FCC Adopts Rules to Strengthen Emergency Alerting
Thursday, June 17, 2021 | Comments

The FCC adopted 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) directed the commission, in consultation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to adopt rules to strengthen emergency alerting in various areas. Consistent with this directive, the commission adopted a report and order (R&O) to ensure that more people receive relevant emergency alerts, enable government agencies to report any false alerts, and improve the way states plan for emergency alerts.

Specifically, the R&O:
• Combines the current Presidential Alerts category, which is non-optional on devices that receive WEA alerts, with alerts from the FEMA administrator to form a new non-optional alert class called National Alerts;
• Encourages 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 certification of annual committee meetings;
• Provides a checklist of information that should be included in annual state EAS plans and amends the process for the commission review of those plans;
• Specifies that government agencies may report false emergency alerts to the FCC’s 24/7 Operations Center; and
• Clarifies how alert originators can repeat their alert transmissions.

The commission also adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks comment on additional potential improvements to the EAS recommended by FEMA.

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