Emergency Alert System

Emergency Public Information: Time for a National Discussion

On May 9, 2013, in Emergency Alert System, by with Remote Possibilities / Broadcast Warning Working Group

Initial feedback from the Greater Boston area was that no Shelter-In-Place (SPW) warnings were issued using EAS. We do know that social media and illuminated road signs and other means were used to get the word out, so why not EAS? We also know an SPW went out to cell phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), as noted here on AWARE.

If these early reports are verified, this is clear case when all possible warning systems, including the EAS, should have been employed to warn the Greater Boston public to Shelter-In-Place. The timing of the event should have led to a regional and event-specific EAS SPW that would have asked commuters outside the city to not drive or commute into the affected area. Continue reading »

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Who remembers CONELRAD?

On March 19, 2013, in Alerts & Warnings 101, Emergency Alert System, Social Media, by with Altus Emergency Management

Yes, the image above has two triangles. Otherwise known as “Civil Defense” symbols, they are images of the Cold War.

CONELRAD: Radio meets the Civil Defense describes the two radio channels folks would tune to listen for news and updates in the “event of an actual emergency”.

CONELRAD became the Emergency Alert System and the triangles on the AM radios on the dash of the automobiles became Cold War Relics.

That was then and this is now. Has it improved?  Today, there is competition for the message. The emergency manager is challenged with getting the word out to folks listening to their MP3 player inside a house with the windows shut and the vacuum running.

No longer does the emergency manager have two frequencies upon which to place his warning message. The emergency manager must be aware of ALL the methods is customer uses to get news and information and, yes, even entertainment.

When the emergency manager hears that the customer wants him to be on Social Media, which one of them should he use? Does he dare omit Twitter to favor Google+? Does he simply say “I’m on Facebook. If you want the message, tune there.”?

This is why warning professionals encourage folks to have THREE ways to get information. At any given time, all three will be working or two may not.

What three are you using?


As the recent Hurricane-Sandy-related storms have shown, wireless communications systems are vulnerable and frequently cell phone service is knocked out during major weather events. In a previous story here on AWARE last summer, we noted that having an FM radio receiver in all cellular handsets would provide a means to receive emergency information that comes directly from the broadcast station towers and does not depend on the vulnerable cellular networks. In the article, we explored why FM is currently lacking on U.S. wireless devices and highlighted the ongoing campaign of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) advocating for wireless carriers to provide FM chips in handsets. The work of broadcasters has apparently paid off, as Sprint announced this week that it would indeed begin activating FM in many of its smart phones. Even more encouraging is that the press release hints of interactive aspects to this FM tuner application, making it more than just a mere radio receiver.

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FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Open Platform for Emergency Networks (OPEN) has been making great strides of late with improvements for all IPAWS Collaborative Operating Group (COG) users. Previewed in a webinar today were the features of the latest IPAWS-OPEN release, v3.04. Also highlighted was the availability for state and local alert originators and IPAWS-OPEN developers to make use of the facilities of the FEMA IPAWS Laboratory at the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) in Maryland as a platform to test their systems and alerting capabilities in an environment similar to IPAWS without causing test alerts to circulate in the actual IPAWS network.

The FEMA test laboratory at the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) – photo courtesy of FEMA

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Targeted Alerts on FM Radio

On December 6, 2012, in Emergency Alert System, Future Alerting, by with SRA International

Could FM broadcasters someday soon be able to send geo-targeted emergency alerts to their audience? A recent series of articles in Radio World Magazine highlight a new, experimental technology called ZoneCasting, which allows FM broadcast stations to geo-target program content to specific zones in their coverage areas. While designed to target advertising, purveyors of the system point out that it can be used to target emergency alerts as well.

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