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Nebraska SECC Chair: Handle Blue Alerts Differently

Zeigler says treat them more like Silver Alerts

Rodney Zeigler

Should Blue Alerts be part of the EAS “alert table”? Some say that’s not necessary. The comments below are by Rodney Zeigler, director of engineering for Nebraska Rural Radio Association, who filed a version of this text with the FCC. He is chairman of Nebraska’s State Emergency Communications Committee and executive director of the National Emergency Broadcast Association, formerly the Primary Entry Point Advisory Council.

I see the inclusion of Blue Alerts in the alert table of the Emergency Alert System as unnecessary.

AMBER alerts were conceived almost 20 years ago in response to a perceived need to alert the public to children in danger, and they have done a good job in recovering these children and apprehending their captors. AMBER alerts are in the EAS alert table (CAE), and AMBER alerting works well.

Silver Alerts are being used in many jurisdictions to request assistance from the public for recovery of older citizens who are lost. Silver Alerts are not in the EAS alert table but rather a non-EAS public alerting category; they have been used successfully to alert the public.

Blue Alerts, like Silver, need not be in the EAS alert table to be effective. They can be used by the media to categorize an alert, or they could be used as a headline in an EAS or WEA alert using one of the existing EAS alert categories.

Adding Blue Alerts to the EAS alert table opens the door to more “color” alerts being created until we have added any number of special interest alerts, as has been discussed in various EAS forums. Another concern with “color” alerts is the public confusion and eventual dismissal associated with a plethora of alerts. This is sure to happen once “color” has been expanded in the EAS alert table.

To be clear, I am not against alerting to aid law enforcement and other first responders; I am a former volunteer assistant fire chief and fire investigator, my wife is a former EMT and EMT training officer, our oldest son is a former EMT who worked in less than safe districts in an urban environment. Another son is a police detective, another son is a sheriff’s deputy, our daughter is a dispatch supervisor for law enforcement and first responders, and our son-in-law is a corrections officer. Public service runs wide and deep in our family.

But while the idea has good intentions, it sets a bad precedent with many possible unfavorable consequences.