WASHINGTON, DC – The Communications and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), today held a hearing examining the country’s emergency alerting systems.
#SubCommTech examined technological developments and how they relate to the future of emergency alerting. Members considered the possibilities and challenges related to new methods of alerting the public of impending severe weather, natural disasters, and other emergency situations.
#SubCommTech Chair Blackburn listens to opening statements
“Outfitting first responders with the robust capabilities of broadband communications is essential,” said Chairman Blackburn. “In those times when catastrophe looms and the lives of hundreds, thousands, even millions – are at risk or a child is missing, the necessity of ensuring the best available tools are available to local, state, and federal authorities to alert the public cannot be understated.”
Witnesses deliver testimony during today’s hearing
Christopher Guttman-McCabe, CEO of CGM Advisors, LLC, and testifying on behalf of Advanced Computer and Communications, LLC, discussed software that allows for targeted delivery of emergency alerts. Mr. Guttman-McCabe commented, “The solution allows alert originators and wireless providers to geo-fence messages to any shape and size. As a device-based upgrade, the PG Alert solution leverages the key components of cell broadcast technology to push information into the general alert area and the device’s location awareness to decide who the alert is relevant for and how the alert is displayed on the device.”
Dr. Farrokh Khatibi, Director of Engineering at Qualcomm Technology, spoke of the work the wireless industry has done to enhance emergency alerting capabilities, stating, “For example, after careful coordination with alert originators and our federal partners, the wireless industry is taking steps to offer capabilities that will: extend the alert message length from 90 to 360 characters for 4G LTE; improve geographical-targeting; Include embedded references (URLS and phone numbers) in WEA messages; Add a new alert category of Public Safety Information messages; Add Spanish language alerts; Provide state/local alert originators the ability to conduct individual tests of the WEA system in their jurisdictions.”
Sam Matheny, Chief Technology Officer at the National Association of Broadcasters, discussed the important role broadcasters play in times of emergency, commenting, “Broadcasters invest heavily to ensure they remain on the air in times of disaster… Because of the strength of the broadcast infrastructure and the power of the airwaves, local radio and TV stations are often the only available communications medium during disaster situations…Broadcasters are willing and ready to make the necessary investments in our infrastructure to provide what we believe will be truly groundbreaking improvements to free, over-the-air television for the benefit of viewers across the country.”
“This committee’s commitment to advancing public safety communications is well established. The committee examined Next Generation 911 services and listened to testimony regarding challenges and benefits of bringing the robust capabilities of IP-based technology to our nation’s Public Safety Answering Points. Today’s hearing provided us the opportunity to hear about a third critical component of public safety communications – emergency alerting,” concluded Chairman Blackburn.
A background memo, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the hearing can be found online HERE.