Author: Dave Nolan, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Emergency alert, warning, and notification (AWN) systems protect lives and property by identifying information about an impending threat, communicating that information to those who need it, and facilitating the timely taking of protective actions.
To enhance this critical information sharing across all AWN systems, SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, developed the Ten Keys to Improving Emergency Alerts, Warnings, and Notifications.
Alert originators, managers, system administrators, system operators, and emergency managers from government and non-government organizations alike, can leverage the below best practices, known as the “Ten Keys,” to improve whole-community public emergency messaging:
- Establish Governance: Establish strong governance and collaborate with existing authorities to create communication pathways to facilitate timely and efficient information sharing
- Identify and Coordinate with Others: Partner and coordinate with existing AOs, emergency managers, organizations within a jurisdiction and neighboring jurisdictions, public safety communications centers and answering points, public information officers, critical infrastructure sectors, community members and organizations, and communications providers
- Develop Plans, Policies and Procedures: Identify, establish, document, field-test, and continually evaluate plans, policies, and procedures against the evolving AWN landscape
- Account for Diverse Populations: Ensure whole community inclusion, as diversity and accessibility influence the ways in which people receive, interpret, and respond to messages. Understanding how messages reach these various demographics and using a variety of communications pathways is necessary for ensuring AWN effectiveness
- Maintain Security and Resiliency: Ensure cybersecurity across networks, devices, systems, and user interfaces. Secure infrastructure and foster resiliency as manmade and natural disasters can impact AWN issuances if not properly mitigated
- Incorporate Safeguards: Incorporate internal safeguards, across the entire AWN lifecycle—human and machine—to protect against system misuse and prevent false messaging
- Train, Exercise and Test Systems: Conduct trainings, exercises, and tests of AWN systems with stakeholders and partners on a regular basis to maintain proficiencies; lessons observed from these activities should be evaluated, documented, and incorporated into future operations
- Eliminate Issuance and Dissemination Delays: Eliminate issuance and dissemination delays by creating message templates, expediting information sharing, identifying and establishing triggers, and avoiding ad-hoc decision making
- Deliver Actionable Messaging: Provide comprehensive, targeted, and specific messaging. Remain mindful of creating alert fatigue, but err on the side of public safety when dealing with conflicting or uncertain information
- Monitor and Correct Misinformation: Monitor for changes in the situation and inaccurate spreading of information, and correct inaccurate or false messaging accordingly
For additional information about this document or AWN best practices, please contact: SAFECOMGovernance@hq.dhs.gov and NCSWICGovernance@hq.dhs.gov. For more resources, please visit: https://www.dhs.gov/safecom/resources.