This Week in Emergency Notification

We subscribe to a number of news services that give us stories about emergency notification throughout the US and the world.

And since some of it is interesting, this seems like a good opportunity to share.

Here’s the best of what we saw this week, which, coincidentally, was  National Severe Weather Preparedness Week:

– If you haven’t heard already, a Washington, PA city councilman put “Brian is gay” out on the local emergency alert system.  This story even made the Jimmy Kimmel Live show.   No word yet on whether “Brian” has responded;

 – A town in CO used their ENS to tell folks to stay in their homes during an arrest gone awry.  The messages were sent around 1AM on 2/23 as police sought a suspect who fired at officers, led police on a chase, and fled off on foot.

– A new service in India lets people text to a special number, which then dials a pre-defined list of 10 friends and family.

– Rand Paul’s filibuster was supposedly interrupted by an emergency alert.  Apparently the EAS alert was not about a drone strike, which was part of Paul’s reason for the 13 hour marathon speech;

– A 30-page report details the failures of emergency alert systems in the Waldo Canyon fire in CO.   About 40% of the messages went to voicemail and answering machines.

– We announced a program designed to help offset the Federal budget cuts called “sequestration”.  For 2013, we’ll guarantee 25% savings vs. any comparable ENS system to any government agency.

Hyper-Reach Selects Grant Recipients for Public Mass Notification System

Twelve  Agencies throughout the US Selected to Study Use of New FEMA System

February 20, 2013//Rochester, NY

Mass notifications systems are used by public safety agencies to warn citizens about local emergencies, hazards and other threats, calling huge numbers of telephones in just a few minutes time.  But these systems are only available to about half of agencies in the US, and the shift from landline to mobile telephones is cutting down the effectiveness of existing systems.  Hyper-Reach – an emergency notification system provider in Rochester, NY – is working to overcome the limits of existing systems and increase the use and reach of a new Federal government notification system focused on mobile telephones.

Hyper-Reach is pleased to announce that twelve public safety agencies from Maine to Oregon have been selected for a grant program that will allow unlimited emergency notification messages to mobile phones.  The program provides access to the Integrated Public Awareness System (IPAWS) and a subsystem called the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), developed by the Department of Homeland Security. These systems must be accessed through specialized software, and the Hyper-Reach grants will provide that access through the rest of 2013 and early 2014.

The grant program provides a year of Hyper-Reach access service to send messages through the IPAWS/CMAS system.  Once approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the selected agencies will be able to send out alerts to warn citizens of many kinds of emergencies, including floods, evacuation notices, environmental dangers and other situations.

IPAWS/CMAS messages provide special capabilities not available through other emergency notification media.  They are broadcast text messages, which go to every qualified mobile phone in range of a selected broadcast area.  Because they are broadcast, the messages are sent immediately and do not depend on prior registration of cell phone numbers.  Visitors to an area, college students and others who would typically not register for emergency notification can be reached through IPAWS/CMAS messages.

The grants were awarded to obtain a diverse sample of geography, demographics and other factors.  Communities selected for these grants range in size from Barnes County, ND (population 11,056) to the state of Texas (population 22 million.)  Grantees include urban areas, such as Flint, MI and rural areas, such as Carroll County, MD.  In total, over 27 million people will be served by the messages sent by grantees.

“It’s great to be selected for this grant program,” said James Weed, Sr., Emergency Management Division Coordinator in Carroll County, MD, one of the grant recipients.  “Being able to reach young people with mobile phones as well as visitors during a crisis adds a lot to our emergency alert capabilities.”

“We’re thrilled to be of service to these communities”, said Sam Asher, President of Hyper-Reach.  “We were so excited, we expanded the list of grantees from the original ten to twelve.  In addition to the research results, it’s gratifying to know that we can play a small part in helping citizens protect themselves.”

