or crisis on how the community was being affected, what the current response in the community was, and what additional information might be helpful.
At Virginia Tech, with its steady flow of new students arriving each year, there is need for a continuous process of educating new members of the community. Virginia Tech is currently developing a training program for students, faculty, and staff to ensure that the population is aware of emergency preparedness and its importance.
In the discussion following the panel presentations, a number of observations were offered regarding how information from SMS messaging might be applied to the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS). The observations included the following:
Community engagement can be an important part of any system. Community organizations can assist in educating the public about emergency preparedness, can assist in the dissemination of information during major events, and also can provide emergency managers with feedback on the public response. Although CMAS does not have a built-in capability to verify that messages are received, community organizations can provide that information during and after an event.
Coordination among geographically overlapping emergency notification systems can help ensure that affected populations receive alerts and warnings.
Alerting systems operated by local jurisdictions and other organizations can supplement and complement the information delivered by CMAS.
Multiple alerting tools using distinct communications channels are invaluable in maximizing the population reached during an emergency.
Approaches such as CMAS’s use of a separate delivery channel or the use of low-bandwidth Web sites can ease the stress placed on networks and increase the likelihood that affected populations are able to receive messages.
Although higher precision of geographical targeting is desirable in order to provide people with the most relevant information, this can be difficult to achieve in practice. CMAS only localizes by county or equivalent jurisdiction, and alerts sent by individual jurisdictions are based on telephone numbers or e-mail addresses and thus cannot target people moving among multiple jurisdictions.