Another joint WEA and EAS test is set to take place, this time in the Show-Me State.
In May a request was submitted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol to the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau asking for a waiver to conduct a live EAS and WEA test on July 17. The commission approved that wavier. The test is now set to occur sometime between 10 –10:30 a.m. on July 17.
The bureau has agreed to other emergency test waivers of late, including one in Colorado and one in Minnesota. According to the bureau, conducting EAS tests at the state and local level increases the proficiency of local emergency personnel, provides insight into the system’s functionality and effectiveness at the federal level, and enhances the public’s ability to respond to EAS alerts when they occur.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol told the commission that the purpose of this test is to ensure that the public can have confidence in the state's ability to send emergency notifications to cellular phones and local broadcasters. The test is not intended to replace other scheduled EAS or WEA tests.
For this EAS test, the highway patrol proposes to send out a live Civil Emergency Message code to seven different counties. The test will be sent by the MSHP Troop F dispatch center in Jefferson City using a locally developed system for accessing IPAWS. The proposed EAS test message will read, “This is a test of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Alert System. If there had been an actual emergency further instruction would have followed. This is only a test. No action is required.”
For the WEA test, the Missouri State Highway Patrol plans to send the WEA test message just to cell phones in Cole County. Given the recent false alerts that have happened across the country, the highway patrol said it is “imperative the MSHP test its ability to send WEA alerts to IPAWS and expose the public to the type of messages they may receive during times of crisis.”
The commission agreed. “We agree with MSHP that a coordinated and combined test of the two systems is a likely reflection of what would occur in an actual emergency; that is, both WEA and the EAS would be used,” the commission said, adding that such a proposed test for WEA has value now because it would help ensure that WEA and the EAS can be effectively deployed in a coordinated manner during an emergency.
At its Open Meeting in January 2018, the FCC set a deadline of May 1, 2019, for wireless providers to support Spanish-language messages in WEA and extend the length of alert messages from 90 to 360 characters. A second deadline, for establishing an enhanced geotargeting and keeping messages available on mobile devices for 24 hours, is set for November 2019. Both were made in an effort to promote the wider use and effectiveness of WEA, particularly for state and local authorities to convey critical messages to their communities.
Members of the public who wish to report their results of the test in Missouri are encouraged to file them with the FCC’s Public Safety Support Center.