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Tuesday, 14 November 2017 15:47

California Wildfires Highlighted the Need to Modernize Emergency Alerts

(TNS) –– Federal authorities knew technology used to broadcast official emergency warnings from cell towers was outdated years before deadly fires ignited last month in Sonoma County and throughout Northern California, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee for their lives, many with no warning.

Messages were too short, didn’t support web links and had the potential to be broadcast too widely, according to Federal Communication Commission members charged with regulating how cellphone companies issue government warnings. The commission in 2015 began a formal process to update the requirements and bring warning capabilities into step with technological advancements, but implementation was delayed by industry objections.

Sonoma County officials have cited those issues as factors in their controversial decision not to use the Amber Alert-type broadcasts to warn people about approaching fires that erupted Oct. 8 and ultimately burned across 174 square miles in the county, killing 23 people and destroying more than 5,100 homes.

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http://www.govtech.com/public-safety/California-Wildfires-Highlighted-the-Need-to-Modernize-Emergency-Alerts.html