FEMA to Assume Aggregator/Gateway Role for Nationwide Cell Phone Alert System

Federal Emergency Management Agency | May 30, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that it will perform the unified aggregator/gateway role for the Commercial Mobile Alert System, mandated by the Warning Alert Response Network (WARN) Act. It is anticipated that the Alert Aggregator/Gateway system, which has not yet been designed or engineered, will be able to verify that federal, state and local emergency alerts are sent by 'authorized senders,' and then transmit the alerts to commercial mobile service providers, which will, in turn, send them to their cellular subscribers in specific geographic areas.

"FEMA supports the framework developed by the Federal Communications Commission for delivering cellular alerts and we have determined that we have both the necessary authorities and technical solutions to assume the responsibility as the federal cellular Alert Aggregator. We will work with DHS Science and Technology scientists to finalize the technical solutions and with the Federal Communications Commission as we make the Alert Aggregator operational," Maj. Gen. (Ret) Martha Rainville, assistant director of the National Continuity Programs Directorate, said. "We appreciate the FCC's collaboration with FEMA on developing the best solution for the cellular Alert Aggregator." System development and finding solutions to technical issues will be required in order to make the system work, including the development of technical specifications that will allow emergency alerts to override and preempt non-emergency traffic, Rainville said.

FEMA spelled out a number of conditions that it believes will create an environment in which it can successfully administer the Aggregator/Gateway system, as follows:

  • The federal Aggregator will interface with, but not interfere with, existing state and local alerting systems.
  • The states will be responsible for determining and identifying those persons who have the authority to send alerts for their specific jurisdictions.
  • The federal Aggregator system will be engineered with DHS/Science and Technology scientists.
 In a related matter, Rainville said that FEMA will announce its position on adopting the Common Alert Protocol (CAP) within the next 30 to 60 days.

"Arriving at standards and protocols that work for everyone is a complex and timely process, she said. "But FEMA is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency managers, nonprofit sector groups, and the FCC to develop CAP profiles that that will support the various alert and warning systems can be integrated into the various alert and warning systems and needed by the state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency managers to protect their residents.

Rainville added that FEMA is committed to further developing the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to allow for the integrated and interoperable use of modern technologies to deliver alerts and warnings to more people in more locations through more dissemination paths.

This year FEMA and its partners will add more PEP station coverage and roll out the State Digital Emergency Alert System to 13 states and one territory; Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Texas, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and an additional five states in FEMA Regions IV and VI.  Those under consideration are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.