The proposed legislation was originally introduced in response to the false alert back in January of last year, where what was supposed to be a test of the Emergency Alert system resulted in a live message being sent. People on Hawaii were woken by a loud alert on their smartphones and a message saying that missiles were incoming.
A poor user-interface and a careless employee were blamed, but the false alarm also revealed another problem: many of those who should have been alerted weren’t. That’s one problem the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act wants to address.
“When a missile alert went out across Hawai‘i last year, some people never got the message on their phones, while others missed it on their TVs and radios. Even though it was a false alarm, the missile alert exposed real flaws in the way people receive emergency alerts,” said Senator Schatz, lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet. “Our bill fixes a number of important problems with the system responsible for delivering emergency alerts. In a real emergency, these alerts can save lives so we have to do everything we can to get it right.”
“South Dakotans understand how drastically the weather can change on a dime,” said Senator Thune, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet. “For that reason, among many others, this legislation would make necessary improvements to help keep South Dakotans and communities around the country safe in times of emergency. I want to thank Sen. Schatz for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him to move this bill forward.”
The READI Act proposes a number of changes, including repeated government Emergency Alerts on TV and radio rather than the current one-off broadcast. But a key one is recognizing that many people today don’t watch or listen to live broadcasts, instead relying on streaming services. So the Act seeks to ‘explore establishing a system to offer emergency alerts to audio and video online streaming services.’
The Act additionally seeks to prevent future false alerts.
Compel FEMA to create best practices for state, tribal, and local governments to use for issuing alerts, avoiding false alerts, and retracting false alerts if they occur, as well as for alert origination training and plans for officials to contact each other and federal officials during emergencies; and establish a reporting system for false alerts so the FCC can track when they occur and examine their causes.
The READI Act already has widespread support.
The READI Act is support by NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Internet Association, CTIA – The Wireless Association, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.
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