FCC Proposes Creating Blue Alert EAS Code

The FCC unanimously adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking today proposing to amend its Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules to add the event code “BLU” for Blue Alerts. The new alert would enable the dissemination of information when law enforcement officers have been killed or seriously injured, are in imminent danger, or are missing. A fact sheet on the item, which was adopted in PS docket 15-94, noted that it would (1) “[s]eek comment on whether the EAS is an effective means of delivering Blue Alerts”; (2) “[s]eek comment on whether a dedicated Blue Alert EAS event code would facilitate the implementation of Blue Alerts in a compatible and uniform manner nationwide”; (3) “[s]eek comment on whether existing EAS event codes are sufficient to convey Blue Alert information”; (4) “[s]eek comment on whether, and if so how, adopting a Blue Alert EAS event code would impact Wireless Emergency Alerts”; and (5) “[s]eek comment on whether a dedicated Blue Alert EAS event code would increase public recognition of Blue Alerts.”

The text of the NPRM was released late this afternoon. Comments are due 30 days after “Federal Register” publication and replies are due 30 days after that. Last month, the Justice Department announced the launch of the National Blue Alert Network, which implements legislation signed into law in 2015 (TR Daily, May 19). Twenty-seven states currently have their own Blue Alert plans.

“While some states have individual Blue Alert programs that use various methods to issue these warnings, the proposal is intended to support the development of a national framework that states can adopt,” the FCC said in a news release.

“I can’t think of a better way to start off Public Safety Month here at the FCC than by considering federal action on Blue Alerts,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This is important because it will help to facilitate and streamline both new and existing Blue Alert plans into a coordinated national framework across all states.  This framework is consistent with the Blue Alert Act, which was enacted to encourage, enhance, and integrate the formation of voluntary Blue Alert plans throughout the United States.”

“During life-threatening and dangerous situations, our nation’s law enforcement officers put their lives on the line,” said Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn. “We appreciate those who have taken the oath to serve and protect our communities and understand that the job they perform each and every day is not an easy one. These brave men and women are asked to make rapid, life-altering decisions that can determine whether or not they get to go home to their families at the end of the day. We owe it to those officers who take and abide by that sacred oath to protect and serve, to uphold our public safety obligation of ensuring that those essential lines of communications, operate in a uniform and consistent manner.”

Commissioner Mike O’Rielly also expressed support for the NPRM, noting that it would be up to local authorities whether to send Blue Alerts. “While some localities have used other codes for such purposes, it is a helpful exercise to understand whether a new code is needed and the potential benefits of a nationwide code,” he said. “Ultimately, when, where, and how to use this code would be up to the discretion of local law enforcement agencies.  They will have to make the ultimate judgment call about whether releasing such information is likely to facilitate their efforts.  To the extent that America’s law enforcement officials find this helpful, I am supportive and look forward to engaging with them on this issue.”- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily