Emergency information needs to get to emergency personnel and citizens as quickly as possible so they may take appropriate actions to prevent or mitigate personal injury and property damage. This is accomplished through the various alert systems that are activated in an emergency situation where there is a significant risk of harm, an urgent threat, or when a general notification is needed.
In the wake of the failed federal response to Hurricane Katrina, former President George W. Bush ordered a sweeping technological overhaul of the nation’s warnings for natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Executive Order 13407 – The Public Alert and Warning System law mandated FEMA to modernize the antiquated broadcast-based national emergency alert system (EAS) and implement an integrated approach.
The bulk of emergency warnings in the United States are sent through the Emergency Alert System. The EAS can be activated by national, state, regional, or local authorities, including police, fire, weather, and other governmental authorities. EAS is often activated when an unpredicted emergency such as a tornado, earthquake, or release of toxic gas happens. The vast majority of EAS alerts are generated by the National Weather Service.
Local Emergency Alert Warnings
Many communities and organizations offer emergency alert notifications through their own systems. Check with your state, local government, or organization to learn what is available in your area.
Many states use existing air raid sirens to warn of tornadoes and flash floods. People living near certain nuclear facilities such as the Hanford Site in Washington have special radios in their home that are set to broadcast a warning signal in the event of a radiological emergency. Some emergencies (AMBER Alerts, for instance) are also sent out via e-mail, cellphone text message, and highway signs. Many U.S. institutions of higher education now use multiple warning technologies on their campuses, including outdoor and indoor sirens, public address systems, email and cell phone text messaging, and digital displays.
- Executive Order 13407: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/WCPD-2006-07-03/pdf/WCPD-2006-07-03-Pg1226.pdf
- Image Source: http://www.fema.gov/wireless-emergency-alerts [Accessed: September 15, 2013]
- FEMA – Emergency Alert System: http://www.fema.gov/emergency-alert-system#1