Sens Schatz, Harris, and Gardner Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve the Emergency Alert System

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Following the false emergency alert that went out across Hawai‘i on January 13 and caused widespread panic, Sens Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Authenticating Local Emergencies and Real Threats (ALERT) Act, legislation that would improve the emergency alert system and give the federal government the sole responsibility of alerting the public of a missile threat, prohibiting state and local governments from doing so.  The Schatz-Harris-Gardner legislation would strengthen the way states and local governments use the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), the FEMA platform emergency management professionals across the country use to issue warnings. The ALERT Act would:

  • Restrict the authority to alert the public of a missile threat to the Federal government.  It would also require FEMA to establish a process to promptly notify state authorities when a missile alert is issued so they can activate their own protective action plans to ensure public safety
  • Require the IPAWS subcommittee of the FEMA National Advisory Council to make recommendations on the best practices that state and local governments should follow to maintain the integrity of IPAWS.  At a minimum, the subcommittee would make recommendations regarding the incident management tools used to originate alerts, and the procedures for testing and sending notifications to the public to avoid false alarms
  • Require FEMA to establish minimum requirements for state and local governments to participate in IPAWS within 120 days of receiving the subcommittee’s recommendations.  States would have reasonable time to implement any new requirements FEMA imposes
  • Require FEMA to establish a process to test the incident management and warning tool that a state or local government adopts to originate and send alerts to the public in the FEMA IPAWS Lab and to certify it meets any technical requirements that FEMA adopts
  • Require FEMA to review its Emergency Operations, National Watch and Regional Watch Centers to assess their ability to track state and local alerts issued under IPAWS and determine which ones they should be notified about when states send them out.

Sens Schatz, Harris, and Gardner Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve the Emergency Alert System