In case of emergency - Multiple means of notification



by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs


10/19/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- In emergency situations, the Air Education and Training Command aims to use the latest technology to reach base personnel through multiple means as quickly as possible.

The AtHoc Emergency Mass Notification System allows command posts to notify the installation of weather warnings and dangerous situations, such as an active-shooter incident.

In order to work effectively, personnel are asked to keep their contact information current using their government computer. By clicking on the desktop's icon toolbar and selecting the purple globe, military, civilians and contractors can provide their office location and phone numbers.

Active duty service members and mission-essential civilians are required to provide home and cell numbers. Other civilians and contractors can opt for these notifications as well.

Those logged onto government computers receive pop-ups automatically. Now, base personnel can receive mass notifications while away from the computer or office.

Since notifications' priorities vary, the command post has the ability to specify distribution.

"It's up to us to say what is the severity of the situation," said Master Sgt. Brian Lewis, Maxwell Command Post superintendant.

For example, lightning warnings may be through computer pop-ups only, but an approaching tornado announcement would be broadcast through all means.

Command post also can specify who should receive a certain notification, such as all users or just commanders.

AtHoc is installed on computers across AETC, which tested its capabilities earlier this month, timing how long it would take for an announcement to reach all users through all means. The results have not been released yet.

Lewis said Maxwell exercises have shown it takes about 5-10 minutes for a message to reach all personnel through all means of notification.

"It's not instantaneous; it's a succession through priorities," he said. "The goal is to get it done as quickly as possible, and that's why testing is so important."

AtHoc is one of many means of communication. Lewis said the "giant voice" announcement system will alert people across the installation. The wingman concept is important, too.

When people are notified of an emergency situation, they should alert others and take appropriate measures, Lewis said.

Each base's command post is the primary owner of the notification system and is responsible for pushing alerts at the direction of installation commanders or their representative, said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Garcia, AETC Command Post functional manager.

"A forthcoming HQ AETC EMNS concept of operations will outline operational details and provide guidance about ways installations are to use the system," he said. "Installation commanders will be the final approval authority for local implementation and use."

Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs contributed to this article