The full list of grantees is:

Barnes County Emergency Management, Valley City, ND
Carroll County Emergency Management Division, Westminster, MD
Clatsop County Emergency Management, Astoria, OR
City of Flint Police Department, Flint, MI
Galloway Township Police Department, Galloway, NJ
Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, Oklahoma City, OK
Oregon Office of Emergency Management, Salem, OR
Randolph County Emergency Services, Asheboro, NC
St. Louis Emergency Management Agency, St. Louis, MO
San Leandro Police Department, San Leandro, CA
Scarborough Public Safety, Scarborough, ME
Texas Division of Emergency Management, Austin, TX

Hyper-Reach ( is a mass notification system with over 12 years of experience in emergency messaging.  Hyper-Reach sends messages via automated telephone calls, text messaging (SMS), email, and social media, such as Twitter.  Messages can be created by local personnel or automatically sent, depending on the emergency.  Other uses of Hyper-Reach include Amber alerts, toxic chemical warnings, and armed shooter alerts.  In addition to 911 centers, Hyper-Reach is used by law enforcement, educational institutions, and corporations.

For more information about Hyper-Reach, go to or call 855-266-8439.

Asher Group Announces Hyper-Reach Express Grants for IPAWS/CMAS Emergency Notification System


The Asher Group, a leading developer of emergency mass notification systems, is offering ten grants for a full year of CMAS/IPAWS message origination service.


In December 2011, a new  emergency notification system called CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System) was released by the federal government as part of the new IPAWS system.  Now 911 centers and police in every state can broadcast emergency text messages to anyone within range of selected cell phone towers.   But despite the low cost of the system, adoption was been slow, so far reaching less than 1% of the potential agencies eligible to use the system.

To speed adoption and improve the system, the Asher Group is offering grants of free CMAS/IPAWS origination service throughout 2013, starting in February.  One applicant will be selected in each of the 10 FEMA regions.  To support research in the use of CMAS, participants will be expected to report on their use of the system so that Asher can analyze when agencies choose to use IPAWS and when they use other notification systems.

In addition to free service, participants will receive extra training and support and get special briefings on the study’s progress and final results.

Police, 911 and other emergency management agencies throughout the US are encouraged to apply for these grants by January 31, 2013.  All levels of government are potentially eligible, including towns and cities, counties, regional agencies, states, tribal governments, and cooperative groups of governments that share resources.  Winners will be selected and announced by February 20.

Interested emergency response offices can find an application for the grant at  Deadline for application is January 31, 2013.  A complete description of the grant program, including requirements, selection criteria and the service provided to grantees at the grant application site. Questions can be directed to


Hyper-Reach Releases IPAWS/CMAS Capable Services


Hyper-Reach, in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, has released Hyper-Reach Express, a message origination system to enable emergency centers and law enforcement agencies to broadcast “just in time” messages via cell phone text messages to all qualified cell-phones within a geographic area.

The Department of Homeland Security, through FEMA, has been developing an emergency notification system called IPAWS. Using the CMAS portion of the IPAWS system, 911 centers, police and other governmental emergency agencies can now send emergency messages via broadcast text message to anyone within the geographical boundary designated for that message. The message is broadcast directly from cell towers to all cell phones within range, and only those cell users who are in the range of towers where danger is imminent will receive the text. The message is free for both sender and receiver. FEMA manages the IPAWS program and works with qualified emergency notification providers to make this service available. The only cost for local authorities is the software used to send the messages.

Hyper-Reach, a Rochester, NY telephony firm, has developed the software needed for sending IPAWS/CMAS messages anywhere in the US and is offering the software as a service called Hyper-Reach Express(tm).  The service is available on a stand-alone basis or as an added feature of its well-established Hyper-Reach Emergency Notification Service, which provides mass notification to land-line phones, registered cell phones, email and SMS (text) addresses.

Sam Asher, President of Hyper-Reach, emphasizes the speed, reliability and ease of use of the IPAWS/Hyper-Reach service. “In times of emergency, these three factors are what make the difference in providing people a few more crucial minutes to prepare and find safety.” Contact your local police and Emergency 911 Center to discover if they have applied for IPAWS authority. Urge them to take advantage of this latest technology. Read more at or call (855)2-NOTIFY. If you’re on staff at a 911 or police center, read our white paper on IPAWS/CMAS at the Hyper-Reach website and learn more about the next generation of emergency services.  To obtain a copy, call Hyper-Reach or send an email to

Getting Certified As an IPAWS Initiator (MOA)

Although FEMA makes it relatively easy to become an IPAWS message initiator, there are a few rules that must be met and some steps in the process that  emergency offices applying for IPAWS need to understand:

