PDF _ RL32527 - The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and All-Hazard Warnings
25-Aug-2008; Linda K. Moore; 17 p.

Update: Previous Editions:
July 17, 2006
September 13, 2006


Abstract: The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is built on a structure conceived in the 1950’s when over-the-air broadcasting was the best-available technology for widely disseminating emergency alerts. It is one of several federally managed warning systems. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) jointly administers EAS with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in cooperation with the National Weather Service (NWS), an organization within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA/NWS weather radio system has been upgraded to an all-hazard warning capability. Measures to improve the NOAA network and the new Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS) are ongoing. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), working with the Association of Public Television Stations, is implementing a program that will disseminate national alert messages over digital broadcast airwaves, using satellite and public TV broadcast towers. This program, referred to as the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), is part of the Department’s response to an Executive Order requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to meet specific requirements for an alert system as part of U.S. policy.

Legislation was passed at the end of the 109th Congress (the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act, or WARN Act, as signed into law as Title VI of P.L. 109- 347) to assure funding to public televison stations to install digital equipment to handle national alerts. The law also required the establishment of a committee to provide the FCC with recommendations regarding the transmittal of emergency alerts by commercial mobile service providers to their subscribers. Committee recommendations provided the structure for a Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). In addition to presidential alerts, which clearly are a federal responsibility, the service would transmit emergency alerts generated by state, local, and other nonfederal authorities.

In the 110th Congress, S. 1223 (Senator Landrieu) and its companion bill, H.R. 2331 (Representative Melancon), would authorize funds to strengthen the radio broadcasting infrastructure that supports the Emergency Alert System. It would also provide for a pilot Broadcast Disaster Preparedness Grant Program. H.R. 2787 (Representative Ellsworth) would require the installation of weather radios in new manufactured (mobile) homes. H.R. 2787, known as CJ’s Law, was passed by the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. Three bills would place statutory requirements on the development of IPAWS and would authorize funding to implement the program and conduct pilot tests. These are the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2008 (H.R. 6038, Graves); the Alerting Lives Through Effective and Reliable Technological Systems (ALERTS) Act (H.R. 6392, Cuellar), which also addresses federal participation in operating parts of the CMAS alerting capability; and the Disaster Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Enhancement ACT (H.R. 6658, Oberstar). H.R. 6658 contains provisions covering a wide range of FEMA activities; in addition to reiterating the IPAWS provisions of H.R. 6038, the bill would create an advisory committee to make recommendations to FEMA concerning IPAWS and report to Congress on the committee’s actions.

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Topics: Federal Agencies, Risk & Reform

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