EMS keeps Reservists safe, in touch

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Desiree Kiliz
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Shower. Press uniform. Brush teeth. Grab latté. Drive 45 minutes on Interstate-5 on iced roads, with stomach turning nerves. Finally, arriving to sign-in for the weekend and, "What!? I didn't know there was a two-hour delay, why didn't anyone call me?" Has this ever happened to you? 

In any situation, especially emergencies, it is important that everyone is informed as quickly as possible, and Air Force Reserve Command has made this process easier and more efficient with the introduction of a new computerized system. 

The emergency management system, IWSAlerts powered by the AtHoc Company, was mandated last year for use by all AFRC units. 

"This system can be used for emergency notifications, exercise announcements, weather notifications, early releases, and any other notification we want to send out to the entire wing, units or individuals," said Master Sgt. Laura Elliott, 446th Operations Support Flight. 

After Hurricane Katrina, AFRC re-evaluated the ways in which units alert their Airmen and realized the system was ineffective. Rather than taking hours and even days to respond, AFRC wanted a system that could contact everyone in a wing within minutes.
Previous to this system, the 446th AW had to use a recall roster to call each member in the wing. Last May, the 446th AW conducted a calling test using the recall roster. It took three days to contact every Reservist in the wing, said Sergeant Elliott. When the new system was tested here in January, it took five minutes to send out notification to everyone in the wing, she said. 

"The system will deliver alerts via various means, including a pop-up message on networked desktops, phone calls to home, work or mobile phones, and e-mails to work and home addresses," said Robert Tharp, AFRC Program Management Branch chief. "Notifications can range from force protection condition changes and anti-terror warnings to natural disaster alerts for approaching tornados, hurricanes or other emergency situations." 

Potentially, each squadron could have someone trained in using the system, allowing specific information to be dispersed among its Airmen. But the 446th AW commander or someone at AFRC must initiate any notifications to be sent out including, late-arrival and reporting. Currently, only Sergeant Elliott is trained in using the system, but she is training other Airmen in her office on how to use it. 

The system is very user-friendly and is set-up so all you have to do is insert the information you want to send-out and select the modes in which you want people to be contacted, said Sergeant Elliott. You can even press a play button to hear how the message will sound and see what will appear on someone's e-mail. 

Although this new technology does provide units contact with Reservists in seconds, every Reservist has an individual responsibility to contribute to the system's success. 

"The most important thing to remember is that a system is only as good as its parts. If Reservists don't update their contact information in the database, they won't be contacted," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeanmarie Kautzman, 446th Mission Support Squadron, chief of information systems flight. 

Although this system has not yet been used for an emergency notification at McChord, the system was used for an exercise. "We used the system in February for an exercise and we saw good results. The system not only contacted everyone, but showed us the number of people who were reached," said Sergeant Elliott. 

Imagine saving time, a nail-clenching drive and potentially your own life by simply updating your contact information with a little purple globe on your desktop. 

(Staff Sgt. Celena Wilson's "A Big Improvement: New system automates emergency notification procedures," in Citizen Airman Oct. 2007 also contributed to this article.)