Sixteen AGs Sent Comments to FCC Calling for More Accessible Emergency Alerts

New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 16 attorneys general—along with the City of New York—in comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed rule to improve the accessibility of the Wireless Emergency Alert system. The system sends text-like alerts about extreme weather and other emergencies to all individuals within a geographically-relevant area who have opted in to the program. The AGs emphasized that as extreme weather events intensify and occur more frequently due to climate change, increasing the accessibility of these alerts is critical in “ensuring public safety and advancing environmental justice.” In their comments, the AGs explained their concerns with FCC’s methods for translating the alerts using machines rather than humans, which can lead to inaccuracies, which can be dangerous and even fatal in emergency situations. The AGs also called on FCC to expand the number of languages in which the alerts are made available (beyond the currently available 13), and to critically re-assess this list every few years using census data. Additionally, the AGs urged FCC to consider ways to make the alerts more accessible to people with disabilities through methods such as text-to-speech.