Text: H.R.5556 — 109th Congress (2005-2006)All Bill Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (06/08/2006)


109th CONGRESS
2d Session
H. R. 5556

To establish a unified national hazard alert system, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
June 8, 2006

Mr. Shimkus (for himself, Mr. Wynn, Mrs. Bono, Mr. English of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Melancon) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Science, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To establish a unified national hazard alert system, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act”.

SEC. 2. National Alert System.

(a) Establishment.—There is established a voluntary National Alert System to provide a public communications system capable of alerting the public on a national, regional, or local basis to emergency situations requiring a public response.

(b) Functions.—The National Alert System—

(1) will enable any Federal, State, tribal, or local government official with credentials issued by the National Alert Office under section 103 to alert the public to any imminent threat that presents a significant risk of injury or death to the public;

(2) will be coordinated with and supplement existing Federal, State, tribal, and local emergency warning and alert systems;

(3) will be flexible enough in its application to permit narrowly targeted alerts in circumstances in which only a small geographic area is exposed or potentially exposed to the threat; and

(4) will transmit alerts across the greatest possible variety of communications technologies, including digital and analog broadcasts, cable and satellite television, satellite and terrestrial radio, wireless communications, wireline communications, and the Internet to reach the largest portion of the affected population.

(c) Capabilities.—The National Alert System—

(1) shall incorporate multiple communications technologies and be designed to adapt to, and incorporate, future technologies for communicating directly with the public;

(2) may not interfere with existing alert, warning, priority access, or emergency communications systems employed by Federal, State, tribal, or local emergency response personnel and shall incorporate existing emergency alert technologies, including the NOAA All-Hazards Radio System, digital and analog broadcast, cable, and satellite television and satellite and terrestrial radio; and

(3) shall not be based upon any single technology or platform, but shall be designed to provide alerts to the largest portion of the affected population feasible and improve the ability of remote areas to receive alerts.

(d) Reception of Alerts.—The National Alert System shall—

(1) utilize multiple technologies for providing alerts to the public, including technologies that do not require members of the public to activate a particular device or use a particular technology to receive an alert provided via the National Alert System; and

(2) provide redundant alert mechanisms where practicable so as to reach the greatest number of people regardless of whether they have access to, or utilize, any specific medium of communication or any particular device.

SEC. 3. Implementation and use.

(a) Authority To Access System.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The National Alert Office shall establish a process for issuing credentials to Federal, State, tribal, or local government officials with responsibility for issuing safety warnings to the public that will enable them to access the National Alert System.

(2) REQUESTS FOR CREDENTIALS.—Requests for credentials from Federal, State, tribal, and local government agencies shall be submitted to the Office by the head of the Federal department or agency, or the governor of the State or the elected leader of a Federally recognized Indian tribe, concerned, for review and approval.

(3) SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF CREDENTIALS.—The Office shall—

(A) establish eligibility criteria for issuing, renewing, and revoking access credentials;

(B) limit credentials to appropriate geographic areas or political jurisdictions; and

(C) ensure that the credentials permit use of the National Alert System only for alerts that are consistent with the jurisdiction, authority, and basis for eligibility of the individual to whom the credentials are issued to use the National Alert System.

(4) PERIODIC TRAINING.—The Office shall—

(A) establish a periodic training program for Federal, State, tribal, or local government officials with credentials to use the National Alert System; and

(B) require such officials to undergo periodic training under the program as a prerequisite for retaining their credentials to use the system.

(b) Allowable Alerts.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Any alert transmitted via the National Alert System, other than an alert described in paragraph (3), shall meet 1 or more of the following requirements:

(A) An alert shall notify the public of a hazardous situation that poses an imminent threat to the public health or safety.

(B) An alert shall provide appropriate instructions for actions to be taken by individuals affected or potentially affected by such a situation.

(C) An alert shall transmit public addresses by Federal, State, tribal, or local officials when necessary.

(D) An alert shall notify the public of when the hazardous situation has ended or has been brought under control.

