National Emergency Alert Notification System

Design Specification and Compliance Proposal


System Specification / Compliance Proposal

2.1 - General

The design specifications outlined herein form the basic requirements for an integrated Emergency Alert Notification System to suit the needs of emergency related agencies or organizations, as well as other organizations requiring the ability to quickly notify a targeted audience.

Design criteria which must be integral to any proposed system (and was, in the case of the EMCOM system), are presented in Attachment 1 to this document, and can be viewed by clicking HERE.

Individual requirements and information relating to them are printed in black. These are the elements to which any proposed system must comply, and which a response to a Request for Proposal must address. The "scoring" of a Request for Proposal will relate directly to the amount of compliance to the specification each response renders.

Respondents are reminded that each line item should be marked as to whether their proposal WILL COMPLY with the requirement or WILL NOT COMPLY with the requirement. If a proposal will comply, a response of WILL COMPLY by itself is not sufficient to be scorred. An explanation of how the proposed system will comply with the requirement must be included in order that an assessment as to the level of compliance can be made.

In order to depict how a response is generally offered, EMCOM, as the custodial agent for the National Emergency Alert Notification System developed by Technical Legal Consulting, Inc., will show its own responses to the individual specification line items. This response will be depicted through the use of blue text.

2.2 - System Specification

2.2.1 - General

The following line items represent the specfication to which responders to a Request for Proposal must comply. Compliance with each line item must be specified in the manner prescribed within the Response Compliance item of the individual Request for Proposal.

The general overview for this specification has not been presented in this section, as it appears in Section 1.0 of this document.

2.2.2 - Alert/Notification System

The system must, as a base, provide a means of alerting persons and or organizations within the agency/organization, in other agencies or organizations, the media and the public through as wide a range of communications methodologies as possible. Proposed systems must outline the the techniques to be used for each method. The methodologies must, at a minimum, include the folowing: - Weather Alert, All-Hazard radio devices, which will also include automatic receipt of NOAA weather alerts for a user's region.

  • WILL COMPLY. The EMCOM system integrates alert notification transmittal through WeatherAlert 2000 class All-Hazard radios, which by default provide NOAA weather and other emergency broadcasts. Users can specify up to 16 counties and/or entities from which to receive notifications. The EMCOM National Emergency Alert Notification System can target these radios with alert messages by geographic area, user entity, or any other grouping defined by the issuing entity.

    Alerts sent to these devices are automatically generated through the standard single text entry alert/notification issuance screen. - The Internet - The system must be capable of immediately posting alert information on the agency's own web page, and provide such other internet based notifications as possible.

  • WILL COMPLY. The EMCOM system allows users to interface directly with their own web pages utilizing both its PubAlert and PopAlert mechanisms, and with and Emergency Information page for their own locality. See the descriptions of the various mechanisms below.
    • PubAlert - This system allows anyone to add several lines of HTML code to their web page, which automatically activates the PubAlert system. If there are any active alerts for the region including the locality represented by the web page, they will automatically pop-up in a window any time a user accesses the page. There are currently well over 30,000 web pages on the internet that incorporate the EMCOM PubAlert mechanism.

    • PopAlert - The EMCOM system incorporates "PopAlert", which when activated by any designated user (intra-agency, inter-agency, media, public, etc), provides automatic monitoring for emergency notifications on the 'channels' for which they are authorized. Once activated, the system will continue to monitor for alert bulletins, including NOAA Weather warnings for the user's own area, as long as the user's computer remains connected to the internet. The user may continue to surf the internet, or use other applications within their computer; the PopAlert system will continue to monitor for alert messages.

      The Pop-Alert system works regardless of the user's computer type, regardless of the user's operating system type, and regardless of the user's Internet Browser or connection type. The PopAlert does not require users to download or install software on their systems to be operational.

      While any authorized user may activate the PopAlert at any time to monitor for alert messages, normally user's will wait until they receive an alert notification via another of the medias available. At that time, they would activate the PopAlert on their computer to monitor for additional alerts or notifications. PopAlert notifications will normally appear on user's computers within seconds of being issued by any federal, state or local agency.

    • Emergency Information Pages - EMCOM maintains Emergency Inforamtion websites on the internet for every state, county and city/town in the United States. Each of these pages is PubAlert activated. Local emergency managers may have administrative access to these pages to immediately post additional bulletins, shelter/aid station locations and/or other pertinent information. These postings appear immediatly on the web page. The pages also contain links to many other emergency related web sites, and sites specific to the specific locality. These pages are also receiving points for EMCOM WebCast Internet Broadcasts.

