FCC Updates Rules on Wireless Emergency Alerts

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The FCC announced the adoption of rules to update and strengthen Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). WEA is a system that delivers critical warnings and information to wireless phones. The updated rules are intended to promote the wider use and effectiveness of WEA, especially for state and local authorities to convey important information to their communities. Since started in 2012, WEA have been used to provide the public information about severe weather, missing children, and other emergencies through alerts to their wireless phones. After four years of real-world experience and technological advancements, the FCC now updates its rules to improve message content, ensure that messages reach only people for whom an alert is relevant, and establish a WEA testing program to improve the effectiveness for public safety officials and the public. Specifically, the updated rules, among other things, increase the length of WEA messages, require wireless providers to support inclusion of embedded phone numbers and URLs in WEA alerts, including links to photos in AMBER alerts, create a new class of Public Safety Message alerts to convey essential actions that can save lives, and require participating wireless providers to support Spanish-language alerts. The FCC also proposes and requests comments on the best manner to achieve these improvements in Public Safety Messages and provide emergency managers with the ability to send multilingual alert content (in addition to Spanish).

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