FCC Proposes Changes to Emergency Alerting System
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 | Comments

The FCC proposed rules to improve the way the public receives emergency alerts on their mobile phones, televisions and radios.

The nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) help keep the public safe and informed and are of ever-increasing importance given the emergencies and disasters Americans have faced in recent years. In 2018, however, a false emergency alert in Hawaii mistakenly warned of an incoming ballistic missile and highlighted the need to improve these systems.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA) subsequently charged the ommission with adopting rules to strengthen emergency alerting in various areas. Consistent with this directive, the commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to ensure that more people receive relevant emergency alerts, enable government agencies to report false alerts when they occur and improve the way states plan for emergency alerts.

Specifically, the Commission proposed:
• Combining the current Presidential Alerts category, which is non-optional on devices that receive WEA, with alerts from the FEMA administrator. The new non-optional alert class would be called National Alerts;
• Encouraging all states to form state emergency communications committees, which help administer alerting on the state level, or to review the composition and governance of existing committees, as well as require these committees to certify that they held a meeting in the past year;
• Providing a checklist of information that should be included in annual submissions of state EAS plans and amend the process for commission review of those plans; • Specifying that government agencies may report false emergency alerts to the FCC’s 24/7 Operations Center; and
• Requiring and ensuring that EAS participants can repeat certain alerts over television and radio when the government alert originator requests it.

Also consistent with the new legislation, the commission adopted a notice of inquiry (NOI) to explore the technical feasibility delivering EAS alerts through the Internet, including streaming services, and whether it is feasible for EAS participants to leverage the internet to offer advanced alerting capabilities to the public.

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