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FCC Adopts Rules to Further Strengthen Emergency Alerting


Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission

The FCC has adopted rules to improve the way the public receives emergency alerts on their radios, mobile phones and televisions. The move is in response to a false 2018 emergency alert in Hawaii mistakenly warned of an incoming ballistic missile attack. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 subsequently directed the Commission, in consultation with FEMA, to adopt rules to strengthen emergency alerting in various areas.

As such, the Commission adopted a Report and Order to ensure that more people receive relevant emergency alerts, enable government agencies to report any false alerts and improve the way states plan for emergency alerts. Specifically, the Report and Order combines the current "Presidential Alerts" category, which is non-optional on devices that receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, with alerts from the FEMA Administrator to form a new non-optional alert class called "National Alerts."

Under the alert class, all states are encouraged to form State Emergency Communications Committees, which help administer alerting on the state level, or to review the composition and governance of existing committees, as well as require certification of annual committee meetings, while providing a checklist of information that should be included in annual state Emergency Alert System plans.

It also specifies that government agencies may report false emergency alerts to the FCC's 24/7 Operations Center and clarifies how alert originators can repeat their alert transmissions. The Commission also adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on additional potential improvements to the Emergency Alert System recommended by FEMA.

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