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FCC: Wireless Alerts Can be COVID-19 'Stay Home' Alerts

Now Hear This! The FCC isn't telling public safety agencies to use their Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system to send smart-phone alerts about social distancing, but it wants to remind them that they can do so if they choose. 

In a public notice Thursday (April 2), the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) reminded them that, thanks to recent FCC actions, they can send detailed alerts of up to 360 characters to recommend actions to save life and property "e.g., a reminder to stay at home due to COVID-19" as well as for the imminent threat messages most associated with wireless emergency alerts--like Amber Alerts. 

In addition to imminent threats, the Amber alerts and presidential alerts in national emergencies, the system cal also be used for "public safety alerts that are less severe in nature than Imminent Threat Alerts," though arguably the virus also qualifies as an imminent threat to those who don't keep their social distance. 

The FCC also pointed to FEMA guidance (on its web site) on how the alerts can be leveraged in the pandemic.  

According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, as of Wednesday (April 1), "more than 100 COVID-related WEAs have already been issued by approved alert originators."