    • Emergency WebCasts - WebCasts are essentially like radio broadcasts, except that they are broadcast across the internet. When an emergency or disaster strikes a locality, the local Emergency Operations Center can contact the EMCOM Network Communications Center (via numerous media) to request issuance of an EMCOM WebCast Channel. Normally this process requires only seconds to complete, at which time the EOC can begin broadcasting via the internet to their designated locality using their existing computer systems, and software either currently available on their systems, or freely downloadable from the internet. (Normally we insure this software is available on an agency's system at time of installation.) This broadcast can be heard by the public if they have a computer equipped with speakers, and the Windows Media Player found on Microsoft systems, or XMMS found on UNIX based systems.

      The broadcast can be accessed directly from the locality's Emergency Information web page, or, directly from the streaming media player such as Windows Media Player. - E-Mail - The system must be capable of issuing both text and HTML based notification messages to recipient's email.

    Upon issuance of an alert notification, the system will automatically generate email notifications to send to recipients as required. E-Mail can be sent as plain text (default) so as to be compatible with all E-Mail receiving clients, or optionally via HTML based E-Mail. - Cell Phones - The system must be capable of providing alert notification through both text messages to text messaging capable cellular telephones, and/or voice notification at the user's discretion.

    Upon issuance of an alert notification, the system will automatically generate text notifications to send to specified text messaging capable pagers as applicable.

    Additionally, the text message will be automatically translated to a voice message, by which cell phones can be notified via voice notifications. See the specification for Telephone notification for more detail. - Pagers - The system must be capable of providing alert notification through text messages to text messaging capable pagers.

    Upon issuance of an alert notification, the system will automatically generate text notifications to send to specified text messaging capable pagers as applicable.

    Additionally, WeatherAlert All-Hazard capable pagers will receive the notification directly from the satellite communications link, such that the alert will be received within 90 seconds of issuance throughout the country. - PDA's - The system must be capable of providing email and text messages to text messaging capable PDA devices.

    Upon issuance of an alert notification, the system will automatically generate text notifications to send to specified text messaging capable PDA devices. These devices may also be capable of receiving E-Mail notifications under above. - Telephone - Telephone notifications must be capable of reaching a minimum of 5000 telephones with 30 second messages within 1 hour. A mechanism must be included for reporting upon the success/failure of each notification.

    Upon issuance of an alert notification, the system will automatically convert the text message to voice. The operator may indicate whether the alert should be issued in either a male or female voice. The system then begins the alert notification process by:
    • Splitting the voice notification file (telephone numbers) into several independent files. The number of files is determined by the total number of telephones to be notified, the number of participating outbound dialing entities available, and the size of the locality to be notified. This is important because EMCOM splits the notification task among several high-capacity outbound voice notification companies across the nation. While the system is capable of extremely high rates of notifications, this must be mitigated by the telephone line and switching capabilities of the locality, so as not to overload those facilities, especially during a time when other critical telephone communications may be occurring.

    • The phone lists and voice notification message are immediately transmitted to the notification entitities for immediate broadcast.

      Upon completion of the notifications, the operator will receive a status message indicating the succes/failure of the calls made, indicating how many were completed, how many were put onto an answering machine, how many no-answers, etc. - FAX - FAX notifications must be capable of accepting various types of attachments, including word processing and spreadsheet documents generated by common programs including Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. A mechanism must b included for reporting upon the success/failure of each notification.

    The EMCOM National Emergency Alert Notification System provides the same mechanism for issuing FAX bulletins as for telephone/voice notifications. See Section for details.

    Additionally, the system allows for the addition of attachments to FAX notifications. These may be most standard types of files, including Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. - Single point entry, including automatic voice to text translation. The system must provide for a single entry of alerts or notifications, from which all media/methodologies derive their input.

    The system utilizes an integrated single-point entry screen for all alert or notification broadcasts. This is a text entry screen; however the system will automatically convert the notification text to voice, utilizing either a male or female voice at the operator's discretion. In a basic alert notification (destined for everyone), the operator simply enters a headline, the notification text, and mouse clicks on SUBMIT. The bulletin will then be issued by all available media. - Multi-Lingual Capability. The system must be capable of issuing alerts and notifications in multiple languages. The operator should be able to enter the notification in the target language, and/or enter the notification text in English, and have the system automatically translate the message prior to broadcast.

