Wireless Emergency Alerts and local emergency alerts: what FEMA says.

FEMA’s ready.gov website has a page on Wireless Emergency Alerts – the text alert part of the IPAWS system, which includes an FAQ section.  Here’s the Q&A on how WEA relates to local emergency alert services, such as Hyper-Reach:

Is this the same service public safety agencies have asked the public to register for?
No, but they are complementary. Local agencies may have asked you to sign up to receive telephone calls, text messages, or emails. Those messages often include specific details about a critical event. WEAs are very short messages designed to get your attention in a critical situation. They may not give all the details you receive from other notification services.

This explanation is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t make it clear how different local alerts are from WEA messages.  Boil water alerts, for example, which are a large part of local alert messaging (there are over 800 water main breaks in the US each day), probably wouldn’t qualify or be used for IPAWS.  So in addition to the level of detail, there’s a big difference in the subject matter of WEA and local alerts.

WEA is clearly useful, but also clearly no substitute for local alerts.  We wish FEMA had done more to encourage folks to sign up for their local alert systems.


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