(2) EVENT ELIGIBILITY REGULATIONS.—The director of the National Alert Office, in consultation with the Working Group, shall by regulation specify—

(A) the classes of events or situations for which the National Alert System may be used to alert the public; and

(B) the content of the types of alerts that may be transmitted by or through use of the National Alert System, which may include—

(i) notifications to the public of a hazardous situation that poses an imminent threat to the public health or safety accompanied by appropriate instructions for actions to be taken by individuals affected or potentially affected by such a situation; and

(ii) when technologically feasible public addresses by Federal, State, tribal, or local officials if necessary.

(c) Access Points.—The National Alert System shall provide—

(1) secure, widely dispersed multiple access points to Federal, State, or local government officials with credentials that will enable them to initiate alerts for transmission to the public via the National Alert System; and

(2) system redundancies to ensure functionality in the event of partial system failures, power failures, or other interruptive events.

(d) Election To Carry Service.—

(1) AMENDMENT OF LICENSE.—Within 60 days after the date on which the National Alert Office adopts relevant technical standards based on recommendations of the Working Group, the Federal Communications Commission shall initiate a proceeding and subsequently issue an order—

(A) to allow any licensee providing commercial mobile service (as defined in section 332(d)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 332(d)(1))) to transmit National Alert System alerts to all subscribers to, or users of, such service; and

(B) to require any such licensee who elects under paragraph (2) not to participate in the transmission of National Alert System alerts, to provide clear and conspicuous notice at the point of sale of any devices with which its service is included, that it will not transmit National Alert System alerts via its service.

(2) ELECTION TO CARRY SERVICE.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—Within 30 days after the Commission issues its order under paragraph (1), each such licensee shall file an election with the Commission with respect to whether or not it intends to participate in the transmission of National Alert System alerts.

(B) PARTICIPATION.—If a licensee elects to participate in the transmission of National Alert System alerts, the licensee shall certify to the National Alert Office that it will participate in a manner consistent with the standards and protocols implemented by the National Alert Office.

(C) ADVERTISING.—Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prevent a licensee from advertising that it participates in the transmission of National Alert System alerts.

(D) WITHDRAWAL FROM OR LATER ENTRY INTO SYSTEM.—The Commission shall establish a procedure for—

(i) participating licensees to withdraw from the National Alert System upon notification of its withdrawal to its existing subscribers; and

(ii) licensees to enter the National Alert System at a date later than provided in subparagraph (A).

(E) CONSUMER CHOICE TECHNOLOGY.—Any licensee electing to participate in the transmission of National Alert System alerts may offer subscribers the capability of preventing the subscriber’s device from receiving alerts broadcast by the system other than an alert issued by the President.

(e) Digital Television Transmission Towers.—

(1) RETRANSMISSION CAPABILITY.—Within 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Communications Commission shall initiate a proceeding to require public broadcast television licensees and permittees to install necessary equipment and technologies on, or as part of, any broadcast television digital signal transmitter to enable the transmitter to serve as a backbone for the reception, relay, and retransmission of National Alert System alerts.

(2) COMPENSATION.—The National Alert Office established by section 104 shall compensate any such licensee or permittee for costs incurred in complying with the requirements imposed pursuant to paragraph (1).

(f) FCC Regulation of Compliance.—Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e), the Federal Communications Commission shall have no regulatory authority under this Act except to regulate compliance with this Act by licensees and permittees regulated by the Commission under the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 151 et seq.).

(g) Limitation of Liability.—Any person that participates in the transmission of National Alert System alerts and that meets its obligations under this Act shall not be liable to any subscriber to, or user of, such person’s service or equipment—

(1) for any act or omission related to or any harm resulting from the transmission of, or failure to transmit, a National Alert System alert to such subscriber or user; or

(2) for the release to a government agency or entity, public safety, fire service, law enforcement official, or emergency facility of subscriber information used in connection with delivering an alert.

(h) Testing.—The director shall establish testing criteria and guidelines for licensees that elect to participate in the transmission of National Alert System alerts.

SEC. 4. National Alert Office.

