by Catherine Brinkman

Tuesday, October 17 California US Senators Harris and Feinstein approached FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, about the capability of the nation’s Wireless Emergency Alert System.

The senators wrote ““Recent news reports have indicated that emergency services in Northern California were not able to transmit lifesaving WEA messages, because of significant technical deficiencies in the WEA system.  Specifically, because the WEA system does not enable precise geotargeting—a feature that has been standard in mobile applications for years—emergency services cannot send an evacuation message without reaching a large number of unaffected residents. These emergency services are caught in a bind between notifying individuals in imminent danger and risking mass panic. As a result, these services are compelled to rely on emergency messaging systems with far less reach and far less capacity.”

Residents affected by the Tubb’s fire attest that many never got any kind of notification that the fire was approaching. The few that did get a (review)reverse 911 call were already well on their way out of the area or starting to pack up their car due to the heavy smoke or the fire was already around them.

Santa Rosa resident Eric Njenga listens as Senator Kamala Harris speaks during a Sonoma County Fire

The Senators are asking the FCC to reach out and get feedback from other areas affected by natural disasters, referring to those that suffered from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose. Senators asked Chairman Pai if feedback had been requested and if not, will the FCC be seeking feedback.

Senators Harris and Feinstein requested that the FCC Chairman respond to their inquiry of the current WEA system by October 24, 2017. House Majority Leader, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, from California’s 23rd congressional district has not commented on this inquiry.

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