Disaster Zone

FEMA Agrees to Improve IPAWS Standards

Where are the other thousands of emergency management offices?

by Eric Holdeman / November 27, 2018

Alert and warning responsibilities are one of the key functions of emergency managers at all levels of government. See this article, OIG: FEMA Must Ask More from Software Vendors to Prevent IPAWS False Alarms. I have not physically touched an Emergency Alert System (EAS) box in 11 years. It did not have the worst interface I've ever seen, but it was not the best. Likely some improvements must have been made, but a desktop control version that connects to the box would be a better solution than what we had back in the day. Note, it was not the box, but operator error that caused Hawaii to freak out.

I noted in the story that there are 1,030 alerting authorities in the United States. Given that there are 3,000 counties and many thousands more cities in the USA, where are these missing emergency management agencies? Does the fire chief have the responsibility for EM, but then doesn't have a warning capability? 

And, while I'm on the topic of warning, I noted that in the California fires, there is much discussion about the use of the Code Red commercial system for warning people who signed up for the service with their local emergency management office, there has been no discussion about the use of EAS for those disasters. Media are immediately skipping right to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) with no mention of our old standby, EAS, that pumps out alerts to TV and radio stations.

Then too, there are the NOAA weather radios that can be linked to EAS, as they are here in the Pacific Northwest. When it comes to warning, there is no single perfect warning system. Emergency managers need to employ a variety of systems that might just reach the right people in time to save their lives. 

Claire Rubin shared the OIG link above.