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Emergency Communications (D2)

There is a revolution in wireless technologies that is changing how we communicate during emergencies.  The federal government agencies responsible for dissemination of emergency alerts, notifications, communications, and next generation distribution systems for emergency alerts have stated that redundancy and reliability are critical to ensure that alerts over “as many communications pathways as practicable” to reach the American people during crisis.  Open proceedings at the FCC to create “a sound emergency communications system which also includes the needs of people with disabilities”; efforts by DHS/IPAWS and the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) to provide accessible alerts over wireless and other platforms; and increased use of wireless devices by people with disabilities (85%) point to the necessity of ensuring that technology development goes beyond baseline accessibility and realizes the full potential and promise of next generation capabilities that are implemented in a way that considers people with disabilities.  This project is developing three prototype “lifelines” on a wireless platform with related field testing/trials for people with disabilities:  (1) EAS & CMAS Integration via Mobile Phone FM Radio Chip; (2) Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) Video Platform; and, (3) TTY like access to NG 9-1-1 via a wireless interface and field testing.  The development work:

  1. Provides alternative and accessible emergency lifelines over wireless platforms that assist people with disabilities in managing the transition from (a) legacy alerting systems (e.g. broadcasts over TV and radio) to (b) next-generation versions of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and next generation distribution systems for emergency alerts, such as NG 911 and mobile broadband alerting.
  2. Explores and tests new capabilities that can be added to future versions of next-generation alerting systems; and
  3. Demonstrates, testifies, participates in working groups, and shares findings from development activities on accessible solutions to deliver emergency alerts, notifications and information with government agencies, policymakers, wireless technology designers/developers, emergency management officials, and organizations serving people with disabilities.

Project Team:


  • AT&T
  • FEMA, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, Department of Homeland Security
  • Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS)
  • Global Positioning Systems
  • National Public Radio (NPR) Labs
  • Nokia
  • North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing
  • Public Broadcasting Atlanta
  • Research in Motion
  • National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research logo
  • Center for Advanced Communications Policy logo
  • Georgia Institute of Technology logo
  •  Shepherd Center Logo

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The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number 90RE5007-01-00. The opinions contained in this website are those of the Wireless RERC and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or NIDILRR.