Emergency Management Experts See Usefulness In Customizing Alert Systems

The purpose is making them more user-friendly for the general public.


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With mobile technology evolving so quickly, emergency management experts say customizing alerts is the way of the future.

That is how Francisco Sánchez, spokesman for the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, sees it.

Sánchez has recently been selected to serve on the National Advisory Council of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a member of its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Subcommittee (IPAWS).

Wade Witmer, deputy director of IPAWS, notes customizing warnings and alerts can be useful because currently many of them are broadcast from specific cell towers and, so, officials are "not exactly sure which people got which alert."

Sánchez says the trend in his field is providing personalized services through mobile devices because "there’s a growing expectation that public safety also catch up with technology."

That catching up can be done by strengthening partnerships with companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, so that the public has more choices about which alerts they want to receive and, additionally, emergency officials can better target who gets certain warnings.

"If you find yourselves in a thunderstorm warning, where we’re gonna have some high water locations, your Google device or your Google app will then notify you of that warning," says Sánchez, as an example of customization.

Sánchez adds another goal he will have while collaborating with FEMA is improving severe weather alerts by using more multimedia resources.

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