From Galain President Rick Wimberly’s Blog “Alerts and Notifications: Best Practices For Emergency Notification Programs”

in Emergency Management Magazine

Public education about the national cell broadcast alert system, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), has been slow. Although mobile devices that transmit the alerts are ubiquitous, we think it’s fair to say that most people in the U.S. don’t know much about the alert system.

To help facilitate broadcast campaigns about WEA, the FCC has extended permission for WEA tones to be used in public awareness announcements on radio and TV. The tones are very similar to the special tones used for the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and it’s been a long-standing FCC rule that those tones may be used for no purpose other than actual EAS alerts.

The FCC issued a waiver to the rule about a year ago and provided the promotional announcements to make it clear that the tones do not indicate an actual emergency. The waiver was set to expire at the end of May. However, the FCC has extended the waiver for another 18 months, citing “negative media coverage” and requests from some in the public to turn the alerts off. Thus, the campaigns with the tones may continue without violating FCC rules.

Although The Ad Council has made public service announcements (PSAs) promoting WEA available to broadcasters, there’s no way to know how often they’ve been aired. We’ve heard some broadcasters grumble about WEA, saying the system competes with EAS.

The Galain website has a webcast about why and how broadcasters can work with WEA. It was presented by FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, Ohio Association of Broadcasters, the Mass Communications School at Middle Tennessee State University and Galain. It wouldn’t hurt to share the webcast with your local broadcasters.