Emergency Communications Research

Emergency communications are a critical component of our national telecommunications infrastructure. Public safety agencies and emergency management officials work together to provide the rapid response systems needed to save lives and are among the largest users of telecommunications. The Center for Advanced Communications Policy (CACP) is actively involved in work to improve these systems, by participating with industry and government to establish effective alerting and notifications communications that can reach and improve the exit time of persons with disabilities in emergencies. For example, we have developed through the years prototypes to alert people with disabilities, tested these prototypes and systems with individuals from the blind and deaf community and filed comments on numerous federal agency's proposed rule makings.

Notable CACP Research

Department of Homeland Security Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Projects

Join the Research Panel on Wireless Emergency Alert Effectiveness

The Wireless Emergency Alert Effectiveness study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the upcoming nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. In advance of the nationwide test, we are inviting individuals with disabilities to join our research panel to ensure the inclusion of your experiences with the WEA test. Like the emergency alert system that sends emergency information to televisions and radios, the WEA system delivers critical warnings and information to the public on their wireless devices. This may include flash flood, tornado, blizzard, and missing children alerts, among others.

FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, will conduct a nationwide test of the WEA system this fall. The test is scheduled to begin at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 4. If you join the research panel, you will be emailed a link to the survey in October 2023. 

Your participation in this study will enhance the development of more effective WEA messages by understanding if there is equitable access to WEA and whether messages were received promptly across the nation.

If you agree to join the research panel, you remain free to withdraw from the study at any time.

Join Panel

Questions? Contact Salimah LaForce at salimah@cacp.gatech.edu.

This research is being funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (Contract number SCON-00000467). Your information will only be used for study purposes, and we will not share or sell your information.

WEA - Optimizing Ability of Message Receipt by People with Disabilities

February 9, 2016 - In 2014, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate funded the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Center for Advanced Communications Policy to examine and report on how to optimize Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) message receipt by people with disabilities. Reaching people with disabilities, including the deaf and hard of hearing, with WEA messages is critical, in part because people with disabilities utilize and depend on wireless devices, including mobile phones at more than 96 percent. Their devices become even more important during emergencies. The aim of this project was to assist in understanding and identifying ways to ensure that people with disabilities had timely and effective access to WEA messages. This report summarizes the findings.

James White, PhD awarded Contract with National Council on Disability

Wireless RERC Director of Communications Studies, James White, PhD, has been awarded a contract with the National Council on Disability to conduct a study on effective communication for people with disabilities before, during and after emergencies.

Emergency Communications Survey-Full Report

A summary of the findings from the Wireless RERC's survey on emergency communications and people with disabilities conducted November 2010-January 2011. The survey focused on 3 aspects of emergency communications:

  1. Contacting 9-1-1 emergency services
  2. Receiving, verifying, and passing on public alerts such as weather advisories
  3. Use of social media during public emergencies.

Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities

Helena Mitchell and Frank Lucia, WEC co-project directors, visited Washington, D.C. on April 25, 2011 for a series of meetings with FEMA (Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and IPAWS) and the FCC (Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau). They presented findings and recommendations from field trials and focus groups which examined accessible Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) alerts to wireless devices.

Helena Mitchell Presented at the FEMA Conference “Getting Real II”

Helena Mitchell presented “Providing Accessible Alerts to People with Disabilities” at the Getting Real II-Promising Practices in Inclusive Emergency Management conference on September 12, 2011 in Arlington, VA. The presentation discussed the potential of wireless technologies to provide accessible public warnings and alerts to people with disabilities as revealed in the findings of twelve field tests and two focus groups. For those unable to attend the conference the archived webcast, PowerPoint slides and session transcripts are available on the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination website.

Salimah LaForce Speaks at NENA 2011 on Alerts and Social Media

Salimah LaForce presented “Social Media, Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities” at the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) 2011 conference held in Minneapolis, MN June 18-23, 2011. Her presentation covered the Wireless RERC’s research and development projects on the accessibility of emergency alerting and public safety communications and the results of a 2011 survey conducted to better understand how people with disabilities communicate during emergencies, including the use of social media. She discussed the precedent being set by the rise in government use of social media and the resultant public expectation to receive information via this medium.

View the "Alerts and Social Media" Presentation.

Human Factors Considerations in Mobile Emergency Alerting

Helena Mitchell, PhD, presented The Human Side of Regulation: Emergency Alerts, at the 8th @ WAS International Conference on Mobile Computing and Multimedia (MoMM2010) in Paris, France, November 8-10, 2010. Since 2001, entities in the U.S. have encouraged the development of emergency communication technologies that serve both the general population and people with disabilities. Since 2004 regulatory initiatives by the Federal government have addressed the development of next-generation warning systems that integrate technologies and consider the needs of persons with disabilities. This paper discusses how regulations and societal issues can complement each other to ensure accessible alerting in next-generation, mobile emergency alerting systems.

Wireless Emergency Communications Research and Development - Impact Strategy

Helena Mitchell, PhD, presented Strategies for Accessible Emergency Communications Adoption, at ICADI 2010 in Newcastle, UK. The presentation focused on the findings from the Wireless RERC’s Wireless Emergency Communications (WEC) research and development project, how the experiences were utilized to inform industry and stakeholders on accessible emergency information formats, how the results have contributed to improving Federal emergency alert policies on adoption of accessible emergency alerting techniques, and the effectiveness of accessible emergency communications across a broad spectrum of users.

Wireless RERC Researchers Invited to the ADA 20th Anniversary Celebration

The T2 project of the Wireless RERC was invited to exhibit at the FCC’s launching of its Accessibility & Innovation Forum, and kick off the Commission’s year-long celebration of the ADA’s 20th anniversary. The event took place at U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC on July 19, 2010. T2 researchers demonstrated prototype technology for sending accessible emergency alerts to wireless devices and presented findings from the field tests.

Emergency Communications Special Issue of International Journal of Emergency Management (IJEM) Online

The special Emergency Communications (Wireless RERC State of Technology Conference) issue of IJEM (International Journal of Emergency Management) edited by Paul M.A. Baker and Helena Mitchell is available online