FCC Tweaks Wireless Emergency Alert System

tornado emergency alert system

The Wireless Emergency Alert System, first implemented by the FCC in 2012, has been an incredible advancement as it relates to emergency preparedness.  These alerts send warnings to smart phones covering everything from Amber alerts to escaped prisoners to catastrophic weather.  However, although these alerts have been effective for reaching masses of people very quickly, they have had some limitations.  The good news is that the FCC is now taking steps to remove these limitations.

Changes to the Wireless Emergency Alert System

Previously, every wireless emergency alert was subjected to a 90-character limitation.  They were also unable to support images, were only offered in English, and could only be deployed to overly-wide geographical areas.  But now these limitations have been lifted.

Each alert can now span up to 360 characters on 4G wireless networks. They can now include links so that images are just a click away.  In addition, Spanish-language alerts are now supported, and geographical targeting is able to be much more refined.

In the near future, the FCC is planning to make even more enhancements to the wireless emergency alert system, such as expanding language capability beyond English and Spanish, further refining geo-targeting functionality, and including thumbnail images within the alerts instead of just links.

How this Helps Utility Emergency Preparedness

By refining geographic targeting capability, the concept of ‘warning fatigue’ can be avoided.  Going forward, people will be less likely to ignore emergency alerts because they will only receive highly relevant ones, thereby improving the overall level of preparedness across the local population.

Also, a more effective wireless emergency alert system will help ensure that people have a better understanding of the magnitude of the issue at hand, and can hunker down appropriately, which means utility line crews will encounter fewer vehicles stranded on the roadways, and the local population in general will be safer.

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