NIST Asks for Help on Improving Emergency Communications

Source: The Critical Communications Review | Gert Jan Wolf editor

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking help from residents of Sevier County, Tennessee, who were affected by the November 2016 Chimney Tops 2 Fire.

These residents are being asked to participate in a survey that will help researchers understand the public’s experiences with and responses to the emergency alerts and warnings issued during the fire. The goal of the survey is to identify the main factors that influenced people to evacuate.

This survey is part of a NIST study that will lead to recommendations for improvements to emergency messages, technology, training and education, and other emergency procedures, and to develop evacuation models that can be used for wildfire planning. Ultimately, the study may lead to recommendations for improving current standards and practices, so that communities across the U.S. can become more resilient to natural hazards.

“Studying how our emergency communications systems performed and how residents responded is extremely important,” said Erica Kuligowski, a NIST research social scientist. “Through this type of research, we have been able to develop guidance for those who issue emergency messages on how to create and disseminate evacuation warnings that meet the needs of people threatened by a disaster.”

NIST has a long history of studying disaster events and developing better ways to protect communities from the devastating effects of natural disasters. Prior to the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 fire, NIST had studied impacts from hurricanes (Katrina in 2005 and Matthew in 2016), wildfires (Waldo Canyon in 2012), tornadoes (Joplin, Missouri, in 2011), and earthquakes (Chile in 2010).