On Thursday, January 28, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to adopt proposed rules to strengthen the Emergency Alert System (EAS), our national public warning system. The major proposed change includes new EAS designations to more accurately reflect current roles and responsibilities of key EAS participants—which include radio and television broadcast stations, cable television providers, and other delivery systems. The proposals are intended to improve EAS by facilitating involvement on the state and local levels, supporting greater testing and awareness of the system, leveraging technological advances, and enhancing EAS security. The commission believes the proposed rules will promote community preparedness and better equip state and local health departments for emergency and disaster preparedness. It will also ensure that effective alerts are provided to the public during emergencies, including people with disabilities.
Following the major winter storm that hit the East Coast, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was reminded of how often we rely on broadcasters and other TV providers to keep us informed during emergencies. He said in a statement, “Technology is evolving, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the EAS. We not only need to ensure that Americans continue to reliably receive alerts, but we also have the chance to make alerting even more valuable to the public. Today’s item lays the groundwork to do just that.”
The FCC is asking for feedback on several issues including, measures to enhance EAS security, how community-based alerting exercises can best meet the needs of individuals with limited English proficiency and those with disabilities, and assessing the impact EAS alerts have when received on different technology platforms.