A study for the DHS shows how Wireless Emergency Alerts and broadcasts work together.

The connections between radio/television and cellphone alerts were illustrated in a recently published study on Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The study confirmed that WEA messages often send the public to check radio and TV for more information on an emergency.

50% of the time people check broadcast media  after receiving an alert.

A survey of the public after an actual emergency showed that almost 50 percent of people checked local media within 15 minutes of receiving a WEA message. Prior to the message, only 30 percent of the public had been checking media about the developing event.

The $980,000 study was funded by the Commerce Department through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and conducted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. Its central theme seems to be content and length of WEA messages.

Radio and TV were mentioned often in the surveys and focus groups conducted by START. START found that people will often mill (or delay in taking protective action) to check radio and TV or other sources. In focus groups, START received comments like, “I’d turn on the TV to verify” and “I’d go in the basement, get out my radio and my iPad and start trying to get as much information as possible.” Even when START suggested that WEA messages could be well over the current 90 character limit, respondents indicated they would still want to confirm the message.

So, what does this mean?

Broadcast and mobile phones can be considered competitors for both content and advertising. However, in the case of WEA, they are supporting one another for safer communities. Local emergency practitioners can engage local media to make the connection stronger.  For example, perhaps radio and TV stations should be given a heads-up when a WEA message is about to be issued by local authorities. We’ve seen this work quite well.


Find out more about how broadcast media and wireless emergency alerts inform the public in Galain’s exclusive webcast:

Local Media as First Informers: Effectively Using Wireless Emergency Alerts



This post was originally published in Emergency Management Magazine’s Alerts and Notifications blog authored by Galain President Rick Wimberly at Emergency Management Magazine.