Wireless Warning Capability Is Underused

Are you using WEA to execute warnings?

by Eric Holdeman / February 9, 2020

Available federal warning systems are underutilized. I say that because of this Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Agencies Need to Address Pending Applications and Monitor Industry Progress on System Improvements.

Why do I say that? In the above GAO report they state that 1,400 jurisdiction/alerting authorities have been authorized to use the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. That might look pretty good, but consider this. There are more than 3,000 counties in the United States and more than 4,000 cities with a population between 10,000 and 100,000 people. 

While every hamlet doesn't need to be prepared to use WEA, at a minimum, every county should have the capability, and I would think a significant number of those 4,000 cities should also have the capability. It may be that many cities contract with a county for emergency services, but usually, that is for fairly small cities. 

I've written about the issue in the past, there is a "fear of warning." Meaning, they are afraid of using a system that they:

  • Are not familiar with
  • Do not have confidence in
  • Concerned about making a mistake that will be very public
  • Or, their community doesn't have a functional emergency management capability

None of the above should keep you from using every system available to warn the public of an emergency. It is noted that there are 430 applications pending which is a gig on the feds. They need to do their part. 

The program has been around since 2012, which is eight years. The newness should have warn off and now you are only dragging your feet if you have not submitted an application to be an alerting authority. I noted some areas of the map showing gaps in coverage may have more cows than people, but that should not keep you from implementing the system. 

Claire Rubin, Senior Researcher shared the link to the GAO report above. 

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