July 2, 2019 - 10:30 am
By Lisa M. Fowlkes | Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

If you are a state emergency manager, you know that the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts are critical tools for sending public safety messages to your communities— and that planning is key to using these systems effectively.  For example, your agency may have plans that detail the criteria that local jurisdictions should use for sending various types of emergency alerts, which personnel are authorized to send the alerts, and how to issue a correction if a false alert occurs.  But to prepare most successfully, are you coordinating with your State Emergency Communications Committee?

State Emergency Communications Committees, or SECCs, are volunteer non-governmental organizations that develop plans for administering the Emergency Alert System in each state.  Committee members usually represent broadcasters and other EAS participants, such as cable companies, but state and local government officials may take part as well.  Your perspective as an emergency manager responsible for how alerts are originated within your state is invaluable in ensuring that the EAS plan for your state meets the needs of your communities.

The state EAS plans developed by these committees are not limited to technical information about the EAS architecture.  For example, plans may describe the actions to be taken in your state to ensure that non-English-speaking populations have quick access to alert content during emergencies.  State EAS plans may also specify which types of alerts should be automatically forwarded to the public, which matters when seconds count.

Here’s another reason to know your State Emergency Communications Committee:  Last year, when the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released its investigative report on the false “ballistic missile” alert issued in Hawaii, we included recommendations to help emergency managers avoid similar false alerts in the future.  One of these recommendations was to consult with your State Emergency Communications Committee on a regular basis—at least annually—to ensure that EAS procedures, including initiation and cancellation of actual alerts and tests, are mutually understood, agreed upon, and documented in state EAS plans.

To learn more about the EAS plan and committee in your state, we have posted the plans that have been submitted to and approved by the FCC.  We are also taking this opportunity to strongly encourage State Emergency Communications Committees to review their plans at least annually and submit any updates to us.  These actions can help you keep your communities safe.