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Arnold’s broadcast advocacy legacy looms large as federal IPAWS bill heads to Obama’s desk

Those who knew her would agree that the late Ann Arnold was a force of nature.

Her vision, fearlessness and tenacity allowed TAB to become a powerhouse advocate of Texas’ radio and TV interests, and an enormous influence on federal broadcast policy.  

Arnold passed away in 2012 after serving 25 years as TAB President.

Industry leaders agree that her accomplishments and leadership helped ensure the continued vitality of the Texas and national broadcast industry.

One of Arnold’s last federal broadcast policy initiatives has now come to fruition.

Last week, Congress sent S.1180, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Modernization Act of 2015, to President Barack Obama’s desk for final action.

Obama is expected to sign the measure which was authored by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri.

Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, led the effort in the House and facilitated the adoption of the Senate version of the measure to hasten its implementation.

Arnold initiated the legislative effort to update the nation’s emergency warning system back in 2010 under the banner of the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA). 

She also helped secure the engagement and support of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) which provided significant funding and technical and legal expertise for this endeavor to improve the national public warning system. 

Suzanne Goucher, president of the Maine Association of Broadcasters, co-chaired the IPAWS effort with her longtime friend, and has helmed the effort since Arnold’s death with invaluable leadership from Michelle Vetterkind, president of the Wisconsin Association of Broadcasters.

This landmark federal policy does several important things, chief of which is imbedding the IPAWS program into federal law.  

Currently, IPAWS exists only as the creation of a presidential order signed by President George W. Bush. 

While presidential orders have the effect of law, they can easily be undone with a swipe of another president’s pen.

S. 1180 also directs FEMA to establish common alerting and warning protocols, standards, terminology, and operating procedures, known commonly as IPAWS, for the nation’s public warning system.

Arnold believed that broadcast EAS messaging was a key part of a robust and effective national public warning system and should always take advantage of new capabilities to spread messages, including the targeting of messages based on location and risks.

IPAWS also seeks to alert, warn, and provide emergency information to individuals with disabilities, access and functional needs, or limited English proficiency.

The bill creates a national advisory council for IPAWS, consisting of federal partners and stakeholders, to meet periodically to work on improvements to the nation’s emergency warning system.

Arnold was relentless about ensuring broadcasters having a place at the table when it came to developing EAS and IPAWS policy and improvements.

Finally, the measure directs the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) to integrate EAS/IPAWS training into the National Incident Management System training for state and local officials, requiring state and local officials to be NIMS-certified in order to apply for FEMA grant funds.  

Arnold believed training of state and local officials was key to get public alerting front and center in incident response, and that free, over-the-air broadcasters – with their legacy of public service – are uniquely positioned to alert the public.

Questions? Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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