Alerts & Notifications

Emergency Managers Hear Briefing on New Age of Alerting

Emergency managers in Georgia hear briefing this week on "New Age of Alerting?", includes recommendations by FCC advisory committee for enhancing alerting.

by Rick Wimberly / April 17, 2017

Headed to Georgia this week to brief emergency managers on the evolution of alerting, including developments that could take us to a new age of alerting. We’re currently in the system of system age of alerting where multiple alerting systems are working together. That’s good. But, a new age could be emerging.

The briefing will center around a report issued in September by the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC), which advises the FCC.  The CSRIC subcommittee focused on complementary alerting strategies to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) made a series of recommendations that could help usher in the new age. (Disclosure: I chaired the sub-committee.)

The sub-committee began by citing issues when alerting methods don’t work together. They included:

  • Confusing contradictory information
  • Alert fatigues
  • Difficulty activating during busy times

When done right, the sub-committee said alerting would be faster and more targeted. Plus, proper process would:

  • Provide a second source for an alert, which seems to be essential to get people to take action
  • Assure redundancy and resiliency
  • Mitigate bandwidth issues
  • Create opportunities to receive feedback from the public
  • Enhance credibility

The report said that many benefits could be obtained and complications mitigated through FEMA IPAWS, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System under which EAS and WEA operate. The key is the IPAWS All Hazards Information Feed. A communications channel provider (websites, social media, digital signs, etc.) can arrange to monitor IPAWS alerts, then disseminate them. The report said wider use of the feed could have a “profound effect” on alerting including maturation of a Ubiquitous Alerts concept. (See video explainer here.)

The subcommittee recommended 8 things:

  1. Expand IPAWS outreach
  2. Support radio and TV initiatives including activation of FM wireless in radios and the new high-definition standard, ATSC 3.0.
  3. Encourage communication among public safety organizations during times of alerts.
  4. Participate in an effort to develop alert symbols.
  5. Add concepts presented in the subcommittee report to the agenda of the new IPAWS Subcommittee of the National Advisory Council.
  6. FEMA to publicize and aggressively distribute best practices.
  7. Support FEMA’s efforts to create a stronger IPAWS infrastructure.
  8. Develop applications that use Minimally Viable Solutions approaches as well as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).

Among the resources used for the presentation to the Emergency Management Association of Georgia are:

FCC Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council:  Working Group 2 — Emergency Alerting Platforms (September 2016) Social Media & Complementary Alerting Methods – Recommended Strategies & Best Practices

Federal Register:  Wireless Emergency Alerts; Amendments to the Commission's Rules Regarding the Emergency Alert System

All of the resources, including a link to the presentation slides, can be found on the Galain website resource page here.