1) Qualified Agencies. Almost any level of government from municipal to Federal is potentially eligible to become an authorized agency. The key in this is the state emergency management contact that FEMA has designated to coordinate which agencies in the state are eligible to be authorized. Here’s a sample of variety of agencies that have qualified for IPAWS:

Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of emergency Management (AK)

Lexington Fayette Urban county Government (KY)

Hawaii State Civil Defense

Monroe County Emergency Services for Monroe County ( NY)

Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency

New Jersey State Police

City of Moreno Valley Emergency Management Agency (CA)


The Application process is straightforward. The MOA (Memorandum Of Agreement) application is available through our office or www.FEMA. gov   It’s a two page document simply identifying the applicant agency. In addition the  FEMA application requests an “interoperability software provider”  to be named. Email us at Hyper-Reach  with a request and we will have that portion of the MOA form  completed for you to send to FEMA. An office needs simply to fill out the MOA, include the interoperability software provider sheet and email it to

If you have questions, simply call Hyper-Reach at (585) 586 -0020 and ask for Kiva (8-5pm daily) and you will be supported to get your MOA application in.The approval process at this publication date is approximately a month.

After an office has applied, FEMA will contact the applying office and provide everything needed to finish certification. As more and more agencies apply, FEMA predicts a bottleneck of applications due to the limits of FEMA staff. We encourage you to apply as soon as possible.







Asher Group Launches Hyper-Reach Express

In its continuing quest to add to the notification abilities of America’s emergency management agencies, Asher Group is introducing a new offering called Hyper-Reach Express.

Hyper- Reach Express leverages the IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert System) created by FEMA to enable municipal,county, state and other agencies to broadcast emergency alerts to all qualified mobile phones within range of the towers selected for that message distribution. These alerts are specifically formulated messages designed to inform the public quickly of events which meet specified  criteria for urgency, severity and likelihood.

Thanks to the cooperation of most mobile phone carriers,including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, the messages are broadcast with no additional cost to either agencies or the public. Messages can be sent hundreds, thousands or millions of people without concern for cost.

Because these messages are broadcast to all cell phones in range, they reach people regardless of whether they have registered with an agency or even regardless of where they normally live. Visitors to an area can be alerted to an emergency, as can commuters through an area.

Why Choose Hyper-Reach?

In all of our sales materials, we stress ease of use, reliability,budget friendly pricing, all in one packaging of services. We tell people that we’re “big” on remote accessibility (you can use a phone to launch the system from anywhere). We offer a strong customer service component after the sale. All of these things are certainly true and we  stand by them.

But the real reasons that people say yes to The Asher Group, to Hyper-Reach and to Hyper-Reach IPAWS are our guiding principles of work each day. People sense this commitment in us long before they even buy Hyper-Reach and become close working partners with us:

The principles  by which we are guided:

  • Our passions are the source of our strength.
  • There is no thing which could not be done still better.
  • Feedback is the key to perfecting in any field.
  • The purpose of our work is actual benefit for our customers.
  • We aim at harmonious integration of technology with life.
  • We  extend kindness and ease of stress for all who contact us

How Emergency Offices Can Get Ready for IPAWS Use


Nate Nelson and Kiva Wyandotte from the Hyper-Reach sales department participated in a seminar sponsored jointly by FEMA and the National Weather Service about “best practices” for the use of IPAWS.

You can find this webinar free in the FEMA library at    Here are the main points for those who want the most out of Hyper-Reach/IPAWS and emergency notification overall:

1) Identify carefully both the man made and the natural “vulnerables” in your area.
(industrial, weather, water, haz. mat, fire, etc etc…. look carefully for things not in your current EAS plan.) You may believe that you have done this in the pas,t but periodically it’s important to lookcarefully at potential and current vulnerabilities in your locale.In doing so, you may  realize that a neighboring county or state (or country if you’re a border state) can best manage a specific type of alert. It’s important to form a clear and definitive alliance around that kind of threat so that it’s clear who should best handle the alert.

2) Be very clear about who specifically is authorized to manage the alert.
(Who, by name, is going to be responsible?)(What are the roles of other staff, other agencies, other private and public entities, the public?)