    The EMCOM system allows either case. In the latter case, the operator simply clicks on the language to which to translate, and the system will automatically convert the text to the applicable language, and then generate the voice message in that language, with a speaker capable of the correct pronunciation of that language. - Attachments. Text based notification media shall be capable of including attachments with supporting or additional information, photo files, etc. This would include Internet, E-Mail, FAX, etc. type notifications.

    Operators may designate attachment files of virtually any type to be included with notifications. Graphic files for fax transmission should be in the "tiff" format.

    Additionally, operators may include photos directly within PopAlert, PubAlert, and HTML E-mail medias. PopAlert and PubAlert messages will support the inclusion of any internet capable media, such as sound or video. A special case is that the EMCOM system will allow the direct inclusion of photos and/or video from various sources, including emergency vehicle "dash" cams, surveillance cameras, PC cameras (i.e. on laptops from field locations), and/or from HAM radio slow scan cameras attached to handi-talkies from persons "on-scene".

    The system also suports a "server push" mechanism, such that the operator can force the Internet browser of PopAlert or PubAlert receiving users to go to an operator specified internet page. (i.e. the Red Cross on actions to take for Tornados, if the bulletin is so related). - Mapping. The system must be capable of including system generated maps in applicable media, and, given geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) mark the map accordingly.

    Give a set of geographic coordinates, the system will generate a map of the general area, and indicate the specific referenced point on the map. This map will be included in the PopAler, PubAlerts etc. - Grouping. The system must be capable of creating notification "groups" to which alerts or notifications will be sent. These will be defined by the using entity as applicable. The system must be capable of maintaining at least 20 of these groups.

    The EMCOM system utilized discreet "channelized" communications. Operating entities may define a virtually unlimited set of channels, and assign users to these channels as appropriate.

    When notifications are issued, they will go to all users unless the operator indicates the specific channels to be used for the notification. In this case only those authorized to receive notifications on the defined channel will be notified. - InterAgency Notifications. Other than grouping which will be utilized for intra-agency communications, the system must provide a means by which to designate notifications destined to other emergency agencies or organizations for status reporting, etc. These may be local, county, state or federal agencies or organizations.

    The EMCOM system provides a number of means of achieving inter-agency notifications. There are pre-designated channels by agency type, (other than the channels available to the using entity), the ability to use the agency's own channel system, or via the built in targeting mechanism. See section 2.2.8 below for targeting details. - Targeting. Other than the various forms of groupings described above, the system must incorporate a targeting mechanism for alert notifications such that despite the grouping, they only provide notification to the targeted classification within that group. Targeting capabilites should include at a minimum, the abililty to target only agencies by type (i.e. Law enforcement, Fire/Rescue, Medical, etc.), agencies involved in a specific incident, and/or geographically by county, city or zip code.

    The EMCOM system incorporates as a standard feature the ability to target any channel by type of agency, agencies involved in a given incident, by state, by county, by city/town, by zip code, etc. Additionally, given a geographic reference such as latitude or longitude, or a zip code (the center of the zip code is used) the operator may specify that notifications only be delivered within an X (user defined) mile radius of the point. Operators may specify and viable mix or match of the above methodologies for any channel. - Fail-Safe Entry Capability - The system must provide a means for operator (alert notification issuance) such that no on-site failure of equipment, power, telephone communications, etc. will disrupt the capability to issue bulletins.

    The EMCOM system is provided as an "Application Service", accessible via the internet in various forms. As such, there is no hardware or software to purchase, no special facilities or additional telephone lines, and no technical staff required. It also provides for "fail safe" operation of the system, should the user's facility itself be incapable of accessing communications or be destroyed.

    Alert bulletins can be issued from any other location with internet access, or via E-Mail, or by radio via "packet radio" messaging through a local packet/internet gateway. Messages can be passed through the ARES/RACES Emergency communications network where participating operators can issue the bulletin for the agency, or in severe cases, notifications can be directed to the EMCOM Network Communications Center via telephone, radio, etc. where EMCOM operator personnel can issue the alerts.
2.2.3 - Feedback Loops - Survey / Situation Report Mechanism
In order to aid emergency managers in decision support for damage assessment and resource allocation, the system must incorporate Feedback Loops by which operations personnel can both issue survey information, and retrieve the results of those surveys.

