Current emergency alert systems are inadequate for fully alerting the public about natural disasters, or terrorist attacks or, for providing information on how to respond. It has become obvious after September 11, 2001, the south-east Asian tsunami on December 26, 2004, and again after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, that the ability to communicate after a disaster also has a critical role in saving lives.
Recent emergency and crisis situations that have motivated the need for VigiComm innovations:
In 2001, during the 9/11 attacks, the 102 minutes available for evacuating the World Trade Center coupled with location based two-way communication could have saved several more lives.
In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina government officials where not able to communicate because the cellular infrastructure got decimated, i.e., it was not disaster tolerant.
Mass evacuation of Houston during Hurricane Rita could have been far smoother for the Citizens if the officials would have been able to have 2-way communications with those stranded on the routes and guide people without gas.
During rapidly evolving emergencies such as the Beltway Sniper Attacks, officials could have sent messages in real-time to specific groups of people, in the specific neighborhood, for alerting or seeking eyewitnesses.
During the subway bombings in London U.K., people under crisis could have communicated instantly still/video images of the scene they were witnessing to the government authorities, and perhaps the perpetrators may have been apprehended faster/easier.
In 2005, a tsunami evacuation alert (a false alarm) was issued in San Diego, CA, over TV at 2:00AM in the night but was not communicated to most the Citizens, who were asleep. An automatic alerting device could have ensured the delivery of this message like fire alarms at home.
Loss of life and limb caused by the tornado that hit at 2:00 AM killing 22 and injuring 230 in Indiana in 2005 may have been reduced or averted if the people could have been effectively alerted from their sleep.
Wildfire spreading in Southern California in 2004, could have avoided the need for sending rescuers in person to convey the evacuation message to homeowners thereby reducing risk to rescuers and proving more resources to fight the fires.
During the anthrax attacks at the Hart Senate Office in 2001, the response could have been coordinated more cohesively by using a fully interoperable system that integrated communications among all relevant personnel across multiple agencies.
Much of the loss of life caused by the tsunami in South Asia could have been avoided by disseminating the emergency alert message from the Tsunami Warning Centers to the costal population using a location specific and scalable technology
Government bills, congressional testimonies and regulations in support for a better emergency alert system include the following:
Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act (Introduced in Senate) [S.1753.IS], SEPTEMBER 22, 2005 by Senator Jim DEMINT
Assure Emergency and Interoperable Communications for First Responders Act of 2005 (Introduced in Senate) (S.1725), SEPTEMBER 19, 2005 by Senator Joe Lieberman
To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and implement the READICall emergency alert system. (Introduced in House) [H.R.2101.IH]
To require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through the National Weather Service, to establish a tsunami hazard mitigation program for all United States coastal... (Introduced in House) [H.R.882.IH]
Early Warning And Rapid Notification Act of 2005 (Introduced in House) [H.R.396.IH]
Homeland Security FORWARD Funding Act of 2005 (Introduced in Senate) [S.1013.IS]
Federal Emergency Management Agency Restoration Act of 2005 (Introduced in Senate) [S.1615.IS], September 6, 2005 by Senator Hillary Clinton
Bills introduced in the 109th congress that would improve emergency alert systems domestically and internationally, include S.50 (Senator Daniel K. Inouye) and H.R 396(Representative Robert Menendez).
Senate Hearing, "All-Hazards Alert Systems," Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction, July 27, 2005.
"Signing of 9/11 Bill to Bring the Emergency Warning System into the Digital Age; National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) will lead in developing a National All Alert System." NASCIO Press Release, January 5, 2005
National Science and Technology Council, Working Group on Natural Disaster Information Systems, Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction, "Effective Disaster Warnings," November 2000