FCC Proposes to Boost Emergency Alerting Capabilities

(Image credit: FEMA)

WASHINGTON—The FCC is looking to strengthen emergency alerting, proposing new rules on how the public receives alerts on their TVs, radio and mobile phones. The FCC will also look at the feasibility of delivering alerts over the internet.

As part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, the FCC was charged with adopting rules to boost emergency alerting in various areas. As a result, the commission adopted this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the goal of ensuring more people receive relevant emergency alerts, enable government agencies to report false alerts when they occur and improve the way states plan for emergency alerts.

The NPRM specifically seeks to:

  • Combine the current “Presidential Alerts” category with alerts from the FEMA Administrator to create a non-optional alert class called “National Alerts;”
  • Encourage all states to form State Emergency Communications Committees to help administer alerting on state level, or to review the composition and governance of existing committees and certify they met in the last year;
  • Provide a checklist that should be included in annual submissions of state Emergency Alert System (EAS) plans and amend the process for FCC review of those plans;
  • Specify that government agencies may report false emergency alerts to the FCC’s 24/7 operations center; and
  • Require and ensure that EAS participants can repeat certain alerts over TV and radio when the government alert originator requests it 

In addition, a Notice of Inquiry was approved by the commission to explore the technical feasibility of delivering EAS alerts through the internet, including streaming services, and whether EAS participants can use the internet to offer advanced alerting capabilities to the public.

The FCC voted on these actions during its March Open Commission Meeting today, March 17.