• Misconception: Individual messages constitute the complete “system.” Each individual alert or warning should actually be thought of as contributing to a larger, integrated context. It is important to understand not only the meaning of a particular message but also how it relates to earlier alerts and warnings and to information available from other sources.

  • Misconception: Technology delivery systems are neutral or value-free. It is important to recognize that there are distinct characteristics and differences between population groups that own and use particular technologies and population groups that do not own and use those technologies. The characteristics and differences among groups include such factors as income and age.

  • Misconception: One-size-fits-all solutions. No single system will reach the entire population or be suited for all circumstances. Technology, language, type of hazard, and regional subculture are among the many factors that should be taken into consideration.

Note that the identification of the statements above as misconceptions does not mean that they never occur. For example, contrary to the common misconception, looting after disasters rarely happens; however, there are exceptions, such as the pervasive looting that took place after Hurricane Hugo severely damaged St. Croix in 1989. The exceptions are associated with special circumstances—in this case to extreme differences in economic and political status and the release of years of political and social tension following the disaster.


In the discussion following the panel presentations at the workshop, participants offered a number of observations about the role of CMAS in a national all-hazards warning system, including the following:

  • Alerts and warnings systems are sociotechnical systems that require a thorough understanding not only of the technology but also of the interactions among detection, dissemination, and public response.

  • CMAS will be only one of many sources of alerts and warnings and should be thought of as a new and useful component of what must be an integrated system.

  • Like other capabilities for delivering alerts and warnings, CMAS will have both advantages and limitations. CMAS will allow messages to be geographically targeted with some precision, and it will provide a specific message directly to the public without opportunities for distortion. It also has a potentially wide reach, given that many people keep wireless devices within 3 feet of them all the times—and will be especially

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