Tex. County OEM Responds to FCC Wireless Emergency Alert Plan
Francisco Sanchez, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator—Harris County, Texas—Today, the Federal Communications Commission took the first step in greatly improving the nation’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. The proposal by Chairman Ajit Pai to deliver life-saving alerts in a more geographically targeted manner is both bold and necessary. The deadly hurricanes of 2017, the Las Vegas shooting, the attempted terror attack in New York City and catastrophic California wildfires have highlighted the need for WEA to be revamped so it is in line with today’s technology.
The following is the FCC’s description of its proposal plan:
“In this Second Report and Order, we take measures to enhance the effectiveness of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). In particular, we improve the accuracy with which emergency managers can geographically target the delivery of WEA Alert Messages to areas within their jurisdiction. We ensure that consumers will continue to be able to retrieve and review Alert Message content for 24 hours from receipt. We also define what it means for a Commercial Mobile Service (CMS) Provider to participate in WEA ‘in whole’ versus ‘in part.’ In the Second Order on Reconsideration, we align the deadline for supporting Alert Messages initiated in Spanish with the deadline for extending the length of WEA messages from 90 to 360 characters.”
Chairman Pai’s proposal will empower local public safety officials with the tools necessary to keep WEA relevant and their communities safer. Equally as important, it will build trust in the system by citizens who rely on it for life-saving information. If adopted, it will be the single most important improvement to the nation’s alerts and warnings infrastructure in years.
Chairman Pai’s proposal to improve WEA by November 2019 is above all, doable.
It is my hope that Commissioner Mike O’Reilly and the other FCC commissioners will side with using the technology that is already on our phones today to save lives. We can do this now, and waiting beyond 2019 will simply put lives at risk.
The FCC proposal rightly suggests that “geo-fencing allows mobile devices to compare their current location to the target area specified by the alert originator and display the Alert Message only if it is located within the target area.” Public safety officials strongly agree that using the GPS technology already in today’s phones that can be used to deliver a pizza to your current location should also be used to tell you that you are in danger and what to do to stay safe. Using the intelligence and location of the device is the easiest and quickest path forward.
The improved geo-targeting for WEA continues to be a top priority for a national coalition of public safety and municipal organizations including:
- Big City Emergency Managers
- International Association of Emergency Managers
- National Emergency Management Association
- The United States Conference of Mayors
- The National Emergency Number Association
The new proposal put forth by Chairman Pai can be found here: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-348630A1.pdf
The Chairman’s full statement can be found here: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-announces-tentative-agenda-january-open-meeting-5
Comments by Harris County can be found here: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/10108723525393/010818_HCOHSEMExParteFiling_Docket15-91_SIGNED.pdf
Comments by the national coalition can be found here: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/10105937205733/BCEM-IAEM-NEMA-NENA-USCM%20Letter-Final_1-5-18.pdf