FCC Head Seeks Info on Multilingual Wireless Emergency Alerts

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel today sent letters to the nation’s nine largest providers of Wireless Emergency Alerts seeking information on how these alerts can start to support more languages beyond English and Spanish.

WEA messages provide geographically targeted, text-like messages to mobile devices alerting consumers of imminent threats to safety in their area. Since the program became operational in 2012, it has been used more than 70,000 times to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, or other critical situations. Today, WEA supports only alerts in English and Spanish.

“Mobile phones are central to our lives—they are with us all the time and they have become a fundamental part of public safety communications,” Rosenworcel said. “Today, Wireless Emergency Alerts supports messages only in English and Spanish. That means many non-English speakers in the United States continue to lack crucial information about imminent dangers and other emergencies. I believe that language should not be a barrier to getting critical information that could save lives. I also want to thank New York Attorney General Letitia James for her attention to this important issue.”

Today’s letter is the latest in a series of efforts the Commission has undertaken to strengthen Wireless Emergency Alerts, the FCC says.

Within the past year, the Commission has proposed rules to bolster the operational readiness and security of both the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts; and proposed rules to require wireless providers that participate in Wireless Emergency Alerts to publicly report on the reliability, speed, and accuracy of these messages, which would provide emergency management agencies with visibility into how the service performs in their communities.

The Commission has also entered into first-ever partnerships with dozens of state and local government agencies to assess the geographic accuracy of Wireless Emergency Alerts in areas across the country during local tests in English and Spanish.

The letters are available here: https://www.fcc.gov/chairwoman-seeks-information-multilingual-wireless-emergency-alerts.

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