- Here in the US, we sometimes receive FCC sanctioned phone alerts about national issues or location-specific issues, such as missing children.
- The FCC will change this alert system in a number of ways, including pushing some alerts that do not allow an opt-out.
- The changes are a direct result of an erroneous warning from 2018 that said a ballistic missile was heading for Hawaii.
You may not remember a specific case, but pretty much every smartphone owner in the United States can remember receiving an insanely loud national or nationwide warning on their phone. The last I can remember was for a kidnapped child who was recently seen in my town. My phone sounded like a police siren.
These phone alerts are known as wireless emergency alerts. As with all other communications systems in the United States, the FCC monitors this system.
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The problem, however, is that each state controls its own alerts in its own way. In addition, there are federally controlled warnings. With so many cooks in the kitchen, problems are inevitable, so to speak. We saw one such example in 2018 when people across the country received an erroneous phone alert warning of an impending ballistic missile attack in Hawaii. The warning even said, “This is not an exercise,” which clearly caused widespread panic.
This warning was the result of a misunderstanding by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (there was no missile). This major flaw is one of the main reasons the FCC believes the entire system needs an overhaul.
Phone notifications: what’s changing?
In a document released this week (via SlashGear) the FCC outlined some proposed changes it would like to make. The biggest change would be to combine the President’s current warnings with warnings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The new combined category would be known as National Alerts. You cannot unsubscribe from current Presidential Alerts, nor can you unsubscribe from National Alerts.
The FCC also has plans to “encourage” states to create state emergency communications committees. These committees would oversee the phone alerts for that particular state and give the FCC the ability to communicate directly with a group that has control over the alerts.
Overall, the changes in the document are intended to reduce the likelihood that a situation will recur in Hawaii. At the same time, it tries to rule warnings to keep people from getting too many of them. Otherwise, their impact will not be so great.
The FCC seeks opinions on the proposal before making it a requirement.