Wireless Emergency Alerts: An Update | Federal Communications Commission

Source: FCC Blog
By Lisa M. Fowlkes | Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau 

Emergency alerting has generated a lot of news in recent months. In January, the state of Hawaii mistakenly warned the public of an imminent missile attack by issuing a false alert to televisions, radios, and wireless phones.  My team recently completed an investigation into the incident—an alerting drill gone awry—and we’ll be partnering with FEMA on additional outreach to help stakeholders better understand the capabilities of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts.  We will also host a stakeholder workshop to discuss lessons learned from this experience.

New Improvements

  • Greater Geographic Accuracy: When Wireless Emergency Alerts launched, participating wireless providers were generally required to send the alerts to a geographic area no larger than the county or counties affected by the emergency.  As of November 2017, however, all participating wireless providers are required to transmit alerts to a geographic area that best approximates the area affected by the emergency, even if it is smaller than a county.  In addition, beginning November 30, 2019, participating wireless providers must improve geo-targeting of alerts even further, with no more than a 1/10th of a mile overshoot from the affected area.
  • Enhanced Ease of Use: Nationwide wireless providers are now required to support "clickable" embedded links in alerts so that you can click on a url to see a photo of a missing child, for instance.  Participating small and regional wireless providers are required to support “clickable” links by May 2019.
  • More Content and Reach: Participating wireless providers must support longer messages (expanding the maximum length from 90 to 360 characters) and Spanish-language messages by May 2019. 
  • New Alerts: The FCC has added a new alert option—called a “Blue Alert”—to the nation’s emergency alerting systems.  Blue Alerts can be used by state and local authorities to notify the public of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.  Participating wireless providers may begin to transmit these alerts no later than July 18, 2019.

The FCC is also continuing to consider proposals to improve wireless alerting through multimedia, multilingual, and many-to-one alerting, as well as through point-of-sale disclosures.  In fact, we are now seeking additional stakeholder input on multimedia alerting.


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