FCC Announces Enhancements to Wireless Emergency Alerts
Thursday, December 19, 2019 | Comments

The FCC announced availability of a suite of enhancements to wireless emergency alerts (WEAs) that will enable Americans to receive more geographically precise, effective and informative alerts on their mobile phones during emergencies.

Local officials are now better able to send geotargeted wireless alerts to areas affected by an emergency without reaching unaffected communities, which will increase confidence in alerting and promote public safety, especially during evacuations. Officials can also now send more informative and relevant content in alert messages.

The improvements include the following:
• Geographic accuracy: Wireless providers must deliver the messages to the area specified by the alert originator with no more than a 0.1-mile overshoot, as opposed to the prior “best approximation” standard.
• Longer messages: WEAs will accommodate longer messages — an increase from 90 to 360 characters — and messages in Spanish.
• New alert type: There is a new class of alerts called public-safety messages for officials to convey recommendations for saving lives or property, such as the location of emergency shelters after a disaster.
• Better testing: Emergency managers can now conduct state and local WEA tests that reach only consumers who choose to participate, and these tests do not require a waiver from the FCC.

In addition, as of last May, all participating wireless providers must support clickable links in alerts so that messages can include links to photos and other additional information.

“One of my key public-safety priorities has been to ensure that America’s emergency alerting system meets the needs of public-safety officials and the communities they serve,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “With these improvements, WEAs are now an even more powerful tool for emergency managers to warn and protect the public. These improvements respond to input we’ve received from the public-safety community and will help save lives.”

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