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New FEMA Ads to Promote Wireless Emergency Alert System

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is releasing new public service advertising this week, created in conjunction with the Advertising Council, to educate Americans about its wireless emergency alert system.

The system, which enables local, state and federal authorized government authorities to send emergency messages through wireless carriers’ networks, started two years ago, but has not been publicized through advertising.

The release of the campaign coincides with Hurricane Preparedness Week, which began on Sunday and runs through Saturday. The week, an annual effort coordinated by several government agencies, including FEMA, is intended to inform the public about hurricane hazards and steps to take to prepare for them. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive of the Ad Council, said it was “particularly timely and appropriate to launch the new advertising at the beginning of the hurricane season, and in light of the terrible tornadoes in the Midwest and wildfires in California.”

Wireless emergency alerts — issued for extreme weather like hurricanes, tornadoes or flash foods; Amber Alerts; or alerts from the president about catastrophic disasters — come as text messages that feature a special tone and vibration. No longer than 90 characters, the message discusses the type and time of the alert, action individuals should take, and the issuing agencies.

Over 100 wireless carriers offer the free alert service; no subscription is necessary. Alerts are broadcast from cell towers and warn everyone in range who has a device that is capable of receiving a wireless emergency alert. Many new cellphones and smartphones can transmit these messages.

The new advertising is in English and Spanish and was created by the Oakland, Calif., office of Free Range Studios, a graphic design and digital storytelling agency. It includes a 60-second television spot that features a montage of lifesaving objects like a life preserver, defibrillator and seat belt, and then shows a wireless device delivering a message and a family taking shelter after receiving a tornado alert. The voice-over says, “With a unique sound and vibration, you’ll be in the know, wherever you are,” and the website for the campaign, www.ready.gov/alerts, is flashed.

A 60-second radio ad contains sounds “in your day-to-day life,” like an alarm clock, a baby laughing, and a cheering crowd. After a person states “there are some sounds that can alert you to danger, and can help save lives,” the sound of the wireless emergency alert is played. Then a description of how the alert works is given, and listeners are directed to the campaign’s website. Digital ads run similar messages and images from the TV spot.

“Many people do not realize that they carry a potentially lifesaving tool with them in their pockets or purses every day,” said W. Craig Fugate, administrator of FEMA. He added that as hurricane season approaches, alerts that these devices can deliver could help people “take appropriate preparedness steps when facing potential man-made and natural disasters.”

The Department of Homeland Security and the Ad Council introduced the “Ready” campaign — whose latest messages are the emergency alert-related advertising — 10 years ago, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Ad Council began working with FEMA on the campaign in 2008, when administration of the emergency preparedness program was moved to FEMA, which is part of Homeland Security.

“Ready” advertising initially urged the public to prepare for emergencies with special kits and also promoted a preparedness website. President Barack Obama mentioned the site, Ready.gov, in a speech in Asbury Park, N.J., on Tuesday at the reopening of New Jersey shore boardwalks in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He urged people to educate themselves and prepare for a hurricane or other disaster by visiting the site. “Make a plan. It’s never too early,” he said.

The new ads focusing on the alert system are a “much simpler call to action” than previous advertising, Conlon of the Ad Council said, adding that their message is, “if you have a cellphone, you’ll always get an alert, you should pay attention.”

She said the “Ready” campaign so far had been run in $1 billion worth of donated time and space, which she said is “probably three times” the worth of time and space donated, on average, for all Ad Council campaigns.

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c. 2013 New York Times News Service



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