Equipping Mobile Phones with Broadcast Radio Capability for Emergency Preparedness

Issue
For decades, America's hometown television and radio broadcasters have served as first informers by using their reach, signal strength and newsgathering resources to deliver timely, accurate alerts and emergency warnings to the public. As the primary communications medium for keeping local communities safe and informed during times of emergencies, local broadcasters serve in an indispensable role as the backbone of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), now part of the Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS).

History
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed IPAWS to improve public safety through the rapid dissemination of emergency messages to as many people as possible over as many communications devices as possible. In addition to the Emergency Alert System, these communications include the National Warning System, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on mobile phones and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

NAB Position
Authorizing IPAWS into law will help ensure that all parts of the system - broadcast alerts, cell phone text messages and other communications pathways - will develop as an interoperable, unified and reliable system. Not only will this authorization allow Congress to exercise greater oversight and increase the certainty surrounding IPAWS, but it will also improve this critical program in two key ways:

  1. Create a National Advisory Committee on Emergency Alerting
    Authority for the Emergency Alert System is spread across multiple federal agencies with differing priorities, while the primary use of the system is by state and local officials. At present, there is no mechanism for system users and the message to collaborate on issues and address problems. Congress should create a national public warning working group or advisory committee and direct it to meet on a regular basis reporting back to Congress. This will ensure that the lines of communication remain open and that continuous system improvements can be discussed.
  2. Incorporate EAS Training for Local and State Public Safety Officials into the National Incident Management System (NIMS)
    The continued success of the Emergency Alert System will depend on the expertise and ability of local authorities to fully deploy it and act as a "civil authority" with full access to the system. Broadcasters applaud FEMA's ongoing efforts to train state and local authorities on the proper use of the system, and also support incentivizing state and local officials to participate in training, specifically by incorporating it into the NIMS. In this day and age, it is unacceptable that some local emergency managers remain unaware of the benefits of the Emergency Alert System, including how and when to trigger an EAS alert.

Action Needed
NAB supports the bipartisan versions of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1472, H.R. 1738, S. 1180) that would accomplish each of these goals. NAB urges Congress to pass legislation to authorize IPAWS and strengthen our nation's emergency alerting and public safety.

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