(a) Establishment.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The National Alert Office is established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

(2) DIRECTOR.—The office shall be headed by a director with at least 5 years’ operational experience in the management and issuance of warnings and alerts, hazardous event management, or disaster planning.

(3) STAFF.—The office shall have a staff with significant technical expertise in the communications industry. The director may request the detailing, with or without reimbursement, of staff from any appropriate Federal department or agency in order to ensure that the concerns of all such departments and agencies are incorporated into the daily operation of the National Alert System.

(b) Functions and Responsibilities.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Office shall administer, operate, and manage the National Alert System.

(2) IMPLEMENTATION OF WORKING GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS.—The Office shall be responsible for implementing the recommendations of the Working Group established by section 105 regarding—

(A) the technical transmission of alerts;

(B) the incorporation of new technologies into the National Alert System;

(C) the technical capabilities of the National Alert System; and

(D) any other matters that fall within the duties of the Working Group.

(3) Transmission of Alerts.—In administering the National Alert System, the director of the National Alert Office shall ensure that—

(A) the National Alert System is available to, and enables, only Federal, State, tribal, or local government officials with credentials issued by the National Alert Office under section 103 to access and utilize the National Alert System;

(B) the National Alert System is capable of providing geographically targeted alerts where such alerts are appropriate;

(C) the legitimacy and authenticity of any proffered alert is verified before it is transmitted;

(D) each proffered alert complies with formats, protocols, and other requirements established by the Office to ensure the efficacy and usefulness of alerts transmitted via the National Alert System;

(E) the security and integrity of a National Alert System alert from the point of origination to delivery is maintained; and

(F) the security and integrity of the National Alert System is maintained and protected.

(c) Reports.—

(1) ANNUAL REPORTS.—The director shall submit an annual report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the House of Representatives Committee on Science on the status of, and plans for, the National Alert System. In the first annual report, the director shall report on—

(A) the progress made toward operational activation of the alerting capabilities of the National Alert System; and

(B) the anticipated date on which the National Alert System will be available for utilization by Federal, State, and local officials.

(2) 5-YEAR PLAN.—Within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act and every 5 years thereafter, the director shall publish a 5-year plan that outlines future capabilities and communications platforms for the National Alert System. The plan shall serve as the long-term planning document for the Office.

(d) GAO Audits.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Comptroller General shall audit the National Alert Office every 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act and transmit the findings thereof to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the House of Representatives Committee on Science.

(2) RESPONSE REPORT.—If, as a result of the audit, the Comptroller General expresses concern about any matter addressed by the audit, the director of the National Alert Office shall transmit a report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the House of Representatives Committee on Science describing what action, if any, the director is taking to respond to any such concern.

SEC. 5. National Alert System Working Group.

(a) Establishment.—Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the director of the National Alert Office shall establish a working group, to be known as the National Alert System Working Group.

(b) Membership.—

(1) APPOINTMENT; CHAIR.—The director shall appoint the members of the Working Group as soon as practicable after the date of enactment of this Act and shall serve as its chair. In appointing members of the Working Group, the director shall ensure that the number of members appointed under paragraph (5) provides appropriate and adequate representation for all stakeholders and interested and affected parties.

(2) FEDERAL AGENCY REPRESENTATIVES.—The director shall appoint appropriate personnel from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Justice to serve as members of the Working Group. The director may also appoint representatives of other appropriate Federal agencies to serve as members of the Working Group.

(3) STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES.—The director shall appoint representatives of State, local, and tribal governments and representatives of emergency services personnel, selected from among individuals nominated by national organizations representing such governments and personnel, to serve as members of the Working Group.

(4) SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS.—The director shall appoint individuals who have the requisite technical knowledge and expertise to assist the Working Group in the fulfillment of its duties, including representatives of—

(A) communications service providers;

(B) vendors, developers, and manufacturers of systems, facilities; equipment, and capabilities for the provision of communications services;

(C) third-party service bureaus;

(D) the national organization representing the licensees and permittees of noncommercial broadcast television stations; and

(E) other individuals with technical expertise that would enhance the National Alert System.

