Senate Passes Emergency Warning Update Bill

The Senate has passed S. 1180, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Modernization Act of 2015.

The bill would expand and update IPAWS, which can deliver alerts to multiple platforms (TV, radio, cell phones, computers, home phones and electronic billboards), boost training and increase collaboration. It was co-sponsored by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Congress has long been working on improving emergency alerts via the broadcast and cable Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and FEMA's IPAWS system. There is also a House version of the bill.

IPAWS allows emergency authorities to write their own messages, authenticates them and delivers them to the various platforms, including TV and radio stations and cable systems.

"NAB applauds the Senate's bipartisan passage of this important legislation modernizing our public alert warning system. As America's hometown 'first informers,' radio and television broadcasters know the crucial need for up-to-the-second information that can keep lives and property safe," National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "We thank Sens. Johnson and McCaskill for their leadership on this issue and look forward to working with stakeholders to ensure all Americans have access to emergency alerts."

“CTIA congratulates Senators Johnson and McCaskill on the Senate passage of the Integrated Public Alert Warning System Modernization Act," said Jot Carpenter, VP of government affairs for CTIA: The Wireless Association. "The bill’s unanimous approval is a testament to their thoughtful, bipartisan approach. CTIA greatly appreciates Senator Johnson’s and Senator McCaskill’s willingness to structure their bill in a way that preserves the successful Wireless Emergency Alert system that has been used to notify the public of imminent threats and Amber alerts more than 11,000 times since it went live in 2012.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.