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by Rick Wimberly: Best practices for emergency notification programs

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CMAS Pilot Partners Wanted
January 06, 2012
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The Department of Homeland Security is looking for more communities to test the Commercial Mobile Alert System (also known as Personal Localized Alerting Network or PLAN).  Initial CMAS tests were conducted in December by the New York City Office of Emergency Management, DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), FEMA IPAWS, and four major mobile carriers (Verizon, ATT, T-Mobile, and Sprint). 

S&T’s Denis Gusty recently told participants in a webinar that although test results are still being analyzed, S&T considers the test a success – in fact, “very successful in the terms of cooperation".  He said the test was conducted ahead of schedule which required “a lot of people to work tremendously hard” including NYCOEM, engineers for FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), and the carriers.

Gusty says S&T intends to conduct four regional CMAS tests this year, and a national one.  He says S&T is scouting for additional test sites, looking for governmental entities that have: 

  1. an alert origination tool in place that's been adapted to feed alerts through the IPAWS message gateway/aggregator,
  2. personnel who have completed the IPAWS training program through FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI),
  3. been approved by FEMA as an IPAWS alerting authority, and
  4. cell carriers in the area who are CMAS-ready.

 Here’s what we suggest for making those things happen: 

  1. Alert origination tool:  Check with your alerting vendor(s).  Find out if they’re prepared.  If not, get them to explain their plan for being able to feed alerts through the IPAWS system.  We’ve seen demos of a couple of alerting tools that have been adapted to feed IPAWS.  They were impressive.
  2. Training:  Go to the EMI web site and take the IPAWS training.  It’s a good course, answers a lot of IPAWS questions, and provides good alerting information that you’ll find useful regardless of your IPAWS status.
  3. Alerting authority:  In order to be able to feed alerts through IPAWS, you’ll need IPAWS alerting authority.  Essentially, there will be two levels of approval.  A state entity will have to confirm that you are indeed an organization that should be issuing alerts.  And, FEMA will need to approve you.  FEMA will be relying heavily on the states, but will also need to confirm that you’ve completed the EMI training.  (See 2.)  The exact process may not be in place yet in your state, so you may want to check with your state emergency management agency to find out the status.
  4. Mobile carriers:  Most major mobile carriers are working to be CMAS compliant, but we suspect capability will be launched at different times in different places.  You may want to contact the carrier public safety sales teams in your area to find out the local status.  If they don’t know, perhaps they can find out for you.

And, certainly if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Galain Solutions at rick.wimberly@galainsolutions.com or lorin.bristow@galainsolutions.com.  We have a team of consultants who are well-versed on CMAS and IPAWS.  And, if we don’t know the answer to a question, perhaps we can help you get it.

Even if you are not a candidate for a pilot, it would be wise a to start figuring out your plan for getting up to speed for CMAS.  CMAS will offer an exciting opportunity to alert your local public via their mobile devices – without requiring them to sign up.

Yes, there’s work to be done…but, at least there's a lot more direction on how to make CMAS a reality for local use. 

All the best,






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