IPAWS National Test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS)

The National EAS and WEA test will be held on the backup date of October 3, 2018, beginning at 2:18 p.m. EDT.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) on the backup date of October 3, 2018 due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence. The WEA portion of the test commences at 2:18 p.m. EDT, and the EAS portion follows at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.

The WEA test message will be sent to cell phones that are connected to wireless providers participating in WEA. This is the fourth EAS nationwide test and the first national WEA test. Previous EAS national tests were conducted in November 2011, September 2016,  and September 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters, and emergency management officials in recognition of FEMA’s National Preparedness Month.

Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. EDT. During this time, WEA compatible cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message. Some cell phones will not receive the test message, and cell phones should only receive the message once. The WEA test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert” and text that says:

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert). Users cannot opt out of receiving the WEA test.

The EAS is a national public warning system that provides the President with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency. The test is made available to EAS participants (i.e., radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers) and is scheduled to last approximately one minute. The test message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar. The EAS message will include a reference to the WEA test:

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Emergency Alert System. This system was developed by broadcast and cable operators in voluntary cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones nationwide. Some cell phones will receive the message; others will not. No action is required.”

The test was originally planned for September 20, 2018 but has been postponed until October 3, 2018 due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.

17-001: A Shake That Never Happened #PIO #Safety #SocialMedia

17-001: A Shake That Never Happened
Agency: US Geological Survey (USGS) Topic(s):      Error message / human error
Date: 06-23-17 Platform:      Twitter/Email

Sometimes, US Geological Survey (USGS) computers have 6.8 sized hiccups which automatically pushed out info this past Wednesday. This caused serious concern as numerous Emergency Management professionals and PIOs desperately searched to verify information on any earthquake in California. None was to be found on Wednesday June 21, 2017.

As you can see, the date listed in the email notification isn’t consistent with Wednesday’s date as well as the time stamp of publication.

Even worse was the 140-character tweet with even less text/info that initially went out to their 679K followers (@USGS). With the magnitude and epicenter location in a well populated area (Santa Barbara CA), it is crucial that we have multiple sources to verify critical information.

As humans, our attention span has shortened. (SQUIRREL!) Likely thousands misread the initial date/time listed on the email. Even less took the time to click the link in the tweet.

USGS noticed the error and posted this explanation of the errand info. Emails were sent to explain the deleted event.

Obviously more than 140 characters, they screen shot a typed response and posted the image to twitter referencing their errant tweet. The USGS used this tactic to get more information and characters into an otherwise short 140-character tweet.

Whether computer or human error, fessing up to an error on social media is embarrassing. However, the ramifications of arbitrarily deleting info without prior public notification will gander your agency a rash of criticism from the most loyal of followers. Government agencies should strive to foster trust and transparency with all of their constituency. Not to mention, deletion of your posts must match your agency’s policy/procedure or SOP/SOG.

Three important tips to consider if an agency posts something weird:

  1. Trust, but verify information. Trust your social media intuition.
  2. Correlate data from various sources to make an informed decision for ongoing operations.
  3. Admit your mistakes. It happens. Human error is a thing.

Mistakes happen, but how you recover will either make you a hero or a zero. Maximize your efforts on social media including screenshots of your more-than-140-character-response.

Time is short, so tweet / email correct stuff!

@rusnivek

****Or download the one-pager here: AShakeThatNeverHappened-Safety-PIO-SM-17-001***

Maybe watch a quick video from USA Today

Bueller? On the highway?

“My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend brother’s girlfriend, heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night…”

Numerous government agencies are constantly trying to engage with the general public in every community. Keep up the good work ESF-03 and PIOs!

It must be serious.

Reporting live from the highway –  #SaveFerris

@rusnivek

Precise Emergency Messaging Safety-PIO-SM-14-002

14-002: Precise Emergency Messaging
Agency: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Topic(s):         Emergency Messaging
Date: Summer 2014 Platform:        General

Mass notification and public messaging about dangerous inbound weather is the latest hot button topic in emergency management because no matter the location, everyone is susceptible. This year has been especially deadly with numerous tornadoes.

You can argue the use of automatic Emergency Alert System (EAS), Integrated Public Alert & Warning System’s (iPAWS) messages, and public address systems are good enough, but successful delivery still comes down to basic messaging.

On May 25, 2014, this message was put up on the main billboard on the field during the Indianapolis 500, which had 300,000+ fans during race time. The National Weather Service (NWS) declared a Tornado Warning before the start of the race.

5

Race Fans? C’mon, you have a captive audience at the motor speedway. And you are addressing everyone there, not just race fans. Most likely, your audience is saying “Great, now what is a Tornado Warning?

Clear and concise messaging is incredibly important because seconds will matter in an immediate evacuation or leading others to shelter…especially with large, open, and unprotected public venues. This particular message was unclear, poorly worded, and definitely not concise.

A more effective messaging and follow-up post should have read:

DANGER! TORNADO WARNING NOW – SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!

Safe SHELTERS are located at AREA X and GATE X

By phrasing it this way:

1. Your message is short, sweet, and to the point.

2. Capital letters will grab the attention of your audience and convey urgency.

3. Have clearly identified safe locations IN CAPITAL LETTERS will assist those reading your message.

4. Shorter messaging could allow your followers to retweet/repost and amplify your emergency messaging.

5. It is still tornado season so make sure you are prepared by having pre-scripted messages on “what is a tornado warning” and messaging on how to “shelter-in-place”.

 

All concurrent Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, etc. should reflect this messaging. If a Tornado warning is issued, timing is of the essence. Do not be lax when it comes to emergency messaging because you don’t want to ruin the fun. For the sake of your constituents, it is better to error on the side of safety.

Time is valuable, so post good stuff.

@rusnivek

 

***To download this as a single-page printable format, click this: Safety-PIO-SM-14-001