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Report: Boston Did Use Wireless Alerts

An emergency consultant says wireless text messages were used to warn Boston residents in aftermath of marathon bombings

Boston officials did use cellphone text messages, known as Wireless Emergency Alerts, in the aftermath of the marathon bombings.

That’s according toRick Wimberly of Galain Solutions, an alerting consultancy. The former broadcaster and current consultant to FEMA told RW that the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has the ability and authority to issue imminent threat WEA messages and did do on April 19. MEMA issued a shelter-in-place order, by tweeting: “Did you just get a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) from MEMA? Learn more about what they are:”

Boston residents then spread the word by tweeting; the WEA messages “are intended to sound a siren on their devices to alert people to pay attention and get more information elsewhere, he writes on his emergency management blog.

WEA alerts complement EAS, according to Wimberly, because the text messages remind users to tune in to their local broadcast stations for more detailed information.

He was one of several readers who commented on our earlier story, in which longtime broadcast engineer and EAS expert Richard Rudman asked whether either WEA or EAS was used in Boston. “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.

Other comments on our original story included posts like “The EAS system has never worked” and has been a failure, to another who wrote that manufacturers complied and stations installed CAP EAS gear.

NOAA Weather Radios do have a specific shelter-in-place warning, wrote another reader, however he adds: “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, Mass. The FCC and NOAA should totally scrap EAS if they’re never going to use it properly.”