FEMA Study Investigates Effectiveness of Alert FM


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Washington - Oct. 11, 2010 - A Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA)-funded study conducted by Northrop Grumman shows that FM radio-based alerts and warnings provided by the Global Security Systems Alert FM system are effective. Alert FM is a personal emergency alerting system that uses Radio Broadcast Data Service (RBDS) FM subcarriers to deliver up to 240-character text messages to any electronic device with Alert FM software and an enabled FM radio receiver chip. AlertUs Technology and Metis Secure were also part of the study.

The one-year study included continuous working demonstration of the Alert FM system over a three-month period across three locales: A college campus, four counties spread across two states, and a larger region. The structured live demonstrations tested the effectiveness of Alert FM by activating receivers, adhering to Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) requirements, implementing geo-targeting exercises and executing an all-clear wrap. Following the operational test, the study surveyed alert originators and radio broadcasters.

Alert FM is a CAP-compliant system that delivers audio and data feeds to radio broadcasters. State broadcast associations from Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, and Tennessee, and radio groups K-LOVE, Air1, Commonwealth Broadcasting, and the Cromwell Group support Alert FM for emergency alert messages in their states and markets.

According to Mark Lucero, Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Program Manager at FEMA, "The demonstrations showed that FM RBDS is a viable communications technology at the state and local emergency manager level for disseminating emergency information."

"All of the collected data was analyzed against the FEMA-specified IPAWS key performance parameters and factors," says Northrop Grumman Program Manager Ed Dorchak. "This ensured an accurate evaluation of RBDS technology in terms of its ability to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the IPAWS alerts and warnings distribution infrastructure."

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the speed and penetration of federal, state, and local emergency alerts and warnings using RBDS systems. Northrop conducted a three month operational demonstration of RBDS technology implemented by three vendor partners Global Security Systems (GSS) Alert FM, Alertus Technologies and Metis Secure Solutions. During the operational period, which extended from March 8 - June 7 2010, the systems were used by emergency managers for real-world notifications as well as specific witnessed scenario demonstrations.

The demonstrated scenarios comprised a campus security incident scenario, a regional pandemic scenario, and a localized natural disaster scenario. The witnessed demonstrations were conducted on individual dates at specific campuses and at specific counties. Details of the witnessed scenarios follow:

1. Campus Security Incident
a. 25 March 2010 - County of Oktibbeha, MS, Mississippi State University (MSU), Starkville, MS
b. 13 April 2010 - Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh
c. 4 May 2010 - Gallaudet University (GAL), Washington D.C.

2. Regional Pandemic
a. 12 May 2010 - Mississippi Counties of Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, County of Mobile Alabama, Pearl, MS, NGC Ingalls Shipyard 3. Localized Natural Disaster
a. 16 March 2010 - Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, MO
b. 6 May 2010 - Shelby County, TN
c. 19 May 2010 - American University (AU), Howard University (HU), Georgetown University (GU), and George Washington University (GW), Washington D.C.

Data was collected from users of the vendor partner systems who received messages during the witnessed demonstrations. This data was collected in the form of survey responses; the survey responses were collected and analyzed by the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center. Additional tailored survey response data was collected from alert originators, broadcasters using RBDS technology, and consumer electronics manufacturers who may incorporate RBDS technology into their products. In addition to survey data, data related to real-world events during the operational period and technical data related to system performance was also collected.

All data is being analyzed to evaluate RBDS technology against the FEMA-specified IPAWS key performance parameters and additional performance factors.




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