Technology Prototype: Early Bird

''On the IPAWS project “Alerts for People with Disabilities and Language Differences,” researchers determined a better mechanism for the dissemination of next-generation wireless emergency alerts that provide as much detail as possible to encourage preparedness, response and recovery of people with disabilities. Early Bird was developed through funding from the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Integrated Public Alerts and Warnings System (IPAWS).

Early Bird is a mobile application that displays a unique hashtag (#) to provide additional information to users during times of emergency. It is a proof-of-concept idea that shows how a unique hashtag identifier, created at the time of message dissemination by an alert authority, can be linked to a variety of social media sources to provide important lifesaving information in greater detail than is possible with the 90 character limitation of WEA. Center research shows that the current character limitation does not provide enough information for people with disabilities to take appropriate protective action. The app is only activated after receipt of a WEA message on a cell phone and links the hashtag to twitter and/or Facebook feeds with the same hashtag, and the mobile app doesn’t require the user to have a social media account to gather more information.

Use of the hashtag will allow the alert authority to post more detailed information, pictures or links to more information on social media thereby allowing individuals to quickly gather pertinent information, increasing their likelihood of making informed protective action decisions. CACP researchers have designed software, Early Bird, that when downloaded on a smart phone will connect an incoming WEA message to Twitter feeds about the current incident.

This application is prototyped for the Andriod platform and requires that the incoming WEA message contain a hashtag (#). Early Bird will monitor incoming WEA messages and search for the embedded hashtag. If one is found, the program will launch the twitter client and load messages containing the hashtag. End users can choose to issue their own messages related to the alert, or they can reply to the tweets with their own message, providing information on areas affected, help needed, etc. The Early Bird software does not require the end user to have a Twitter account.