Following a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, that revealed shortcomings in the nation’s ability to effectively alert populations at risk, Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act in 2006. Today, new technologies such as smart phones and social media platforms offer new ways to communicate with the public, and the information ecosystem is much broader, including additional official channels, such as government social media accounts, opt-in short message service (SMS)-based alerting systems, and reverse 911 systems; less official channels, such as main stream media outlets and weather applications on connected devices; and unofficial channels, such as first person reports via social media. Traditional media have also taken advantage of these new tools, including their own mobile applications to extend their reach of beyond broadcast radio, television, and cable. Furthermore, private companies have begun to take advantage of the large amounts of data about users they possess to detect events and provide alerts and warnings and other hazard-related information to their users.
Our ability to observe and forecast severe weather events has improved markedly over the past few decades. Forecasts of snow and ice storms, hurricanes and storm surge, extreme heat, and other severe weather events are made with greater accuracy, geographic specificity, and lead time to allow people and communities to take appropriate protective measures. Yet hazardous weather continues to cause loss of life and result in other preventable social costs.
Geotargeted Alerts and Warnings: Report of a Workshop on Current Knowledge and Research Gaps is the summary of a February, 2013 workshop convened by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council to examine precise geotargeting of public alerts and warnings using social media. The workshop brought together social science researchers, technologists, emergency management professionals, and other experts to explore what is known about how the public responds to geotargeted alerts and warnings, technologies and techniques for enhancing the geotargeting of alerts and warnings, and open research questions about how to effectively use geotargeted alerts and warnings and technology gaps. This report considers the potential for more precise geographical targeting to improve the effectiveness of disaster alerts and warnings; examines the opportunities presented by current and emerging technologies to create, deliver, and display alerts and warnings with greater geographical precision; considers the circumstances where more granular targeting would be useful; and examines the potential roles of federal, state, and local agencies and private sector information and communications providers in delivering more targeted alerts.
This book presents a summary of the Workshop on Public Response to Alerts and Warnings on Mobile Devices: Current Knowledge and Research Gaps, held April 13 and 14, 2010, in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the National Research Council's Committee on Public Response to Alerts and Warnings on Mobile Devices: Current Knowledge and Research Needs.