On April 30, 2019, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (“Bureau”) released a Public Notice (“Notice”) advising Commercial Mobile Service Providers (“CMS Providers”) participating in Wireless Emergency Alerts (“WEA”) of their obligation to support WEA improvements by May 1, 2019 (PS Docket Nos. 15-91, 15-94).

As a reminder, CMS providers are required to support the following features by May 1:

  • Longer WEA messages (from 90 to 360 characters) for 4G LTE and future networks;
  • New class of “Public Safety Messages” to convey recommend actions for saving lives or property (e.g., emergency shelter locations after a disaster);
  • Spanish-language alert messages;
  • Presentation of WEA messages on the mobile device as soon as they are received; and
  • State/Local WEA tests, with the ability for consumers to opt in to receive such tests.

The Notice recognizes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”), which administers the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (“IPAWS”), has already informed the Bureau that IPAWS will not be ready to support these additional features until June 10, 2019. Regardless, participating CMS Providers are expected to have taken all necessary steps to ensure that their networks and deployed WEA-capable handsets are able to support these improvements by May 1, 2019.

The Notice also provides guidance for state and local originators on State/Local WEA Testing, reminding alert originators seeking to conduct end-to-end WEA tests that, prior to IPAWS readiness, State/Local tests must continue to use existing WEA message classifications to allow the alerts to be transmitted to the public. During this interim period, the Bureau extends the effective date of the obligation that entities request a waiver of the Commission’s rules to conduct end-to-end tests. Once IPAWS is ready to support these tests, State/Local tests may be conducted without a waiver. As a reminder, consumers must affirmatively opt in to receive State/Local WEA tests, and providers must clearly communicate that these messages are only tests.

Please contact us if you would like additional information.