FCC Takes Action to Strengthen Wireless Emergency Alerts as a Public Safety Tool
On September 29, 2016, the FCC adopted rules to update and strengthen Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which are alerts that are sent to wireless phones. The updated rules are intended to promote the wider use and effectiveness of WEA and to make such messages more accessible for individuals with disabilities.
Highlights of the updated rules include:
- Increase the maximum length of WEA messages (from 90 to 360 characters) for 4G LTE and future networks;
- Require participating wireless providers to support inclusion of embedded phone numbers and URLs in all WEA alerts;
- Require participating wireless providers to deliver the alerts to more specifically targeted geographic areas to avoid “over-alerting”;
- Create a new class of alerts (“Public Safety Messages”) to convey essential, recommended actions that can save lives or property (e.g. emergency shelter locations or a boil water order);
- Require participating wireless providers to support transmission of Spanish-language alerts; and
- Make it easier for state and local authorities to test WEA, train personnel, and raise public awareness about the service.
The FCC also released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to invite public comment on:
- How to achieve the inclusion of thumbnail-sized photos and symbols in Public Safety Messages;
- Whether to incorporate future technical advancements to improve WEA, such as multimedia and multilingual alert content, including American Sign Language (ASL); and
- How to improve consumer choices and education about WEA.
Comments and reply comments due dates will be announced when available.
For more information on Wireless Emergency Alerts, visit http://www.fcc.gov/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea. For more information, contact: James Wiley, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at James.Wiley@fcc.gov, or (202) 418-1678. For those using videophones and fluent in American Sign Language, you may call the ASL Consumer Support Line at 844-432-2275.
WEA Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: