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FEMA and the Private Sector Partner for the 7th Annual Roundtable on Alert and Warning Technologies

June 30, 2015
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Office of Disability Integration and Coordination

The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) National Continuity Programs (NCP) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), in partnership with FEMAs Office of Disability and Integration Coordination (ODIC), hosted its 7th annual IPAWS/ODIC Roundtable entitled “Organizations Improving Accessible Alerts and Warnings.” The Roundtable, held on June 17, 2015, featured presentations and demonstrations from the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO), federal, and private sector partners.

The IPAWS PMO provided an overview of the IPAWS program and its efforts to incorporate and adopt technologies to make alerts and warnings more accessible, especially for those with access and functional needs. Federal and private sector partners explored opportunities for expanded collaboration and emerging technology to ensure that alert and warning information and communication technology are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

David Baquis of the Technical and Information Services Office of the U.S. Access Board presented an overview of his organization and led an in-depth discussion covering the proposed refresh of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines. Information Communication Technology Standards are periodically reviewed to ensure that new technologies incorporate accessibility standards.

Edward Czarnecki of the Digital Alert Systems Department of Monroe Electronics demonstrated the unique capabilities of the Audio Management System that automatically inserts Text-To-Speech emergency information into the Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) channels of a television station to help those with disabilities to receive emergency alerts. A tone in the main audio channel signals viewers that an emergency audio description of an alert is available on the SAP channel. The system was developed in response to the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) mandated 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) of 2010.

The IPAWS PMO updated the development of its symbols/icons project designed to enhance public alerts and warnings. Alert and warning symbology is the result of a partnership between FEMAs IPAWS PMO, the Department of Homeland Securitys Science and Technology and the National Alliance of Public Safetys Geographic Information System Foundation through an initiative to update the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) framework. The adoption of a standardized set of symbols/icons could significantly enhance the effectiveness of public alerts and warnings to communicate vital lifesaving information to the whole community.

The IPAWS PMO will continue to implement recommendations for IPAWS technology capabilities and policy needs based on research and collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technologys Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center and the Center for Advanced Communications Policy. IPAWS will continue to develop and promote standard iconography and symbology for alerts and warnings that can help to strengthen the ability of public safety officials to incorporate symbols and media in public alerts and warnings.

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