Amber Alerts are about to get more detailed.
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday adopted new rules to strengthen the Wireless Emergency Alerts system that delivers critical warnings and information to Americans on their wireless phones. The system sends Amber Alerts for missing children, as well as weather alerts and other emergencies.
Under the new rules, WEA alerts for 4G LTE and future wireless networks can now be 360 characters long, up from 90 characters under the old parameters. The FCC also will require participating wireless providers to support embedded phone numbers and URLs in all alerts, which allows the public to click to see a photo of a missing child or call the police.
The FCC also will make wireless providers deliver alerts to more granular geographic areas so you only get notices relevant to your location. And it also has created a new class of alerts, called Public Safety Messages, to share information that can save lives or property, such as emergency shelter locations or orders to not drink tap water without boiling it first. Wireless providers also have to support Spanish-language alerts.
The WEA system first became available on smartphones in 2012 with severe weather alerts. When receiving an alert, the phone emits a high-pitched noise and flashes a message on the screen, describing what emergency is happening. Because the alert system is on phones, the signals are triangulated so that weather alerts will be localized.