    The EMCOM system provides an extensive system for issuing and retrieving survey (situation report) data. - The Survey system must be capable of using both previously prepared and "ad-hoc" surveys.

    The EMCOM system provides for use of both types of surveys. Besides the ability to create new surveys "on the fly" (ad-hoc), they can indicate the use of a previously prepared survey, and make such changes as are necessary to make it conform to the current requirements. - The system must be capable of issuing (and retrieving information from) both text based as well as HTML based E-Mail forms, and internet web based forms. Persons receiving HTML based E-Mail forms should be able to respond to the form within the E-Mail, rather than being redirected to the web page form.

    The EMCOM system provides all of these methods of creating and issuing surveys, as well as retrieving and storing the response information. When using text based e-mail response forms, the system will automatically create an html version for the operator, as well as a Web_page based response form that can be accessed by personnel via the internet. - The Survey system must be capable of automatically creating voice based question/responses for use with interactive voice based telephone surveys.

    All text based surveys can be designated to be translated to voice question and response pairs for use with interactive voice based telephone surveys in the same manner (through the same mechanism) used for voice alert notifications. - Text and voice survey media must be multilingual, such that the system provides automatic translation of survey forms.

    EMCOM can provide the mechanism (as used with alert notifications) to provide automatic translation of both text and voice based surveys, and the abilty to choose male or female speakers for the voice. - Responses to survey forms from each of the various media must be consolidated into a single survey response file which can either be viewed on-line, or alternatively downloaded in a format such that the information can be imported into the EOC's own presentation or analysis applications. The minimum formats to be considered for importing data are EXCEL based spreadsheets, and Microsoft Access databases.

    The EMCOM system, by default, stores survey response data in a single integrated file. This file may be viewed on-line in a table (spreadsheet) type format, or may be downloaded to the user's own applications. The download file is a standard, delimited file capable of being imported into virtually any database or spreadsheet type application, including the ones mentioned.
2.2.4 - System Administration - The system must provide a means for maintaining (creating, updating, deleting) user information files, and include the ability for users to update various fields of the file. (i.e. telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.)

    The EMCOM system includes the ability for operators to create, update and delete user information records (all fields) from the administration area. Additonally, users authorized by login and password may be given the capability to update designated fields (i.e. phone numbers, email addresses) from a specified user area. - The system must provide a means (usually via the internet) by which the public can "register" to receive notifications from the system, and the capability to designate which method(s) of notification they prefer. This mechanism should include the user's ability to include "quiet hours" where notifications will not be sent via designated media.

    The EMCOM system includes the ability for on-line (internet) registration to receive notifications from the system. Additionally, they have the ability (in a login/password protected user area), to update their own notification records, including:
    • The designation of up to 2 different E-Mail addresses
    • The designation of a cell phone email/text messaging address
    • The designation of a pager/PDA email/text messaging address
    • The designation of two telephone numbers
    • The designation of a FAX telephone number

    For each of the above notification methods, the user may designate what hours, on which days of the week to transmit alert notifications on that media. For instance. One e-mail address may be designated for use between 8-5 on weekdays, and the other for all other times. The user may even designate overlapping times so that they have coverage for travel time from either/any media.

2.2.5 - The system must provide a means by which other locations, which would include other agencies involved in a particular incident, can communicate with the EOC via live internet chat or equivalent mechanism. The system must be capable of private 1 on 1 communications, as well as private areas for conferencing to which login/password entry is required.

    The EMCOM system includes an internet based live chat mechanism, which provides for private 1 on 1 chatting, or login/password protected areas ("rooms"), that can be designated by any entity. Passwords can be passed via the private chat to those who require entry.

    Additionally, the system includes a private "instant messaging" function through which persons can issue messages that will "pop-up" on the recipient's computer if they are currently on-line, or at whatever time the recipient comes on-line (to the chat mechanism).

    Another feature is the "white board" available to each "chat area" where any/all participants may use the board, and all others will see the what any/all persons are placing on the board.

    More than simple text chat, EMCOM can optionally make available the ability for live voice chat between system users whose computers are equipped with sound cards, speakers and microphones. The live voice communication can be either in a 1 on 1 mode, or in a conference mode. This links all locations together with voice communications. (While speakers are adequate for this application, due to the noice in the EOC, we strongly suggest purchasing headsets with boom microphones for use with this function. Use of the headphone/boom mike combination is also suggested when using the WebCast mode to broadcast live emergency information to your citizens via the internet.)