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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Tips on Acquiring and Using FEMA IPAWS Alert Origination Systems

On February 21, 2013, in IPAWS, News, by with SRA International
The FEMA test laboratory at the Joint Interoperability Test Center (JITC) - photo courtesy of FEMA

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

FEMA recently held a webinar giving the latest details on its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), as well as tips for local alert originators on acquiring and using IPAWS alert origination systems.  The session also offered an update on the forthcoming alert originator test lab detailed in December here on AWARE. 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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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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