FCC Adopts Rosenworcel Plan For False Alert Reporting


While Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel offered her fair share of criticism of a NPRM that she fears will largely gut the nation’s regulations on children’s television programming for commercially licensed stations, she’s pleased that one of her proposals has just been adopted by the FCC.

It is a big one, and is part of a series of actions to bolster the reliability of the nation’s emergency alerting systems and to support greater community preparedness.

With the FCC’s blessing, the agency adopted a Report and Order that sets forth procedures for authorized state and local officials to conduct “live code” tests of the Emergency Alert System, which use the same alert codes and processes as would be used in actual emergencies.

These tests, the Commission says, can increase the proficiency of local alerting officials while educating the public about how to respond to actual alerts.  The procedures adopted by the Commission require appropriate coordination, planning, and disclaimers to accompany any such test.

To further enhance public awareness, the adoption of the Order will also permit authorized Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about the Emergency Alert System to include the system’s Attention Signal (the attention-grabbing two-tone audio signal that precedes the alert message) and simulated Header Code tones (the three audible tones that precede the Attention Signal) so long as an appropriate disclaimer is included in the PSA.

Additionally, the R&O requires Emergency Alert System equipment be configured in a manner that can help prevent false alerts and requires an Emergency Alert System participant, such as a broadcaster or cable system, to inform the Commission if it discovers that it has transmitted a false alert.  In addition, in an accompanying Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission seeks comment on other specific measures to help stakeholders prevent and correct false alerts.

Rosenworcel went to Twitter in offering her response.

“Good news,” she said. “The adopts my proposal to develop a reporting system for false emergency alerts, like the one that happened in earlier this year. We need to learn from our mistakes—so we can help prevent the panic that false alerts cause from happening again.”

Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz was also pleased. “Thank you for your partnership and your leadership on this important issue,” he Tweeted to Rosenworcel.

The Commission is also seeking comment on the performance of Wireless Emergency Alerts, including how such performance should be measured and whether, and if so how, the Commission should address inconsistent delivery of these messages.

Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly approved in part and dissented in part; Chairman Pai and Commissioners Carr and Rosenworcel approved in full.

In related news, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, in coordination with FEMA, will hold a webinar on the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts on July 25 from 2pm-3:30pm Eastern. There is no cost to participate in the WebEx event. To register, click here.