Services Look to Industry for Emergency Notification Systems

By Valerie Insinna
Following the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates laid out requirements for the services to implement a mass notification system to alert personnel of an emergency.

“What they noticed at the time was Fort Hood did not have a very effective notification method to reach a lot of people very rapidly,” said Andy Anderson, vice president of business development for the defense sector at AtHoc Inc., a notification system provider.

Gates gave a January 2014 deadline for services to be able to reach both uniformed and civilian personnel within 10 minutes of an incident.

The Air Force is now closer to implementing that goal. AtHoc announced in December that the service had expanded its emergency notification system to support all five Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) bases.

Because the Air Force has been negotiating contracts for a handful of bases at a time, only three bases under AFGSC were covered previously.

The notification system for the two recently added bases will be implemented sometime in January, Anderson said.

With all of AFGSC covered, only three more Air Force bases remain without a notification system, he added.  “Those bases have already been in contact with us, and so they’re in various stages of discussing when and how to contract for our support for our system.”

The Marine Corps and Navy already have enterprise agreements in place with AtHoc.  The company also covers a “significant” portion of the Army, Anderson said.

Depending on the threat, the alerts can be customized to go out to a certain base or region, and can also be sent globally.

“If there is an active shooter and he is at a given base — for instance, Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio — one of the responses would be to immediately lock down the other nearby bases until folks are able to sort out whether it’s an isolated incident or whether it’s a concerted attack,” Anderson said.

Alerts can also be sent via email, text messaging, or using a pop up for computers on the Defense Department network.

Currently, only some Air Force bases extend the notification system for spouses and family members of personnel, said Anderson. “We’re going back now and working with the various [major commands] to include family members.”

Topics: Homeland Security, Emergency Communications

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