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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
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EMERGENCY ALERT
AND WARNING SYSTEMS

CURRENT KNOWLEDGE AND FUTURE RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

Committee on the Future of
Emergency Alert and Warning Systems:
Research Directions

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

A Consensus Study Report of

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

Support for this project was provided by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, with assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services under award number HHSP233201400020B. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-46737-7
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-46737-3
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/24935

This report is available from:

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board
National Research Council
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

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Copyright 2018 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/24935.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
×

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The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
×

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Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
×

COMMITTEE ON THE FUTURE OF EMERGENCY ALERT AND WARNING SYSTEMS: RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

RAMESH RAO, University of California San Diego, Chair

JAMES CAVERLEE, Texas A&M University

ROOP DAVE, Information Technology Research Academy, New Delhi

EVE GRUNTFEST, California Polytechnic State University

BROOKE LIU, University of Maryland

LESLIE LUKE, Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management

DENNIS MILETI, University of Colorado, Boulder

NAMBIRAJAN SESHADRI, Broadcom Corporation (retired)

DOUGLAS SICKER, Carnegie Mellon University

KATE STARBIRD, University of Washington

CHARLES L. WERNER, ParadeRest and Commonwealth of Virginia

Staff

JON EISENBERG, Director, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

VIRGINIA BACON TALATI, Program Officer

KATIRIA ORTIZ, Research Associate

JANEL DEAR, Senior Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
×

COMPUTER SCIENCE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS BOARD

FARNAM JAHANIAN, Carnegie Mellon University, Chair

LUIZ BARROSO, Google, Inc.

STEVEN M. BELLOVIN, NAE,1 Columbia University

ROBERT F. BRAMMER, Brammer Technology, LLC

DAVID CULLER, NAE, University of California, Berkeley

EDWARD FRANK, Cloud Parity, Inc.

LAURA HAAS, NAE, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

MARK HOROWITZ, NAE, Stanford University

ERIC HORVITZ, NAE, Microsoft

VIJAY KUMAR, NAE, University of Pennsylvania

BETH MYNATT, Georgia Institute of Technology

CRAIG PARTRIDGE, Raytheon BBN Technologies

DANIELA RUS, NAE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

FRED B. SCHNEIDER, NAE, Cornell University

MARGO SELTZER, Harvard University

MOSHE VARDI, NAS2/NAE, Rice University

KATHERINE YELICK, NAE, University of California, Berkeley

Staff

JON EISENBERG, Senior Director

LYNETTE I. MILLETT, Associate Director, CSTB, and Director, Cyber Resilience Forum

SHENAE BRADLEY, Administrative Assistant

EMILY GRUMBLING, Program Officer

RENEE HAWKINS, Financial and Administrative Manager

KATIRIA ORTIZ, Associate Program Officer

JANKI PATEL, Senior Program Assistant

For more information on CSTB, see its website at
http://www.cstb.org, write to CSTB at
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine,
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001, call (202) 334-2605, or
email the CSTB at cstb@nas.edu.

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
×

Preface

More than 60 years of research on disaster response has yielded many insights about how people respond to information indicating that they are at risk and under what circumstances they are most likely to take appropriate protective action. This work was largely done in the context of traditional media. The landscape for public alerts and warnings changed with the introduction of the Internet, mobile phones, and their applications, such as social media. Following a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, that revealed shortcomings in the nation’s ability to effectively alert populations at risk, Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act in 2006. This legislation encouraged the adoption of much newer technologies, including the dissemination of alerts and warning messages via mobile devices, which previous alerting technologies did not reach.

Less is known about how the use of new technologies for message dissemination and receipt changes the public response or alters how public safety officials can best employ the alerting capabilities. For example, fairly little is known about how to maximize the effectiveness of messages whose content is limited by technology constraints or policy decisions, or how best to make use of alerts and warnings in today’s information-rich environments. Additionally, formal study of the use of social media in disasters has been limited, and there are many outstanding questions, including how they can be used by government officials to both alert the public and gain situational awareness, the challenges and opportunities additional input from citizens provides, the associated

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
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safety and privacy risks, and strategies for coping with rumors and also false information.

