Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) and Colleen Hanabusa (D., Hawaii) have introduced a bill that would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create best practices for state, tribal, and local governments to use for issuing emergency alerts, avoiding false alerts, and retracting false alerts if they occur.
The proposed Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act (HR 6427), which was introduced July 18 and which was referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s subcommittee on economic development, public buildings, and emergency management, would also direct FEMA to create best practices for alert origination training and to develop plans for officials to contact each other and federal officials during emergencies, according to a press release issued by Rep. Gabbard’s office today.
A false ballistic missile alert was sent in Hawaii in January over the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and by wireless emergency alert (WEA) by a shift warning officer at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) who thought the alert was real instead of only a test. It took the agency 38 minutes to send a corrected alert, although authorities used social media and the news media to get the word out earlier that the alert was not correct.
The READI Act would also “[e]stablish a reporting system for false alerts so the FCC can track when they occur and examine their causes,” according to the press release.
It would also “[e]nsure more people receive emergency alerts by eliminating the option to opt out of receiving certain critical federal alerts, including missile alerts, on mobile phones; [r]equire active alerts issued by the President or FEMA to be repeated. Currently, alerts on TV or radio may only be played once; [e]xplore establishing a system to offer emergency alerts to audio and video online streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify; [and e]ncourage State Emergency Communications Committees to periodically review and update their State Emergency Alert System Plans, which are often out of date.”
The bill would amend the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate, according to the press release. —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org