Bush to DHS: Update EAS

President Bush wants public warning systems -- including the Emergency Alert System -- updated and Congress has set aside $25 million over three years to do it.

An EAS observer told RW Online, "The first and most important thing to spend the money on should be a nationwide needs assessment of the EAS infrastructure to see what works, what is broken and what has never been built."

In an executive order, the White House ordered Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, along with the Defense Department, the Commerce Department and the FCC, to update public alert mechanism, including EAS and integrate public warnings with other devices, such as cell phones, pagers and PDAs.

The money spearheaded for the issue will be used for pilot studies, such as sending alerts as text messages to pagers, according to the DHS.

The plan by Bush closely tracks suggestions made by EAS proponents over the past few years. Indeed, the SBE, in comments to the FCC as part of the pending EAS proceeding, supported infrastructure to bring about state and regional coordination improvements by embedding alerts in the digital stream, thereby opening the door for warnings to not interrupt programming, according to one EAS observer.

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton told RW Online, "We support strengthening the EAS system, to the extent that it's flexible, reasonable and works within the constraints of the existing system."

(Radio World)