Emergency Repair: FCC Targets EAS


It looks like "duck and cover" emergency warnings aren't going to cut it anymore.

Timed appropriately, albeit coincidentally, to new terrorism alerts in New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, the Federal Communications Commission at its August meeting Wednesday will launch an inquiry into revamping the emergency-alert system.

The system, implemented in the 1950s during the Cold War, is derided by many as hopelessly out of date.

Broadcast stations transmit local weather and Amber alerts for missing children frequently on EAS, but the system has never been implemented for its primary mission, which was a means for the President to communicate with the American people in the wake of a cataclysmic national emergency such as a nuclear attack.

The usefulness of EAS as a more flexible system for communication and coordination in a world where the cataclysm could be the cumulative effect of repeated terrorist attacks was called into question in dramatic fashion in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Now the FCC wants input on making EAS more useful. Also, the FCC wants information on solving local jurisdictional fights currently preventing some local weather and Amber alerts from being transmitted across state lines.