can literally put warnings into people’s pockets, the challenge becomes determining what to say and how to say it to motivate the public to take appropriate protective actions,” START researcher Brooke Fisher Liu, a UM professor of communication and the principal investigator of the project, said in a statement.

AWARE will continue to follow START’s important work, as well as other research and development news surrounding the mobile alerts and warnings community.


This is the first in a series of articles examining the potential for indoor location-based services in public safety communications. Future articles will discuss our first-hand experience testing an indoor LBS application, as well as perspectives on the future of indoor LBS.

Odds are you have looked at the mapping application on your phone recently, maybe to find the nearest coffee shop or to give you directions through an unfamiliar city. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that ads on your mobile Facebook app tend to suggest companies that are right around the corner or show you what friends are at the same event. These features make use of geo-targeting. Geo-targeting capabilities have started changing the way we interact with the world around us and there is little doubt that this change will continue. Continue reading »

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Facebook’s New Application Could Save Your Life

On July 9, 2012, in Social Media, by with SRA International

As recently reported in Techcrunch, Facebook is working on a new feature that “lets users find friends and potential friends nearby.” This is different than the “Check In” feature that has been around for a while, the main difference being that it uses a mobile device’s location awareness to show where the user is or what event they are attending, whereas the “Check-in” feature requires users to actively update their location. This release got us thinking: how could this be used for public safety communications?

Facebook’s “Find Friends Nearby” app. Photo Credit: PCWorld

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