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Emergency Alerting Could See Renewed Government Attention

Presidential order creates federal committee to make recommendations on communications improvements that’s likely to include alerts

An executive order by the president could bring a renewed focus to emergency alerting.

That’s according to SRA’s Daniel Honker, who writes on the Alerts, Warnings, & Response to Emergencies blog that President Obama signed an executive order July 7 intended to boost the resiliency of emergency communications during emergencies.

The order establishes that the federal government must be able to communicate with the public, other agencies, other levels of government and businesses “at all times and under all circumstances,” notes Honker.

It also sets up a committee comprised of federal officials from across government agencies to make recommendations on how to improve the resilience of communications and national security during emergencies.

Alerts and warnings or the possibility of embedding FM chips in mobile devices are not spelled out in the order, however these issues, as well as Commercial Mobile Alert Service or CMAS, the new 90-character text messaging alerting service launched by the wireless industry, should be of interest to the group.

However the recent East Coast storms that knocked out power and cell towers highlight CMAS vulnerability. Network failure caused by downed cell towers or poor coverage would keep a CMAS message from reaching citizens, according to Honker. “This is where the committee could focus on future alerting systems that don’t require as much infrastructure,” he writes.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski confirmed to lawmakers this week at a House Commerce subcommittee hearing on technology that the commission is looking into what happened to communications during and after the storms. New FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Last week in Washington we were reminded how vulnerable we are without access to communications,” noting the power outages brought life “as we know it” to a halt.

The chairman has also organized a meeting for July 20 between broadcasters and members of the wireless industry to discuss the FM chip issue, we’ve reported.