Did Boston Authorities Use EAS, WEA?

One of the unknowns in the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings is whether public officials in the market invoked the Emergency Alert System or what used to be called the Commercial Mobile Alert System, now known as Wireless Emergency Alerts.

Long-time radio engineer and EAS expert Richard Rudman says initial feedback from the Boston area indicate emergency officials did not use EAS to issue shelter-in-place warnings when authorities were looking for the bombing suspect. It’s also unknown whether WEA was used.

“We do know that social media and illuminated road signs and other means were used to get the word out, so why not EAS?” he queried in a note to RW.

When the core member of the Broadcast Warning Working Group and vice chair of the California State Emergency Communications Committee speaks to emergency management groups about alerting, his first question is usually something along the lines of “Is there something you want the public to do or not do that will help?”

“The events that unfolded this past week in Boston that led to the shelter-in-place decision seem to indicate that a national conversation on major change in how all emergency management agencies treat alerting must begin. Alerting, including EAS, must be a first level top-of-mind forethought in emergency management decision making, not an afterthought,” he states.

Speaking personally, Rudman believes what he calls the classic incident command system, comprised of finance, operations, logistics and planning divisions, do not clearly do this in many local, regional and state emergency management agencies. While there is alerting training in the National Incident Management System, Rudman says it’s not enough.

The U.S. still does not have a unified and coherent public warning strategy, says Rudman, noting that this is a missing link that his fellow founding trustees of the Partnership for Public Warning (since dissolved) identified when they came together after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“If reports from the greater Boston area indeed show that EAS was not used to issue the shelter-in-place warning, it’s time for the entire emergency management community to take to heart and really put in practice the name of FEMA’s still new protocol — the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System,” according to Rudman.

What do you think? Let us know at radioworld@nbmedia.com or comment below.


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Yes, Wireless Emergency Alerts were used. (See: http://www.emergencymgmt.com/emergency-blogs/alerts/Wireless-Emergency-Alerts-Used-042213.html). Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency also issued a media advisory, saying they would be using the cell broadcast alert system to issue the alerts. Remember, the WEA alerts are very brief and advise cell users to check local media for more info.
By Rick Wimberly on 4/23/2013
This was VERY predictable. The EAS system has never worked. Since it's implementation in 1995 and right up to the CAP/IPAWS upgrade. It has been a complete and utter failure, just like IBOC.. The incompetence in Washington is staggering. It's not just the FCC, but every bureaucrat in DC,including the White House
By Sam G on 4/23/2013
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dick and Warren told you so. This continuing systemic failure is indicative of the 'cluster' we saw unfolding. Manufacturers complied with orders, doing as told. Bureaucrats - the government - couldn't find their incompetent asses with all of their bungling hands. If you don't get hold of this, we should exempt broadcast from this impending train wreck. Why bother?
By Dave Burns on 4/22/2013
NOAA Weather Radios have a specific warning for "shelter-in-place" - aka "Tune TV" or other text items to tell you to "stay put" and get additional information. What a waste of time and energy - if ever there was a time to use this code over NWR, it was in that specific county including Watertown, MA. The FCC and NOAA should totally scrap EAS if they're never going to use it properly.
By Eddie C. on 4/22/2013

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