Rep. Gabbard Calls on Congress to Pass READI Act
Following the test of the federal Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on Oct. 3, 2018, in Hawai‘i and across the country, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) called on Congress to immediately pass legislation she introduced on July 18 to improve delivery of emergency alerts.
The nationwide EAS system, operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), transmits critical information, updates and alerts in the event of emergencies and imminent threats to public safety.
The Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act (H.R. 6427) would expand access to emergency alerts on mobile phones, televisions and radios by eliminating the option to opt-out of emergency alerts.
The legislation would also explore new ways of alerting the public through online video and audio streaming services; create best practices for issuing alerts, avoiding false alerts, and retracting false alerts if they occur; and build the infrastructure to report and track false alerts.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
“Yesterday’s nationwide test of the emergency alert system was a powerful reminder of the fact that in a real emergency, we must ensure that every American receives accurate and timely information,” Rep. Gabbard said. “Our bicameral legislation will expand the ability to deliver emergency alerts, and explore tech, streaming, and other platforms to deliver emergency information. We must take these steps today—before a future disaster—to ensure the preparedness, safety and welfare of our people.”
The Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act of 2018 (H.R. 6427) would:
- Ensure more people receive emergency alerts by eliminating the option to opt out of receiving certain critical federal alerts, including missile alerts, on mobile phones;
- Require active alerts issued by the President or FEMA to be repeated. Currently, alerts on TV or radio may only be played once;
- Explore establishing a system to offer emergency alerts to audio and video online streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify;
- Encourage State Emergency Communications Committees to periodically review and update their State Emergency Alert System Plans, which are often out of date;
- Compel FEMA to create best practices for state, tribal, and local governments to use for issuing alerts, avoiding false alerts, and retracting false alerts if they occur, as well as for alert origination training and plans for officials to contact each other and federal officials during emergencies; and
- Establish a reporting system for false alerts so the FCC can track when they occur and examine their causes.
Rep. Gabbard has also introduced several measures following the false missile alert in Hawai‘i to identify mistakes, establish best practices, and strengthen the emergency alert protocols and civil defense procedures. The Civil Defense Accountability Act of 2018 (H.R. 4949) that would improve accountability by ensuring transparent investigations and disclosure into the incident and establish best practices to strengthen state and national preparedness and disaster communications plans, among other measures. The Civil Defense Preparedness Act of 2018 (H.R. 5399) would expand existing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) terrorism and catastrophic event grant programs to include improving nuclear, biological, and chemical attack preparedness. The Authenticating Local Emergencies and Real Threats (ALERT) Act of 2018 (H.R. 4965) would improve the emergency alert system and give the federal government the primary responsibility of alerting the public of a missile threat.