Posted by: jayliotta | January 21, 2008

Richard Petty: State EAS Chair

            Since its modification in the mid 1990s, the Emergency Alert System has served as the key tool among the state and local government for distributing vital emergency information, such as weather or child abduction alerts. Richard Petty, the Louisiana State EAS Chair, sits at the helm of this important system and makes sure that it is always running properly. Petty has witnessed both the positive and negative areas of the Emergency Alert System and was happy to share his opinions.

The AMBER Alert (a warning that is distributed when a child abduction is reported) can be put out to the public in less than 15 minutes, which raises the potential for stopping kidnappers. Petty observes that this system is one of the more successful aspects of the Emergency Alert System. Also, despite the damage that Hurricane Katrina wreaked on the Louisiana area, only one radio station was so badly damaged that it could no longer maintain the cost of being a primary entry point for distributing emergency warnings.

            However, there is an issue of credibility that taints the effectiveness of the EAS. Petty partially attributes this lack of credibility to the number of severe thunderstorm warnings that were being distributed by the National Weather Service. Potentially, some people may begin to think that the alerts are a waste of their time and subsequently may ignore more serious alerts.

            As the federal government begins to test a new alert system, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), Petty oversaw the installation of the system throughout Louisiana. From his experience with the system, Petty discussed how the new system adds a level of flexibility that the EAS lacked. Although IPAWS is not without its flaws, Petty is certain that the new system will better serve people in an emergency situation.

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