State Invests in Emergency Alert System

Article From Pam Marsh, State Representative Oregon House District 5 – Southern Jackson County

We know that our local emergency notification system failed to alert many or most residents during the Almeda fire. Reports from other regions indicate that this was a common problem.

In response, the state Emergency Board has approved a $1.4 million investment in a statewide emergency notification system that will incorporate the variety of local systems currently in use. This is very good news for our region and the state and should provide some peace of mind that notification will be more robust in the future.

State and local agencies and organizations have noted that there is inconsistent access to emergency communications, alerts, warnings, notifications (AWNs), and information across
Oregon. AWNs are critical to effectively mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and emergency incidents, including the current pandemic, an increasingly devastating and dangerous wildfire season and as winter approaches.

The inconsistent access to information can be due to a variety of factors including location, language, technology, and/or access to internet/broadband/social media. Some agencies and
organizations with a responsibility to disseminate AWNs lack the means to do so, and among those that do, there is no standardization of training or best practices within Oregon. Of Oregon’s 36 counties, 16 lack access to issue emergency alerts via FEMA’s Integrated Alerts and Warnings System (IPAWS), the only current way to reach wireless subscribers that have not chosen to opt in to a local system.

Technology related to public messaging and AWNs has significantly evolved and represents a tool that Oregon can and should use to respond to disasters and emergency incidents. The State Interoperability Executive Council (SIEC) has indicated that a statewide approach to AWNs should be a priority for the state and has included this as an objective in the State
Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP). There is unanimous support of AWN stakeholders for an integrated, single statewide system.

This statewide system will provide:

  • A single, statewide approach, utilizing one platform and a single alerting plan.
  • A federated system of accounts with data sharing.
  • A set of identified tools that provides agencies with the capabilities they need for all phases of the emergency/incident but preserves their ability to procure other features needed to meet their mission needs.
  • Full alignment with SCIP Goals, uses “Team Approach” to AWNs.
  • Standardized training and interoperability between agencies during large emergencies.
  • Encouragement for voluntary participation from counties/local jurisdictions by providing service for them.
  • Increased capability to send IPAWS alerts for the 16 counties that do not currently have a solution.

This process will be accomplished through a statewide contract with a vendor utilizing a single master account that incorporates a system of federated “user” accounts for each agency/jurisdiction. This approach would leverage current state, county, and local investments in different systems and would allow individual agencies and organizations to add additional services above the standard base set of features, if desired. The Everbridge platform is currently believed to be the widest deployed platform within the state and the pricing and base feature set assumes this platform would be selected.

The software is reliable, currently approved and in use within Oregon, and is easily implemented once procured. The vendor also has extensive experience and expertise in statewide implementations of such systems.

If procurement of the Everbridge software is approved, the Statewide Interoperability Program estimates a near-statewide implementation of Everbridge within six months of procurement; however, the system will be immediately accessible by several agencies including the Governor’s Office and the Office of Emergency Management to respond to wildfires, the coronavirus pandemic, and other emergencies.

Main Menu