The past week has seen a number of devastating tornadoes cause widespread destruction across the Midwestern and Southern U.S. The storms between February 29 and March 5 have claimed the lives of at least 50 people and caused massive loss of property. The tornadoes were many and widespread: the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center received 81 reports of tornadoes on Friday, March 2–just shy of the average number of tornadoes the nation sees in the entire month of March (87).

As cleanup efforts continue, much of the discussion around these storms has turned to the alert and warning systems in the various areas stricken: how well did they work, how did they impact the public’s actions, and what could be improved next time. Of course, the effectiveness of these systems will vary from county to county, and the final analysis is not yet in in many places. But there are a few interesting stories to note in how alerting systems performed during this punishing stretch. Continue reading »

A New York Times article published today discusses an interesting topic: the need in Alabama for an improved alert and warning system in the wake of several severe storms that have ripped through the state in the last year. Last week saw two deaths and the destruction of hundreds of homes after a series of tornadoes touched down in Center Point, Alabama — nearly a year after tornadoes killed more than two hundred people in one day. Continue reading »

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People in emergency management can often be heard voicing their desire for better alerting systems or commenting on the slow procurement process involved in getting these systems up and running. The immediacy and importance of these needs can make it seem that change moves at a snail’s pace. However, let’s take a moment to look at how alerts and warnings used to go out. Continue reading »

When Seconds Count: The Challenge of Slow Social Media Alerts

On December 1, 2011, in Social Media, by with Altus Emergency Management

As readers will know, I have been a huge fan of social media when it is used as part of a plan in part of the toolbox (I most recently talked about it here). As a stand-alone tool, it has shown value and failure.

A 2009 study from Germany, titled A Measurement-driven Analysis of Information Propagation in the Flickr Social Networktraces messages as they “propagate” around the Internet. Continue reading »

Digital Signage: Emergency Alert Messages Can Save Lives

On February 25, 2010, in News, by with Touchstone Consulting Group

t’s easy to get complacent and drift from day to day without paying much attention to potential threats until an incident out of the blue slaps us across the face and demands we sit up and pay attention.

For many, the actions of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the man U.S. authorities say attempted to detonate an explosive device in his underwear, aboard Delta Airlines Flight 253 are such a wakeup call. The failed Christmas Day bombing came at a time when most people were focused on gathering for cherished family time and taking part in long-held holiday traditions. But with one news flash, those priorities, at least for a moment, were redirected into thoughts of safety and security.

Personally, beyond the typical reaction of most Americans to word of the failed effort, I could not help but think of the important role digital signage can play in delivering emergency alert messages.

Certainly, I’m not so wrapped up in digital signage that I think there’s a place for 42in LCD panels and a digital signage network aboard an airliner. That’s just silly. But what does come to mind is how businesses, educational institutions, stadiums and arenas, casinos, government agencies, the military and many others have taken steps to ensure emergency messaging via their digital signage networks as a component of their overall strategy for responding to a threat.

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