The Connecticut legislator behind a bill that would define how emergency alerting systems could be used across the state says he doesn’t want to take away local officials’ flexibility, but wants to make sure the systems are used only for “true emergencies”. Representative Clark Chapin (R-New Milford) told us some type of guidance is necessary so that the systems aren’t used for “informational” purposes, unless citizens sign-up to receive “informational” messages.
Chapin likes to cite the time an alerting system was used in Bridgeport to notify the public that voting hours had been extended because a polling place ran out of ballots. He says that use, “certainly didn’t rise to the level of an emergency".
Chapin admits it will be difficult to define proper emergency use in statute, and says response to the legislation has “generally not been positive”.
He says it “doesn’t sound unreasonable” to use the same criteria to be used for the new Commercial Mobile Alerting System (CMAS) which will be reserved for imminent threats, Amber alerts, and Presidential messaging. CMAS is, in effect, cell broadcast being launched in 2012 by FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).
Arguments on both sides of debate on Chapin's bill could be compelling. On one side, perhaps the states shouldn’t pass laws that govern how local agencies can use their alerting systems. On the other hand, perhaps guidance would be helpful and protect the integrity of the systems. Either way, Representative Chapin brought to the table something that we should all be talking about. And, as Chapin says, “if a municipality uses it excessively, I’m pretty sure no one will react to it”.
All the best,