Research, including recent work sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has provided some insight into these issues. Additionally, the National Academies had previously convened three workshops under DHS sponsorship, one focusing on alerting via cell phones, one considering the use of social media, and one examining how to geographically target alerts and warnings. As part of this study, workshops were convened on August 9-10, 2016, and September 1, 2016. Workshop participants included DHS-supported researchers and other experts in disaster sociology, emergency response, and technologies. Additional briefings were held on November 1-2, 2016, January 26-27 2017, and March 23, 2017 (Appendix C provides a list of briefings received).

This report reviews results from DHS-sponsored research (Appendix B includes summaries of this work), the Academies workshops, and other sociotechnical research on the public response to alerts and warnings. Building on that review, the committee sets forth a research agenda that highlights areas where future research should be focused. (Box P.1 contains the full statement of task.)

As the committee was wrapping up its work, the nation experienced a series of major natural disasters, with devastation from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the October 1, 2017, shootings on the Las Vegas Strip. Each of these events was a sober reminder of the impacts of disasters on our communities and the important role that timely and effective communication with the public plays in responding to such events. Early reports on the October 2017 California wildfires further underscore

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
×

the importance of public alerting and potential benefits of enhancing the reach and effectiveness of the Wireless Emergency Alerts system, which allows public officials to deliver alerts to cell phones in an affected area.

We have attempted to outline a research agenda that not only examines questions about past disasters and recent technologies but also envisions what future integrated alert and warning technologies and systems might look like. As both natural and humanmade hazards occur with more frequency or severity, we hope that a future system will more readily adapt to a new set of hazards and more quickly integrate newer technologies.

Ramesh Rao, Chair
Committee on the Future of Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Research Directions

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
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Acknowledgment of Reviewers

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Ellen Bass, Drexel University,

Art Botterell, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services,

Louise K. Comfort, University of Pittsburgh,

Michael Ettenberg, NAE,1 Dolce Technologies,

W. Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency (retired),

Dale Hatfield, University of Colorado, Boulder,

Anthony (Tony) F. Lemieux, Georgia State University,

Craig Partridge, Raytheon BBN Technologies,

Francisco Sanchez, Harris County (Texas) Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management,

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
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Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, NAE, University of California, Berkeley, and

Sharon Wood, NAE, University of Texas, Austin.

Although the reviewers listed here provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Phillip M. Neches, Teradata Corporation. He was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24935.
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Following a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, that revealed shortcomings in the nation’s ability to effectively alert populations at risk, Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act in 2006. Today, new technologies such as smart phones and social media platforms offer new ways to communicate with the public, and the information ecosystem is much broader, including additional official channels, such as government social media accounts, opt-in short message service (SMS)-based alerting systems, and reverse 911 systems; less official channels, such as main stream media outlets and weather applications on connected devices; and unofficial channels, such as first person reports via social media. Traditional media have also taken advantage of these new tools, including their own mobile applications to extend their reach of beyond broadcast radio, television, and cable. Furthermore, private companies have begun to take advantage of the large amounts of data about users they possess to detect events and provide alerts and warnings and other hazard-related information to their users.

More than 60 years of research on the public response to alerts and warnings has yielded many insights about how people respond to information that they are at risk and the circumstances under which they are most likely to take appropriate protective action. Some, but not all, of these results have been used to inform the design and operation of alert and warning systems, and new insights continue to emerge. Emergency Alert and Warning Systems reviews the results of past research, considers new possibilities for realizing more effective alert and warning systems, explores how a more effective national alert and warning system might be created and some of the gaps in our present knowledge, and sets forth a research agenda to advance the nation’s alert and warning capabilities.

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