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.
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.
In a recent webinar, improvements to FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System – Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) were announced. This is the portal that alert originators use for entering messages into IPAWS, and FEMA is making it easier for them with some new features that will take effect in September with the deployment of OPEN v3.02.
Tomorrow, June 30, 2012, is the official FCC deadline when broadcasters and cable operators must have equipment installed to receive EAS alerts in the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format and must be monitoring for CAP alerts from FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). So how are we doing?
The National Weather Service (NWS) today met its target to start sending alerts over the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) by the end of this month, as reported earlier on AWARE. Today at 2:00PM EDT, FEMA enabled the NWS channel on the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) which will now send weather alerts to all CMAS-enabled mobile devices in areas affected by a major weather event. NWS posted the following statement on its homepage:
…FEMA to Activate Wireless Emergency Alerts for the NWS Today…
Published: Thu, 28 Jun 2012 14:39:29 EDT
Beginning this afternoon, the most critical NWS warnings will be triggering Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on WEA-capable phones. NWS produced Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) messages are pushed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). These messages are formatted to trigger a WEA broadcast for the following types of NWS warnings.
Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings
Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warnings
Blizzard and Ice Storm Warnings
NEWS FLASH UPDATE: We have our first NWS CMAS alert…
This afternoon, June 28, NWS issued a Flash Flood Warning in the Los Alamos, New Mexico area near Santa Fe. This alert would have triggered CMAS on any carriers in that area that transmit CMAS alerts. Did you get the alert? Tweet us: @awareforum
To find out if your mobile device is CMAS-enabled, check out the carrier-specific page links on the left side of the page at: www.ctia.org/wea/
For more information from NWS on CMAS alerts, also known as Wireless Emengency Alerts (WEA), see: www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html