motivated in part by a desire to leverage new technologies to increase the reach of alerts and warnings.4 As required under the WARN Act, the Commercial Mobile Service Alert Advisory Committee (CMSAAC) was established in late 2006 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to engage stakeholders in the development of initial policy and procedures for one component of that national system—the use of cellular telephones for alerts. CMSAAC, composed of representatives from service providers, handset vendors, emergency personnel, and industry groups, issued its first report in 2007, defining CMAS’s basic system architecture and establishing technical standards and operating procedures.5

Following the issuance of the CMSAAC report, the CMAS program was established within the Department of Homeland Security. The task of validating the CMSAAC recommendations was assigned to DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, along with an examination of related issues such as the state of knowledge about the likely public response to alerts and warnings on mobile devices. The workshop summarized in this report was convened as one element of DHS’s examination of public response (see the statement of task for this study in Box P.1 in the Preface of this report).

Overview of CMAS

Three types of alerts were defined by the WARN Act of 2006 for issuance by CMAS:

  1. Presidential alerts, to be issued by the president when there is a national emergency or threat (note that a presidential alert, for which the Emergency Alert System [EAS] and its predecessors for communicating with the public in a national emergency were originally implemented, has never been issued);

  2. Imminent threat alerts, to be issued when there is an immediate threat to people or property, such as a tornado; and


The use of multiple new technologies for alerts and warnings was initiated under Executive Order 13407: “Public Alert and Warning System,” issued June 26, 2006. This executive order established the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which will serve as a modernization and integration of the nation’s alert and warning infrastructure, of which CMAS will be one component.


The recommendations of the CMSAAC appear in its draft report: Commercial Mobile Service Alert Advisory Committee, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Commercial Mobile Alert Service Architecture and Requirements, PMG-0035, FCC, Washington, D.C., 2007; and in FCC, “Notice of Proposed Rule Making on the Matter of Commercial Mobile Alert System,” Public Safety Docket No. 07-287, 2008.

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