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Wireless RERC Research in IAEM Bulletin: Navigating the New Normal

Dr. DeeDee Bennett’s article, Moving Towards Accessible Wireless Emergency Alerts: Sending and Receiving, was published in October’s issue of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Bulletin.  In preparation for IAEM’s annual conference in November, the theme of this issue and the conference is Navigating the New Normal.  As such, Dr. Bennett’s article discusses the findings of a Wireless RERC survey on the accessibility of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs), and survey research funded by FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

The first survey, sent to people with and without disabilities, sought to determine the level of public awareness of WEA messages, accessibility of the messages and behavioral response. The survey revealed that 36% of the respondents with disabilities had no prior knowledge of WEA, compared to 24% of the respondents without disabilities; indicating a need for more public awareness campaigns. While use of wireless devices has reached near saturation for people with disabilities, WEA has yet to establish itself amongst the population as the ‘new normal.’

The second survey, sent to IPAWS alerting authorities, sought information to gather best practices for sending accessible WEA messages to people with and without disabilities. Survey data revealed that less than 10% of alerting authorities have actually issued a WEA message, 9% of respondents provided information in accessible formats, and 7% have issued a WEA message in a language other than English.  The common theme that emerged from alert authorities was the need for more education and training on when and how to send WEAs.

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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.