The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules to improve the accessibility and performance of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA); including expanding multilingual alerting and setting performance benchmarks.

According to an FCC press release, the proposed rules would help public safety officials “during emergencies provide all stakeholders, including the public, with more information on how WEA is performing in their area.”

Among the proposed rules would be the requirement that wireless providers ensure that mobile devices can translate alerts into the 13 most spoken languages in the United States aside from English. The FCC is also seeking insight into how WEA might support American Sign Language and text-to-speech.

The FCC also proposed establishing WEA reliability, accuracy, and speed benchmarks to improve performance. In addition, the commission proposed creating a WEA database and requiring participating wireless providers to supply information on whether they offer WEA, where they offer WEA, and which WEA-capable devices they sell, as well as information on their WEA reliability, accuracy, and speed.

The FCC also seeks comment on any alternative approaches to WEA performance reporting.

In addition, the commission wants to establish minimum performance requirements for WEA reliability, accuracy, and speed that participating wireless providers must satisfy.

The FCC also proposed to enable alert originators to send thumbnail-sized images in WEA messages – which would be particularly helpful in AMBER Alerts – as well as links to location-aware maps, which would enable the public to see where they are during an emergency.

Other proposed rules include:

  • Enable alert originators to send WEA messages without the attention signal, which may be useful in situations where a sound could give away the location of a person in hiding or cause annoyance that spurs consumers to opt out of WEA.
  • Provide the public with the option to receive alerts without the attention signal, which could also prevent unnecessary opt-outs.
  • Support WEA public awareness exercises by enabling alerting authorities to send two test alerts per year that the public receives by default.
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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.