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FCC Green Lights EAS Blue Alerts

Law enforcement officer-oriented messages to be options for EAS and wireless distribution

WASHINGTON � A new alert code has been added to the nation�s emergency alert system.

At its December Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission moved to amend the EAS rules by adding a new event code � a Blue Alert � that can be sent over the EAS and the Wireless Emergency Alert system. The alerts are designed to be used by state and local authorities to notify the public of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.

Blue Alerts are designed to warn the public when there is information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is a threat to an officer. At the meeting, the commissioners welcomed the family members and colleagues of two New York City Police detectives who were killed in the line of duty in 2014, officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. These new codes are being in put in place to help protect officers in future, Chairman Ajit Pai said.

�We owe [these detectives] and their brave family members who come here today a tremendous debt of gratitude,� Pai said. �We cannot begin to fathom your pain, but we can honor your sacrifice. And the FCC attempts to do that today by adopting rules that police officers across America and the communities they so proudly serve will be better protected.�

Under the adopted order, state and local agencies have the option to send warnings to the public via EAS broadcast or through the Wireless Emergency Alert system to consumers� wireless phones. As with AMBER Alerts and weather alerts, usage of this code will be voluntary on a case by case basis.

The order provides a 12-month implementation period for Blue Alerts to be delivered over the Emergency Alert System and 18 months for delivery over the Wireless Emergency Alert system.

At the meeting, Chairman Pai and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Michael O�Rielly, and Brendan Carr approved the order, while Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel approved in part and dissented in part. While Rosenworcel said this code has the potential to save lives and increase situational awareness for first responders, she objected at the way in which the commission evaluated the merits of the Blue Alerts, pointing to the cost/benefit analysis set up.

�[T]his cold calculus is neither needed or smart,� she said of the way in which the commission weighed the cost-of-industry compliance against the value of an officer�s life. �There�s a way to do cost-benefit analysis thoughtfully.