3) Work with your partners: local media, industrial, telephone carrier, public, local government.
(work actively on developing real partnerships that include trust, understanding and communication that is ongoing)

4) Develop clear repeatable steps for action response
(Develop protocols and policies for the use of the IPAWS system and post online/make available in hard copy to all staff and all your partners, if possible)

5) Review public warning plans on a schedule and update your plans,policies.
(Don’t just leave them on a shelf; plans need to be  reviewed and used regularly and available to everyone)

6) Actively educate the public on the use of the system and their part in responsible citizenship around IPAWS and emergency management overall.
( tell them that it is unsafe to disconnect from warning sources)
(ask them to prepare their homes/families for electrical, heat, water,property outages
(get public feedback about how IPAWS is working and make adjustments)

7) Test  launch your IPAWS and go through a set of realistic exercises frequently.
(FEMA allows for  frequent designated tests on IPAWS and it’s important that you run tests regularly and get community feedback on each event.)

8) Keep the FEMA/IPAWS/DHS website handy, there’s a wealth of information on there.

Residents Question Evacuation Order

Published: 10/30 3:54 pm

Hilton, N.Y. – Some lakefront residents questioned why a mandatory evacuation order was issued in the middle of the Sandy-related storm that swept through the Rochester region Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Monroe County issued the order to 2,200 residents Monday at 8 p.m., several hours after the storm began. The order was lifted at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

On West Wautoma Beach Road in Hamlin some residents left and others did not.

“My husband and I spent 20 minutes arguing about whether we were going to evacuate,” said Maggie Kelly.

“I was saying no, because if we really had to do it, we should have done it way before,” said Jonathan Kelly. “By that time the storm was almost in full effect.”

The couple ended up going to a friend’s house in Irondequoit.

“I figured why bother? I’ve been through worse than this down here so I was not leaving,” said 40-year resident Diane DeLosh, who noted the lake levels seemed low and she still had power. “There wasn’t anything that told me to get out – nothing.”

Chuck Lutwiller, who’s lived on the street for 58 years, slept through the robocall that notified the neighborhood of the evacuation order. Police knocked on his door after midnight.

“I says there’s no way I’m going to get in my car and go out of here,” said Lutwiller said. “So when he left I just went back in my house went back to bed…I figure it was like four or five hours late.”

“I don’t think it was late,” said County Executive Maggie Brooks. “We did three hyper-reach calls and the very first one strongly encouraged people to consider moving in with a friend, moving in with a relative.”

Brooks said her team spent a long time assessing the risk before issuing the order. It’s not clear if there was an additional threat that emerged later in the day.

“It’s not an exact science. Safety has to be the most important requirement. If we feel the safety of the public could be compromised in any way, we’re going to make that order,” Brooks said. “I would rather apologize for being overcautious than have to apologize or explain a death or an injury or something even more devastating, so I think we made the right call.”

What “Easy to Use” Really Means: features to examine when considering emergency notification systems


When an emergency notification system offers as a feature that it’s “easy to use”, that term can mean different things to different users.

In real use what exactly does “easy to use” mean and how can an emergency office determine how a particular emergency notification system will fit with the day to day operations of the staff. Here are some of the basic factors in comparing systems:

1) The log in should be simple when the website appears. It should be a one step process of ID and PIN or something similar. Sites that use terms such as “enter” before allowing a user to log in or multi step processes waste precious time in an emergency.

2) The main controls should be organized into usable and recognizable categories such as ACCOUNT, LISTS, etc. so that the user  has very little “re-orienting” to do to use the system.

3) The site should be visually clear in terms of color and contrast of buttons/drop downs/fields. Not all users “see” the screen the same way, so it must be presented as visibly clear to the widest possible audience.

4) The speed of processing for either adding information or switching functions should be rapid. When information is filled into a field for a function and the enter button is activated, the response should feel rapid  to the user.

5) There should as little clutter on any page as possible. In particular, the page that configures the “launch” of a campaign will need to be clear in providing the steps for launch, one at a time, leading the user easily through the process. Remember that the user may be under stress and this affects both memory and analytical functions in the brain.

You may want to begin to make a list of other features you find important for your own  emergency office. When you do, contact Hyper-Reach and we’ll give you more details.