Presidential Alert
(Photo : GettlyImages/ Theo Wargo) Presidential Alert FCC

FCC has announced that the emergency alerts, the warning notifications that show up on your TV, radio, and smartphone, are getting an update, including a new National Alerts category that the public won't opt-out of.

FCC Emergency Alert Update

The Federal Communications Commission stated that the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts could be used for everything from forest fire warnings to incoming missile announcements. However, in the past few years, the shortcomings of the system became clear.

In early 2018, a missile attack alert was sent out in Hawaii. The residents were advised to seek immediate shelter from an incoming ballistic warhead, with the promise that the alert was not a drill, according to Slash Gear.

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However, it turns out that while it may not have been a drill, it was not a real emergency. The FCC investigated and found that misunderstandings at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency or HI-EMA led to the confusing alert. With that, the FCC has stated that they need to improve the systems.

The results will be an update that makes clearer how, why, and when the alerts should be used. It will combine the current Presidential Alerts category that was first tested in 2018 and has no opt-out support on devices that get Wireless Emergency Alerts, with notification from the FEMA Administrators.

The resulting category will now be known as National Alerts and will be non-optional.

In order to avoid any panic like what was caused by the false alarm in Hawaii, the FCC is encouraging all states to form State Emergency Communications Committees.

The states will be responsible for figuring out alert distribution on a state level--meaning, it will review how existing committees may be doing that currently.

New rules about repeating alerts have also been developed, and there is a reporting mechanism for false emergency alerts to the FCC's 24/7 Operations Center.

Jessica Rosenworcel, the acting chairwoman of the FCC, said that this update is considered progress.

However, there is still more to do. With the wildfire season and hurricane season coming up, along with the challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, they will be relying on emergency alert systems more than ever.

The FCC is kicking of a rulemaking to discuss additional ways that they can improve alerting, based on recommendations from FEMA, according to Engadget.

Next month, the FCC is scheduled to hold a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert Systems and Wireless Emergency Alerts to develop further insights about how they can improve these life-saving systems.

One of the considerations of the new policies is to make sure that, while being kept to date on emergencies, people don't also get overwhelmed and end up opting out to too many alerts.

Nationwide Emergency Alert Test

The FCC and the EMA will do a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert Systems or EAS and Wireless Emergency Alerts or WEA that will start at 2:20 p.m. Easter Time on Aug. 11, according to TVTech. 

This will be the second nationwide WEA test, but this will be considered as the first national WEA test on a consumer opt-in basis. In the WEA test, the text message will only be sent to smartphone users that have opted-in for text messages.

The test messages will display in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset. The Emergency Alert System portion of the test will be sent to television stations and radio stations.

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Written by Sophie Webster

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