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IMPROVING WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERTS AND COMMUNITY-INITIATED ALERTING LIMITED WAIVER OF WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERT RULES

Adopted: May 1, 2018

Released: May 1, 2018

By the Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau:

I. INTRODUCTION

1. In this Order, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau) of the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) grants a limited waiver of the Commission’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) rules to permit Participating Commercial Mobile Service (CMS) Providers to participate in a test to be coordinated by the Vail Public Safety Communications Center in Colorado (VPSCC). This end-to-end WEA test will be conducted at 12:30 PM (MT) on May 2, 2018. According to the VPSCC Letter requesting the waiver, the WEA message will be broadcast only to mobile devices within the Town of Vail city limits.

II. BACKGROUND

2. The WEA system allows authorized government entities to send geographically-targeted emergency alerts to commercial wireless subscribers who have WEA-capable mobile devices, and whose commercial wireless service providers are Participating CMS Providers. Generally, use of the WEA system must conform to the requirements in part 10. For example, the WEA rules prohibit any person from transmitting or causing to transmit the Attention Signal, or a recording or simulation of it in any circumstance other than in an actual National, State or Local Area emergency or authorized test. Unauthorized use of the WEA Attention Signal is also prohibited under the Commission’s Emergency Alert System rules. Additionally, the Commission’s rules allow testing of WEA functionality only in limited circumstances that currently do not include end-to-end WEA tests to the public. On September 29, 2016, the Commission adopted a Report and Order that amends the WEA testing rules to permit emergency managers to conduct end-to-end WEA tests to the public to assess how WEA is working within their jurisdictions. The rules allowing such tests will not be effective until May 1, 2019.

3. The VPSCC Letter requests a limited waiver of the Commission’s rules on behalf of Participating CMS Providers to conduct a WEA test in the Town of Vail city limits in advance of the effective date of the rules adopted in the WEA R&O. The letter represents that the proposed WEA message will be: “EC EMO: TEST emergency message. Go to ec-e.org to provide feedback. No other action needed.”

4. The VPSCC Letter offers several reasons for conducting this WEA test now, rather than waiting until the May 1, 2019 effective date of the rules. It notes, among other things that the purpose of the proposed test is to “ensure that emergency management officials in Eagle County have a clear understanding of how alerts would perform in our mountainous area.” The letter further states that the test is necessary because Eagle County hosts a large number of tourists year-round, and many of them do not subscribe to the county’s emergency alert system; thus, WEA might be may be the only effective tool to reach them. The VPSCC Letter also states that Colorado will be facing drought conditions this summer, and it appears that there will be a higher than average chance for large wildfires in the area. The letter explains that, “WEA would be a vital tool in getting the word out to as many citizens and guests as possible in a timely manner.”

5. The VPSCC Letter describes its pre-test outreach and coordination plans. Specifically, it represents that there has been considerable public outreach via the Town of Vail website, Vail Police Department Facebook page, the Vail Police Department Twitter account, and the social media outlets of many agencies throughout Eagle County. The letter notes that there have been news ads in the local newspaper, and television interviews with local and regional outlets. According to the VPSCC Letter, neighboring 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) have been notified, and the Colorado Department of Transportation will display information about the test on their overhead variable message signs on the primary and major routes through Eagle County.  The letter commits to providing the Commission with the results of the survey that it will conduct to capture data about location reach, cell carrier, handset operating system, and general awareness of the test.

READ MORE HERE: IMPROVING WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERTS AND COMMUNITY-INITIATED ALERTING LIMITED WAIVER OF WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERT RULES

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