'Presidential Alert' results in Alaska split almost 50-50, survey says

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Only about half of Alaskans who responded to a survey about the Wireless Emergency Alert test last week received it, according to an Alaska survey.

(From Alaska Div. of Homeland Security & Emergency Management)

More than 5,000 Alaskans participated in the state-specific survey on the Wireless Emergency Alert. The survey asked just four questions: Did you receive the alert? Where were you when the alert went out? Which company is your cell phone service provider? And Which type of phone do you have?

Of those who responded to the survey, 2,530 said they did not receive the alert, while 2,820 said they did. That’s a division of 52.7 percent ‘yes’ and 47.2 percent ‘no’ in the unscientific poll. The Alaska Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management conducted the Alaska survey, but spokesperson Jeremy Zidek says FEMA reported that 70 percent of phones capable of receiving the test received it, while 30 percent did not.

A map of the Alaska respondents’ locations shows high concentrations in Alaska’s urban areas of Anchorage, Mat-Su, Kenai Peninsula population centers, Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan. Areas with fewer respondents are across wide swaths of the Alaska Interior.

“There are some parts in the Interior that don’t have a lot of dots (on the map) but they don’t have a lot of cell phone service out there or notification of the test occurring,” Zidek said.

Even though most of the data is collected at the federal level, Zidek said the state can use the test as a benchmark to improve upon. “Obviously we would like to see more than half the phones in the state receive these emergency alert messages,” he said.

The Wireless Emergency Alert system and the Emergency Action Network – linked to broadcasters – were both tested last Wednesday. Zidek said the national codes sent by FEMA get routed to the state's EAS and WEA alert systems.

With last week’s test being the first ever of the nationwide system, it’s only the third time the WEA system has been enacted in Alaska. An Amber Alert, and this past March’s tsunami alert – which mistakenly notified areas not in danger of a tsunami – are the other two.

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