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Emergency Alerts Upgraded to be More Specific, Relevant

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Dec 19, 2019, 12:51 PM   by Rich Brome

New FCC rules for Wireless Emergency Alerts take effect this month. The new rules are designed to make emergency alerts more specific, more relevant, and less annoying. Local officials can now conduct alert system tests at any time, but consumers are now opted out of such tests by default. Carriers are now required to deliver alerts with greater geographic accuracy (to within 1/10th of a mile of the target area). Emergency messages delivered to 4G and 5G phones can now be up to 360 characters — instead of the previous limit of 90 characters for 3G and older phones — and phones are required to keep recent alerts available to view for 24 hours. Officials also now have the option to send alerts in Spanish, which will automatically be delivered to phones set to the Spanish language in settings. There is also a new category of alert called Public Safety Messages, which is designed to provide actionable additional information related to a previous alert. For example, if an Imminent Threat alert was issued for a hurricane, a follow-up Public Safety Message might provide the locations of nearby shelters, or an advisement to boil tap water before drinking. Like most other alert types, users can opt out of Public Safety Messages. Another recent rule change allows emergency officials to add actionable links to alerts, which can be phone numbers or web addresses.


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