TL;DR: The Federal Communications Commission has adopted new rules that change how the public receives emergency alerts on smartphones, televisions and radios. Mark your calendar, as the next nationwide test will be conducted on August 11.
The newly adopted Report and Order combines existing, non-optional “Presidential Alerts” with alerts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create a new non-optional alert class called “National Alerts.”
The measure also encourages all states to create State Emergency Communications Committees to help administer alerting on the state level, provides a checklist of information that should be included in annual state emergency alert system plans, clarifies how administrators can repeat alert transmissions and lays the groundwork for agencies to report false alarms.
The “Presidential Alert” was first tested publicly by FEMA and the FCC back in 2018 and caused quite a stir, although mostly in political circles. A far more concerning incident happened earlier that year when an emergency alert went out in Hawaii regarding an incoming ballistic missile. Locals were told to seek shelter immediately, and that it wasn’t a drill. Fortunately, it proved to be a false alarm.
Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, said the new measure represented progress but noted that there is still more work to do.
“With hurricane and wildfire season upon us, along with the lingering challenges from the pandemic, we are going to be relying on emergency alert systems more than ever before,” Rosenworcel added.
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