The U.S. Coast Guard has deployed a nationwide alert system that notifies its maritime partners as soon as an emergency arises. Unlike previous communications capabilities, this system not only ensures that the appropriate people are alerted but also acts as a status system so during a disaster the Coast Guard can account for all personnel. This single commercial system both delivers the messages and confirms that they have been received—it is a two-way street of information about ground truth.
In the past, the Coast Guard relied on the Marine Safety Information Broadcast system to notify its stakeholders—including port authorities and maritime facility owners—when emergencies occurred. Because the broadcast system is radio based, unless a maritime partner is tuned in to the appropriate station, the manager would not be aware of the crisis.
IWSAlerts, developed by AtHoc Incorporated, enables the Coast Guard to send out information, keep track of when it was sent and determine if it was received. The alerts are sent simultaneously to the cell phones, landline phones, e-mail addresses and fax numbers of approximately 26,000 non-Coast Guard registered users, including facility owners, local maritime officers and local ports of authority. In addition to this audience, more than 50,000 Coast Guard personnel are IWSAlerts users.
For example, if a particular emergency affects 1,000 of its partners, the alert will be sent to those specific partners, who then can notify the Coast Guard if they will respond to the incident or if they cannot respond. As a result, the Coast Guard's leadership has immediate feedback it can use to plan the response.