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Wireless Emergency Alerts: New York City Demonstration

February 2014 Special Report
Elizabeth Trocki Stark (SRA International, Inc.), Jennifer Lavan (SRA International, Inc.), Tamara Marshall-Keim, Joseph P. Elm

This report describes the adoption of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service by the New York City Office of Emergency Management. As the first alert originator to adopt WEA, its experiences provide lessons learned for other emergency managers.


Software Engineering Institute

CMU/SEI Report Number



This material is based on work funded and supported by Department of Homeland Security and is also available at in the Technology Documents Library.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service is anew national capability for delivering geographically targeted alerts to the public on all mobile phones. This report describes the adoption of WEA by the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM). NYC OEM was the first alert originator to adopt WEA, so the agency experienced some unique challenges. These challenges included finding software compatible with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, of which WEA is a component; obtaining emergency alerting authority from FEMA; and demonstrating use of the new WEA system from end to end. NYC OEM's experiences also offer other alert originators information that can guide their own adoption and integ­ration of WEA, including coordinating alerting authority with local and neighboring jurisdictions, handling the challenges presented by geotargeting and the 90-character limit, and informing the public about what to expect from WEA. An interview with NYC OEM's information security officer covers organizational learning in the areas of resources, staff buy-in,public outreach, technology, standard operating procedures, and staff training.