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Emergency Alerts Need an Upgrade
12/01/09 02:41PM | Category: Evacuation

As quoted from Parade Magazine; November 29, 2009:

If terrorists attack or a hurricane threatens, how will you be alerted? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working on a system upgrade that would enable authorities to contact citizens via cell phone or e-mail instead of relying on television and radio as the government has since the 1960s.

Under the new Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, Americans would be able to receive emergency messages from federal or local authorities on the electronic devices of their choice. Scheduled to be up and running by the end of 2012, the system is designed "to alert and warn the American people under all conditions through as many means as possible," says Damon Penn of FEMA.

The current alert system is nearly 50 years old, created during the Cold War so the President could quickly address the American people via the then-cutting-edge technologies of television and radio. Since that time, FEMA says it has overcome a series of administrative hurdles to modernizing the system.

Some government officials say FEMA is taking too long. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office says implementation of the new system has been delayed by "shifting program vision" and a "lack of continuity in planning and program direction." Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., Washington, D.C.), wants to establish a committee to oversee the modernization. Norton says many Americans don’t realize that if disaster strikes, "our President and our nation's citizens must rely primarily on an emergency alert system built in the 1960s."

J. Scott Orr



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