(c) Duties of the Working Group.—

(1) DEVELOPMENT OF SYSTEM-CRITICAL RECOMMENDATIONS.—Within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Working Group shall develop and transmit to the National Alert Office recommendations for—

(A) protocols, including formats, source or originator identification, threat severity, hazard description, and response requirements or recommendations, for alerts to be transmitted via the National Alert System that ensures that alerts are capable of being utilized across the broadest variety of communication technologies, at National, State, and local levels;

(B) procedures for verifying, initiating, modifying, and canceling alerts transmitted via the National Alert System;

(C) guidelines for the technical capabilities of the National Alert System;

(D) guidelines for technical capability that provides for the priority transmission of National Alert System alerts;

(E) guidelines for other capabilities of the National Alert System as specified in this Act; and

(F) standards for equipment and technologies used by the National Alert System.

(2) INTEGRATION OF EMERGENCY AND NATIONAL ALERT SYSTEMS.—The Working Group shall work with the operators of nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructure facilities to integrate emergency alert systems for those facilities with the National Alert System.

(d) Meetings.—

(1) INITIAL MEETING.—The initial meeting of the Working Group shall take place not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(2) OTHER MEETINGS.—After the initial meeting, the Working Group shall meet at the call of the chair.

(3) NOTICE; OPEN MEETINGS.—Any meetings held by the Working Group shall be duly noticed at least 14 days in advance and shall be open to the public.

(e) Resources.—

(1) FEDERAL AGENCIES.—The Working Group shall have reasonable access to—

(A) materials, resources, data, and other information from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Commerce and its agencies, the Department of Homeland Security and its bureaus, and the Federal Communications Commission; and

(B) the facilities of any such agency for purposes of conducting meetings.

(2) GIFTS AND GRANTS.—The Working Group may accept, use, and dispose of gifts or grants of services or property, both real and personal, for purposes of aiding or facilitating the work of the Working Group. Gifts or grants not used at the expiration of the Working Group shall be returned to the donor or grantor.

(f) Rules.—

(1) QUORUM.—One-third of the members of the Working Group shall constitute a quorum for conducting business of the Working Group.

(2) SUBCOMMITTEES.—To assist the Working Group in carrying out its functions, the chair may establish appropriate subcommittees composed of members of the Working Group and other subject matter experts as deemed necessary.

(3) ADDITIONAL RULES.—The Working Group may adopt other rules as needed.

(g) Federal Advisory Committee Act.—Neither the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) nor any rule, order, or regulation promulgated under that Act shall apply to the Working Group.

SEC. 6. Research and development.

(a) In General.—The director shall establish an extramural research and development program to support the development of technology that will enable all existing and future providers of communications services and all existing and future communications devices to be utilized effectively with the National Alert System.

(b) Functions.—In carrying out subsection (a) the director shall—

(1) fund research and development which may include academia, the private sector, and government laboratories; and

(2) ensure that the program addresses, at a minimum—

(A) developing innovative technologies that will transmit geographically targeted emergency messages to the public;

(B) enhancing participation in the national alert system;

(C) understanding and improving public response to warnings; and

(D) enhancing the ability of local communities to integrate the National Alert System into their overall operations management.

(c) Use of Existing Programs and Resources.—In developing the program, the director shall utilize existing programs and expertise of the Department of Commerce, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

SEC. 7. Definitions.

In this Act:

(1) DIRECTOR.—The term “director” means the director of the National Alert Office.

(2) OFFICE.—The term “Office” means the National Alert Office established by section 4.

(3) NATIONAL ALERT SYSTEM.—The term “National Alert System” means the National Alert System established by section 2.

(4) WORKING GROUP.—The term “Working Group” means the National Alert System Working Group on the established under section 5.

SEC. 8. Funding.

(a) Funding.—Funding for this Act shall be provided from the Digital Transition and Public Safety Fund in accordance with section 3010 of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

(b) Credit.—The Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce may borrow from the Treasury beginning on October 1, 2006, such sums as may be necessary, but not to exceed $106,000,000, to implement this section. The Assistant Secretary shall reimburse the Treasury, without interest, as funds are deposited into the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund.