FCC Details Emergency Alerting Update Proposal

(Image credit: FEMA)

WASHINGTON—After announcing its intention to discuss ways to update its Emergency Alerting protocols during its March Open Commission Meeting, the FCC has officially shared the details of what it will be voting on when it comes to EAS.

As Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wrote previewing the March meeting, the FCC is “proposing updates to the way Americans receive emergency alerts wherever they are—on their phones, on television and on radio.”

What the FCC is proposing, which is in following requirements set forth by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (which includes the READI Act), would impact both the country’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA).

The FCC is scheduled to vote on both a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and a Notice of Inquiry at the March meeting. Below is what each notice will entail.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

  • Proposed rule amendments to combine the current non-optional class of WEA “Presidential Alerts” with FEMA Administrator Alerts into a new alert class called “National Alerts.” 
  • Propose to amend the annual State EAS Plan reporting rule to require certification that SECCs (State Emergency Communications Committees) have held a meeting in the past year, propose to provide a checklist of required information for annual State EAS Plan reports and propose to amend the commission’s rule for review and approval or rejection of annual State EAS Plans. 
  • Propose rules for the FEMA Administrator or a State, local, Tribal or territorial government to voluntary report EAS or WEA false alerts to the FCC Operations Center at FCCOPS@fcc.gov
  • Propose a rule to require repeating EAS messages when certain authorized EAS alert originators want a message repeated, and to ensure EAS Participants are technically capable of repeating. 

Notice of Inquiry

  • Seek comment on whether it is technically feasible to deliver EAS alerts through the internet, including through streaming services. 
  • Seek comment on whether and how to leverage the capabilities of the internet to enhance the altering capabilities of the radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers and wireline video video providers that currently participate in EAS. 

The FCC March Open Commission Meeting will take place virtually on March 17. For more information on the meeting, visit the FCC website.