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.
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