FCC Seeks Comments on Blue Alert EAS Event Codes

By the SBE EAS Advisory Group
Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair

In May 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that created a new kind of public emergency notification: the Blue Alert. It’s similar to the well-known Amber Alert for abducted children, but is meant to help catch people who credibly threaten or actually harm law enforcement officials. Presently a number of states have created a Blue Alert that is designed to go only via email, social media and/or website.

At the request of the Justice Department, the FCC is now considering creating a designated Blue Alert event code, that according to the DOJ would “facilitate and streamline the adoption of new Blue Alert plans throughout the nation and would help to integrate existing plans into a coordinated national framework.” The Commission has announced via a notice of proposed rulemaking that it will accept public comment on the proposed Blue Alert plan and its various elements. The comment period will run for 60 days.

The SBE EAS Advisory Group is presently monitoring this as it travels through the agency and the SBE will issue advisories to members on the status. As always, we encourage broadcasters to weigh in on the issue by using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System for docket PS 15-94. In the meantime, no technical action is required. Do not add the proposed event code yet, and continue to follow existing guidance in applicable state plans regarding any Blue Alert program that might be in effect in your area.

The SBE encourages stations to check with their state broadcaster associations and/or state emergency communication committese (SECC) to see if a Blue Alert program is in use for their state. A number of SBE members serve as chairs or board members of their SECCs. The SECCs will be tasked with formulating a plan for creation and distribution of the new Blue Alerts if adopted.

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