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Using SMS to Support Law Enforcement and Emergency Response

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Overview Edit

In April 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules for the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), which will deliver emergency text messages to the public during emergencies and natural disasters,[1] and recommended that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) be the program's aggregator. The program was mandated by the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act (WARN Act) that was signed into law in 2006.[2] Under this law, the FCC was required to develop plans for a commercial mobile-alert system through which wireless carriers would voluntarily transmit text messages sent out by the government.

FCC Activities Edit

The FCC has divided the types of messages the government will send out to mobile-phone users into three broad categories:[3]

  • Presidential Alerts deal with national emergencies and will take precedence over any other impending alerts
  • Imminent Threat Alerts deal with emergencies that may pose an imminent risk to people’s lives or well-being.
  • Child Abduction Emergency/AMBER alerts will be related to missing or abducted children.

In addition, the FCC says that all subscribers with roaming agreements will receive timely alerts "provided the subscriber's mobile device is configured for and technically capable of receiving alert messages from the roamed upon network."[4]

The architecture adopted by the FCC calls for a centralized alert-aggregator where federal and state emergency-response agencies would send their warning messages to be authenticated and dispersed to the appropriate participating commercial mobile services. Noting FEMA’s role in developing the proposal for the adopted architecture, the FCC recommended the agency as its first choice to serve as the alert aggregator and FEMA has accepted that role.

The FCC has issued a Second Report and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking;[5] an Order on Reconsideration and Erratum;[6] and a Third Report and Order.[7]

Of particular note, in the Third Report and Order, the FCC —

  • adopted notification requirements for wireless providers that elect not to participate, or to participate only in part, with respect to new and existing subscribers;
  • adopted procedures by which wireless providers may elect to transmit emergency alerts and to withdraw such elections;
  • adopted a rule governing the provision of alert opt-out capabilities for subscribers;
  • allowed participating wireless providers to recover costs associated with the development and maintenance of equipment supporting the transmission of emergency alerts; and
  • adopted a compliance timeline under which participating wireless providers must begin CMAS deployment.

At this time, the technical standardization process at FEMA is not yet complete and CMAS is, therefore, not operational.

References Edit

  1. Federal Communications Commission, In the Matter of the Commercial Mobile Alert System, First Report and Order, FCC 08-99, PS Docket No. 07-287, Apr. 9, 2008 (full-text) ("Commercial Mobile Alert System, First Report and Order"). See also "FCC Adopts Rules for Delivery of Commerical Mobile Alerts to the Public During Emergencies" (FCC 08-99) (Apr. 9, 2008) (full-text). See also FCC Consumer Fact Sheet on CMAS (full-text).
  2. Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act, Title VI of the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006, Pub. L. No. 109-347, 120 Stat. 1884 (2006).
  3. Commercial Mobile Alert System, First Report and Order ¶¶26-32.
  4. Id. ¶79.
  5. Federal Communications Commission, In the Matter of the Commercial Mobile Alert System, Second Report and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 08-164, PS Docket No. 07-287 (July 8, 2008) (full-text).
  6. Federal Communications Commission, In the Matter of the Commercial Mobile Alert System, Order on Reconsideration and Erratum, FCC 08-166, PS Docket No. 07-287 (July 15, 2008) (full-text).
  7. Federal Communications Commission, In the Matter of the Commercial Mobile Alert System, Third Report and Order, FCC 08-184, PS Docket No. 07-287 (July 15, 2008) (full-text).

See also Edit

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