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 fema@dhs.gov    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.

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.