Almost a year has passed since the roll-out of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA, previously known as the Commercial Mobile Alert Service, or CMAS). In this time, public safety officials (primarily the National Weather Service) have sent about 3,000 WEA messages to mobile devices. News stories on this new capability are becoming more commonplace, and more WEA-capable mobile devices are coming online. You may have even received a WEA message on your device by now.

Unfortunately, some message recipients have responded to these messages by looking for a way to turn them off—presumably because they do not perceive the alerts to be relevant to them or their local area. They then take to their phone looking for the settings menu where they can opt out of the alerts.
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FCC Says CMAS is now WEA

On February 26, 2013, in CMAS & Mobile Alerts, by with SRA International

WEAYesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Order DA 13-280, stating that the Commission is revising its Part 10 rules by changing the name Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) to Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).  These are the wireless alert system technical rules governing the participating cellular wireless carriers, which the FCC calls Commercial Mobile Service Providers (CMSPs).  This change is effective upon publication in the Federal Register. Continue reading »

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We saw this announcement that the National Academies of Science will be hosting a workshop “to examine current knowledge and research on geotargeted disaster alerts and warnings” in Washington, DC, February 21-22. According to the posting by the National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, the workshop will bring together prominent researchers in risk communications, public notifications, and emergency management to discuss how more precise geo-targeting could make alerts and warnings more effective. Continue reading »

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In December 2012, changes were made in the way abducted-child AMBER Alerts are delivered to cell phones and other mobile devices.  In mid-December, AMBER Alert distribution began through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS).  As part of this change, alerts delivered via the long-established Wireless AMBER Alert Program were ended on December 31, 2012.  But should this move have been made at this time? Continue reading »

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An Alternate Approach to Public Alerting

On January 24, 2013, in Future Alerting, by with SRA International

One commonly used approach in emergency alerting is to send out the emergency message across all distribution channels so it reaches the maximum number of people. This approach is beneficial since it increases the probability that the alert will reach everyone, assuming that not every person will have access to all distribution channels or devices. As an example, consider someone in a rural area where there is no cellular coverage. Though they might not receive a Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) message, this person might see a message on TV or radio. Similarly, if an event occurs in the middle of the night, those who are asleep may not see an email, radio or TV alert, but they may be awakened by a buzzing cell phone.

So distributing the message across multiple channels increases the probability that people will get the alert. But what if we changed this to a more methodical approach? Continue reading »

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