FCC to Revamp Federal Wireless Emergency Alert System After Chelsea Bombing

October 4, 2016 Updated: October 4, 2016

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to revamp and modernize its Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. Sen. Schumer announced on Sept. 29 that after his push the FCC agreed to the system upgrade. The senator’s dissatisfaction came after the WEA was used to send a message to cellphone users in New York City alerting them of bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami. A message was sent to many in New York City utilizing the service’s 90-character limit and without any link to a photo or embedded media. People who received the alert still had to search online for a photo and more information.

The FCC has already proposed increasing the character limit to 360, including embedded phone numbers and links, creating a new class of alerts for more specific advisories, improving geographic targeting, making training and testing easier for state and local authorities, and working toward the future inclusion of photos. 

Under Schumer’s pressure, the FCC will now implement the proposed changes.

“This new revamp means our Wireless Emergency Alert system will finally be as smart as our phones, as it will be able to deliver multimedia messages that may contain information that can save lives. The Chelsea terror threat highlighted a major weakness in our Wireless Emergency Alert system when millions of New Yorkers were left with no other option but to ‘google’ for more information. I am pleased that the FCC has heeded my call by quickly updating our emergency alert system by increasing the number of maximum characters permitted and allowing for URLs to be embedded that will make it easier for cellphone users to quickly access critical photos in a high-alert situation,” said Schumer via a press release.

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