Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More Effective Local Emergency Notification

What if there were a major civil emergency or natural disaster in Coeur d'Alene? In Spokane? How would local authorities alert citizens to the incident? Once alerted, how would citizens get accurate, timely, and complete information and instructions?

The most obvious and familiar notification vehicle is the federal Emergency Alert System - EAS. The fundamentals of the EAS is described in the EAS Fact Sheet published by the Federal Communications Commission.

The weakness in the federal EAS plan is that the rules compel broadcasters to have systems in place to provide federally-initiated warnings. Local broadcasters are not required to provide this service to state and local governments. To correct this deficiency, the Local Emergency Communications Committee for the Inland Northwest EAS Region have prepared and disseminated its own Inland Northwest Region (EAS) Local Area Plan. Briefly, this plan establishes an authenticated notification procedure, and it authorizes local broadcasters to retransmit emergency communications from authorized notifiers.

The federal and local EAS plans provide for information from broadcasters; radio, television, and cable service providers. But what if you don't have a radio or TV turned on? Why isn't there something available that would send EAN-type information to cellular telephones and pagers, to personal digital assistants, and to networked computers? It turns out, there is.

Not surprisingly, it is the US military leading the way with "full-spectrum threat response installation warning systems." One system designed to meet the military's need for an emergency warning system for military installations is provided by AtHoc, Inc., of Burlingame, CA. The May 2006 issue of Signal magazine contains an article entitled Alert System Attracts Attention. The article describes how some military base commanders are reaching more on-base personnel with emergency information.

If the AtHoc systems are proven to work on military bases, it makes sense for cities and counties to see if it could work equally well in a civilian environment. A public provided with timely, accurate, complete information is less likely to panic and more likely to respond appropriately to an emergency.


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