During a disaster event, you’ll want to pay special attention to official emergency alerts coming from public safety officials. Emergency alerts are issued as Evacuation Warnings or Evacuation Orders.
Evacuation Warnings vs Evacuation Orders
An Evacuation Warning indicates a potential threat to life or property. It is recommended that families with unique or challenging circumstances should evacuate if possible.
An Evacuation Order is much more severe: there’s an immediate threat to life. It is a lawful order requiring your family to leave now.
It is important to be aware that many public safety agencies are transitioning from old terminology (Voluntary Evacuation and Mandatory Evacuation) to new terminology of Evacuation Warning and Evacuation Order. Familiarize yourself with the terminology used by your local agencies!
Emergency Alert Agencies
Emergency alerts can come from your local law enforcement, fire department, public health agency, emergency management office in the city or county, and sometimes even federal agencies. During an evacuation, it is recommended you follow emergency alerts.
There are multiple ways to receive alerts. Depending on the emergency, public safety agencies use different channels to send alerts. It is important to make sure that your family can receive alerts via multiple channels. Most common channels for alerts are -
- TV and Radio: If you are home or on the road, monitor the situation on television or radio news reports. In addition to news updates, many radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers deliver state and local alerts known as EAS (Emergency Alert Services) on a voluntary basis. You may have seen them appear on your TV sets.
- Text Signup: In many locations it might be as simple as texting your zip code or a keyword to a short code. For example you can text NOLAREADY to 77295 to receive alerts in New Orleans or text MBAlert to 888777 to get alerts in Miami Beach. Consider looking into if your city offers such alerts.
- Email & Phone Calls: In addition to announcements in the media or text messages, many cities send alerts as emails or phone calls also. For example you can find alerting programs for counties in California and Florida online.
- Twitter Signup: Most Public Safety agencies have twitter accounts. For example, the city of Houston sends out alerts via its twitter handle AlertHouston about emergencies in Houston as does the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management and many other cities, counties, and states.
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Amber Alert is an example of WEA.
- WEAs look like text messages but are designed to get your attention with a unique sound and vibration repeated twice.
- WEA alerts are broadcast to a geographic area affected by an emergency. For example, if an alert is sent to a specific area in South Los Angeles every WEA-capable mobile device in that area can receive the alert, even if they are roaming or visiting from another city, county or state.
- Make sure every mobile phone in your household can receive WEAs. Check with your wireless service provider if your mobile device is WEA-capable or you can download a spreadsheet of all wireless service providers that are WEA capable here.
- You can learn a whole lot more about WEA’s on the consumer guide provided by the Federal Communication Commission and other resources.