10.2 Is WEA Impacting YOU-A?

Friday, 20 June 2014: 11:00 AM
Alpine Ballroom (Resort at Squaw Creek)
Robert G. Goldhammer, International Association of Emergency Managers, Clive, IA; and B. Huffines

Is WEA Impacting YOU-A?

The unintended WEA consequences for local broadcast meteorologists and their stations.

Every day, thousands of Americans are taking advantage of upgrading their old cell phones to newer, “smart” ones, many of which are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)-enabled. WEA is not proactively revealed or explained to the user when they receive it. When the user's phone unexpectedly erupts, buzzing loudly for either a tornado or flash flood warning somewhere in their area, it is often a very startling and even disturbing “surprise” event. Severe thunderstorm warnings are NOT processed by the WEA system. Not all cell carriers who voluntarily participate in WEA are utilizing Storm-Based Warnings (SBW). The average size of all US counties is 997.6 square miles. Only 5 of the top 50 counties with the HIGHEST population density per sq. mi. are WEST of the Mississippi. ALL the top 50 US counties with the LOWEST per sq. mi. population density are west of the Mississippi. Cell tower footprint size is determined by the number of phones it may be required to service and line-of-sight. Even in dense urban corridors, cell tower footprints can be 1-3 miles in radius. Cell tower footprint size increases rapidly outward from a metropolitan area, to up to as large as 25-30 miles in radius, limited by line-of-sight unless extended by “repeater” devices, making the area even larger. Polygonal or county-wide tornado or flash flood warnings intersecting a cell tower footprint have the potential to over warn by a fraction of a mile, to as much as 30 miles in some sector of the of its directional capability. Whether a WEA-enabled cell phone user is actually included in a tornado/flash flood warning polygon or NOT, the text message states “CHECK MEDIA”. Because of sheer geography and population densities west of the Mississippi, this well-intentioned federal initiative has the potential to over-warn, and over-promise severe weather coverage to your viewers. Has your TV station put in place procedures to provide citizens more specific information for a WEA warning issued 24/7?

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