Fire Chiefs Support Linking WEA, FM Smartphones


Safety-ConeFire Chiefs are urging the FCC to explore activated FM chips in cellphones because of radio’s importance during a crisis; We’ve reported the FCC wants to raise the 90-character limit of current WEA messages to 360 characters, among other changes. The smartphone alerts began in 2012 and typically direct consumers to their local radio and television station for more information.

Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, President and board chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, says in a letter to the commission the group supports that expansion, calling the current limit “wholly inefficient.”

NAB has told the fire chiefs lobby the industry would like to add automatic URL links to WEA messages so users could access over-the-air messages on their smartphones via an FM chip in the device. “This approach will relieve the burden on cellular networks, leaving them open for more important emergency communications. FM radio-linked WEA messages would also allow consumers to avoid exhausting their data plans and battery life during emergencies,” writes Kerr.

She urged the commission to work with cell carriers to develop standard approaches for accessing FM tuners in smartphones for WEA messages, adding that FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has praised the concept.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, too, supports FM chips in cellphones for WEA alerts. We reported at the November monthly meeting when the commissioners were discussing WEA, she said “We can strengthen our security even further by having active FM chips in our Smartphones. There are market developments right now that are making these chips more available and we should encourage these industry discussions to continue.”