There are a number of systems in our area that provide emergency alert and information services.
In the case of a major earthquake, there may be few or no transmitters operating, including cell systems and internet connections. In this case, you don't really need an alert; you already know there was an earthquake, and nobody yet knows how to send an earthquake alert before the earthquake.
For events like wildfire or severe storm, one of the emergency alert systems may be your best way of getting timely notice that it's time to evacuate or find shelter. In our area, the first and best way to get these alerts is the SMC Alert system. Learn more, and sign up, in the section below.
There are a number of broader alert systems. All public transmitters, radio and television, are required to carry certain alerts. In a large-scale emergency, certain radio stations become full-time emergency information broadcasters (KQED, etc). And there are systems like Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA), and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) created by the FCC. Each of these is described in more detail below.
Once an emergency incident begins, it is also important to have sources of more detailed information. In your neighborhood, you can create a bulletin board system to post status updates, requests for service, locations of other services and so forth. Public broadcasters will transmit similar information for the whole area. And our WPV-CERT team will provide information for our fire district.
Let's take a look at the important resources for our area.
SMCAlert - Our Primary Source for Alerts
SMCAlert lets you sign up for email, text message and telephone alerts. It is the primary source for alerts from our local agencies. You can sign up for emergency alerts, road closures and a variety of other alerts. If you are not signed up yet, please visit http://smcalert.info now. It is the very best first step you can take to improve your own preparedness.
Get our SMCAlert PDF...
Federal Emergency Alert Systems
The federal government has created several emergency alert systems over recent decades. They have each evolved in various ways. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. In 2006 they started building IPAWS (details below) to bring these systems together, coordinate and standardize our national alert system. Let's look at the parts of this system. Clicking on the names below will take you to a Wikipedia page that gives a fairly detailed and accurate description of the history and operation of these systems.
IPAWS - The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System unifies the Emergency Alert System (EAS), National Warning System (NAWAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), and NOAA Weather Radio (NWR), under a single platform.
EAS - The Emergency Alert System was originally designed to allow the President to send an alert to the entire nation within 10 minutes. It has evolved into a more flexible system able to send more localized alerts. It depends primarily on radio and television broadcasters to carry alerts. All broadcasters are required to participate in EAS.
WEA - The Wireless Emergency System was designed to send alerts to mobile devices. Modern cell phones have WEA alerts built in, and difficult or impossible to turn off.
NAWAS - The National Warning System uses telephone landlines to send alerts.
NWR - The NOAA Weather Radio system is a 24-hour network of VHF radio transmitters throughout the USA, broadcasting weather information and emergency alerts.
As smart devices become more present in our lives, many are now required to have emergency alert systems built in. Your new Smart TV, for instance, will now display emergency alerts just like your cell phone.
We have had good success in our area with an inexpensive NOAA Weather/Alert radio you can get from Amazon, the Midland WR-120. Our PDF, which you can get below, has some useful information for programming this or any other NOAA alert radio.
Click here to see the PDF...
Click here to see the Midland WR-120 on Amazon...
Click here to see the Emergency Alerts overview at Ready.gov...