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Emergency Info Online, Third Edition

(First Edition title: EAS Info Online)

A resource directory for emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and accessible communications

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Welcome to Emergency Info Online

What is Emergency Info Online?

Emergency Info Online is a website and printer-friendly resource directory established to provide information regarding organizations involved in emergency preparedness and communications, particularly as they relate to the Emergency Alert System and individuals with disabilities. The directory includes information about and reports from government agencies and commissions, private and not-for-profit organizations, and foreign and international groups pertaining to their work involving response, recovery, and communications during times of emergency, with an additional focus on the accessibility of such communications for people with disabilities.

Emergency Info Online was made possible in part with the resources provided by the American Foundation for the Blind, Bridge Multimedia's project partner in the development of this MicroSite.

Prepared by John Cavanagh, Matt Kaplowitz, Anne Malia, Jessica Malia, and Ken Takeuchi

Last updated 12/1/06



Committee formed to help schools use technology to deliver instruction in case of a pandemic

A group of educational technology experts has formed a committee to explore how schools across the nation can use technology to ensure that student learning isn't disrupted in the event of a pandemic. The Hurricane Education Leadership Program (HELP) Team, a consortium of more than 30 ed-tech providers, associations, and foundations, was created in late 2005, in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The group has currently turned its attention to pandemic preparedness as well. Chaired by Susan Patrick, president and chief executive officer of the North American Council for Online Learning, the Pandemic Preparedness Committee has set four important goals:

  1. Develop a team of education professionals who have experience in helping with education disasters.
  2. Analyze the resources available for schools in a pandemic-related emergency.
  3. Develop a guide and framework for schools to follow in preparing for such a contingency.
  4. Provide assistance to the education community, in the event of a pandemic, by providing curriculum and instruction to enable learning to continue when school campuses are closed.

The committee held its first meeting Nov. 20 and is now in the analyzing stage of its work. HELP wants to ultimately ensure that when a pandemic outbreak results in the closing of schools, be it for one day or a month, the schools will have identified ways for their students to continue the learning process away from the traditional campus. One possible scenario is to use online learning and other educational technologies. The committee hopes to have its research and analysis completed before its next meeting, and to have some sort of guide or action checklist available by January.

The Department of Homeland Security announces a $5 million program to boost emergency preparedness: Schools to get hazard warning radios

On Sept. 25, 2006, The Department of Homeland Security announced that it will provide $5 million to make sure that hazard warning radios are in every public school in the United States. These battery-operated radios are activated automatically when the National Weather Service broadcasts a signal indicating an emergency for a specific geographic area.

The National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), operates more than 950 short-range radio stations. It has encouraged schools, businesses, and homeowners to buy warning radios that are activated with a broadcast signal that automatically turns a radio on and announces a potential hazard. Originally conceived as a means to deliver weather warnings, the system now covers all hazards.

Distribution of the radios is expected to begin in October and should take a few months. Federal officials hope the program will better prepare the nation's schools for emergencies. The NOAA radio system covers about 97 percent of the country, with only a few gaps in some sparsely populated mountain areas.

FEMA develops a Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS)

On July 12, 2006, the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) announced the completion of Phase II of the Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS).

The DEAS would allow the transmission of emergency alerts directly to citizens and responders without the need for a special receiver. These alerts would be sent to users of computers, mobile phones, pagers, and other devices. Transmission of data over the digital broadcast signal is nearly instantaneous and can be distributed simultaneously to thousands of sites.

"Digital capabilities will improve the reliability, flexibility, and security of the emergency alert system," said David Paulison, Director of FEMA. "This more efficient system will better serve first responders and government officials, as well as provide the American public timely information so they can safeguard themselves and loved ones in times of emergencies."

FEMA has put $1 million into the project to date. Last week it kicked in an additional $4.5 million to give all licensees the equipment needed to relay the federal alerts. The federal agency will also provide $1 million a year to maintain the system.

For More Information About DEAS, Please Click Here.

HHS Announces Additional $225 Million for State and Local Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Efforts

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt announced an additional $225 million in funding for state and local preparedness, as part of the White House plan to mobilize the nation and prepare for an influenza pandemic.

"Earlier this year HHS joined the nation's governors for a series of state pandemic influenza summits," Secretary Leavitt said. "These funds will build on the work begun at the summits and help local, tribal, territorial and state public health officials as they undertake critical preparedness planning that communities must do themselves."

The funding announcement is part of $350 million included in recent emergency appropriations for upgrading state and local pandemic influenza preparedness passed by Congress in December. In February, the first phase of $100 million was awarded to states for planning and exercising of pandemic response plans and to identify gaps in preparedness. This second phase of funding is being awarded to begin addressing those identified gaps in pandemic influenza preparedness planning.

For a Table Outlining Available Funds, Please Click Here.
For More Information on Pandemic Preparedness Efforts, Please Click Here.

President Bush Orders the Department of Homeland Security to Update the Emergency Alert System

On June 26, 2006 President Bush issued an executive order to Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the Commerce Department and the FCC to update public warning systems - including the Emergency Alert System.

The 30 paragraph White House order calls for "an integrated alert and warning system that reaches as many Americans as possible through as many forms of communication as possible -- television, radios, PDAs, cellphones, et cetera," The order also assigns Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, with the task of declaring and implementing a U.S. policy to ensure that, in cases of war, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters, the President can communicate with the American people.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Congress has set aside $25 million over three years for pilot studies of public notification efforts. The program would be managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bush also directed federal agencies to help as requested. The order applies to the Pentagon, the Commerce Department and the FCC, which must adopt rules requiring that communications systems be able to transmit alerts.

To Read The Full Text Of This Executive Order, Please Click Here.

The Emergency Preparedness and Response for Individuals With Disabilities Act of 2006 is Introduced.

On February 7, 2006, Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Curt Weldon (R-PA) introduced a piece of legislation entitled the Emergency Preparedness and Response for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2006 [H.B. 4704] which addresses the variety of issues faced by people with disabilities before, during and after a national disaster.

The bill calls for a Disability Coordinator within the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure the accessibility of information about evacuation and disaster relief via telephone hotlines and websites. The bill also amends the Stafford Disaster Relief Act, and requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a national study of emergency shelters to determine how many of them are accessible under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

For More Information about H.B. 4704, Please Click Here.

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