FCC Improves Wireless Alert System At Emergency Officials’ Request

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UPDATE New York City city officials wanted their alert system to have “more capabilities and better targeting,” based on a September manhunt for terror suspect Ahman Khan Rahami, according to Law360. Being first responders, they wasted no time in seeing it done quickly.  Emergency Management Department, Department of Information Technology and Communications, and other emergency officials asked the FCC’s Tom Wheeler to reform the wireless emergency alert systems, and the FCC answered the call, said Law360.
System details on the Rahami capture weren’t quite targeted enough for the officials’ liking, and according to Law360, they asked the FCC to offer more multilingual options such as Spanish-language alerts, increasing the character limit on alerts and more geographic targeting. Additionally, some of the reform included requiring providers to “support embedded phone numbers and hyperlinks,” which has sparked concern with telecom industry leaders who think networks could become congested if URLs are included in alerts.
Emergency Management Spokeswoman Nancy Silvestri told Law360 by email that she considers the changes “to be a win for public safety across the country. That said, we believe there is still work to be done to improve the WEA system and will continue to advocate for improvements.”
Silvestri and the city hope that the reforms will “lead to increased adoption by public safety agencies, prevent warning fatigue by eliminating over-alerting, and potentially open the door to other classes of alert originators such as colleges and public housing authorities.”
In the future, officials also would like to be able to collect feedback, especially in areas such as evacuation compliance and storm damage, and provide even more language options, as there are more than 200 languages spoken in New York City. Additionally, Law360 reported, officials would like to see photos added to alerts.
Published October 27, 2016