Geo-targeting Performance of Wireless Emergency Alerts in Imminent Threat Scenarios

Volume 1: Tornado Warnings

Published in: Geo-Targeting Performance of Wireless Emergency Alerts in Imminent Threat Scenarios (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, June 2016), Volume 2, 130 p

Posted on RAND.org on October 05, 2016

by Dan Gonzales, Lisa Kraus, Jan Osburg, Shoshana R. Shelton, Dulani Woods

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A significant challenge for emergency managers and Alert Originators (AOs) is how to warn people in danger quickly, and avoid warning people not at risk. Providing effective warning of an imminent threat, such as an earthquake or tsunami, can save lives. People can take shelter or move to higher ground if they have enough warning time. If people frequently receive irrelevant warnings, however, they may choose to ignore later warnings that do apply to them. Several terms have been coined for this — warning fatigue and warning complacency. Over-alerting can lead to warning fatigue. Geo-targeted Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) can help reduce over-alerting and alert failures, and increase warning effectiveness. This study examines how WEA can be used to warn the public in three potentially deadly scenarios: a large destructive earthquake; a tsunami; and a terrorist detonation of nuclear weapon in an urban area. This report also examines how WEAs can be used to evacuate the public from the threat area in each scenario. It evaluates the benefits of providing advance warning of these threats and the potential performance advantages of using alternative cell antenna selection methods for geo-targeting WEA messages.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

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