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Senate Committee Passes Bill to Modernize IPAWS

BWWG urges support of public warning improvement

The Broadcast Warning Working Group is urging broadcasters and others involved in EAS to support a public warning improvement bill — the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2015.

The measure (S. 1180) introduced by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.), will ensure that warnings about natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other disasters or threats are disseminated quickly and effectively “across all viable communications platforms, present and future,” according to the BWWG.

The measure passed the committee today. The bill also includes the capability to alert those with disabilities and those who have limited English proficiency.

NAB EVP Communications Dennis Wharton said “NAB applauds the committee for advancing this important legislation modernizing America’s public alert warning system. Radio and television broadcasters play a crucial role as ‘first informers,’” providing local communities with up-to-the-second information when disaster strikes.”

“This legislation is a first step to the United States having a true, real and comprehensive public warning policy called for by the Partnership for Public Warning in 2002 following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Enhanced and timely protective actions, reassurance and information could have been issued to the general public on that tragic day had such a national warning policy been in place,” says the BWWG.

The bill calls for the establishment of a training program to instruct federal, state and local government officials on how to use the Integrated Public Alert Warning System. Such training is “vital” to a successful national public alert and warning system, according to BWWG.

The Senate measure mirrors companion legislation recently passed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. The House version of the IPAWS Modernization Act (H.R. 1472), introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), would authorize the appropriation of $12.8 million per year from 2016 to 2018 for the Department of Homeland Security to modernize and implement IPAWS. That’s roughly the same amount of funding allocated for this activity in recent years, according to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

In a letter to EAS participants, BWWG’s Richard Rudman urges stations, local emergency management agencies and public safety organizations to write their legislators in support of the bills.