Are cities effectively conveying emergency alerts?
Conducted by CDW Government Inc. (CDW-G), based in Vernon Hills, Ill., the survey polled 1,448 citizens in 20 major metropolitan areas of the U.S.—such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Survey results revealed that local emergency-alert capabilities are not keeping pace with how today’s citizens receive and process information.
For instance, wireless subscribers currently are at an all-time high in our nation. Americans are becoming increasingly reliant on cell phones and text messaging for sending and receiving information, and this trend is especially prevalent among younger demographic groups. According to CDW-G, approximately three-fourths of Americans have text-messaging capabilities on their cell phones, and about one-third of Americans use these capabilities on a regular basis.
Although an estimated 1 billion text messages are sent by U.S. residents daily, local governments still convey information largely via television and radio. These traditional media outlets require access to electricity, which may not be available during emergencies.
“In a crisis situation, the ability to receive information right away, when traditional power sources may be unavailable, is critical,” said Jim Grass, CDW-G senior director of state and local sales. “Television, radio and text messaging all have a role to play in disseminating emergency information, but only text messaging ‘pushes’ information to citizens wherever they are. A continuity of operations strategy that includes both active and passive information distribution methods is key to reaching as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”
Ranking information and results
The survey also noted that Americans are most interested in obtaining emergency alerts about weather hazards, terrorist threats or incidents, major roadway closures and health threats.
Despite the expressed desire for information, respondents gave their cities, schools and offices mixed reviews on their ability to deliver essential information in an emergency. Just 36 percent said their city is “very strong” or “good” at informing citizens, while 39 percent said the performance of their school or office is “very strong” or “good.”
The top U.S. metropolitan area, ranked for its ability to alert citizens in an emergency, was hurricane-prone Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, although this jurisdiction earned only a “fair” overall rating by citizens. Second and third places went to Tampa-St. Petersburg and Minneapolis-St. Paul, respectively.
In addition, the survey identified a critical gap between respondents’ desire for information and awareness of their communities’ emergency notification programs. Just 10 percent of respondents said their respective city has a modern emergency notification system, while two-thirds said they were unsure if their city has such a system. An estimated one-third said they have no knowledge of or experience with their city’s emergency notification program.
Complete survey results are covered in CDW-G’s This is a Test—This is Only a Test report. The 33-page report documents methodology used to conduct the survey and includes performance ratings for each metropolitan area. In addition, the report offers insights about the shifts in media use, assesses options such as text messaging for conveying emergency alerts and includes “Calls to Action” for both the public and private sectors. For instance, by establishing a layered Continuity of Operation communication strategy, jurisdictions can deliver emergency information to citizens, quickly and reliably.
To download the full report, visit CDW-G’s Web site: http://www.cdwg.com/alerts/.
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