FCC Wants to Improve Emergency Alert System After That False Hawaii Missile Alert


Remember that false missile alert that shocked Hawaiians this January? It went something like this:


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now working to improve the country's Emergency Alert System to prevent these accidental false nuclear missile alarms.

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In a press release, the agency announced that the Commission has "set 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." This means that officials will get to tinker with the real thing and the public will also learn what to expect and how to respond if an actual emergency strikes.

The test text messages, however, will carry the important disclaimers to avoid creating any panic.

These tests 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.

Following false missile alert that panicked Hawaiians, FCC focuses on both effective emergency alerts and public awareness around these PSAs

The agency said that along with focusing on the training of authorized officials, it is also working on public awareness. FCC is now permitting authorized Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about the Emergency Alert System to include "Attention Signal," which is an attention-grabbing two-tone audio signal that precedes the actual message. Again, an appropriate disclaimer will be included in the PSA.

This overhaul has been expected since the Hawaii incident. In that case, the officials themselves had no clue; residents didn't know what to do, and it took over 38 minutes for state officials to issue a correction. At the time, the FCC had reported that "a combination of human error and inadequate safeguards contributed to the transmission of this false alert."

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While this new system should better train both the public and the officials about the emergency alert system, it also has the potential of causing alert fatigue. FCC said that it acknowledges concerns of alert fatigue or public confusion especially if "live code testing occurs too frequently, or without sufficient preparation." However, the agency expects that the "entity that plans and initiates" these alerts should reduce this concern of alert fatigue through "careful test planning."

- Earlier: Hawaii’s False Missile Emergency Alert Wasn’t Accidental – Employee Thought It Actually Wasn’t a Drill

Via: The Verge