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The buzz of EAS tones reverberated across smartphones in the New York metro area Monday as police hunted for a terror suspect. It told the public to turn to local media for the latest news. It’s the latest example of how local radio plays a role in a crisis. Now a Federal Communications Commission task force is recommending the agency keep pushing cellphone carriers and handset manufacturers to embrace FM radio.

The Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) report on emergency alerting concludes that introducing FM capability into additional devices will enhance public safety, while also ostensibly putting another emergency alerting infrastructure into the pockets of Americans.

“Having access to terrestrial FM radio broadcasts, as opposed to streaming audio services, may enable smartphone users to receive broadcast-based EAS alerts and other vital information in emergency situations—particularly when the wireless network is down or overloaded,” the report said. It points out that FM listening extends battery life by up to six times when compared to streaming audio, according to a study conducted last year by Sprint and NextRadio.

The task force says situations similar to what was just witnessed on cellphones in the New York metro illustrates why on-air and wireless companies need to have their systems dovetail with one another. “Having an activated FM radio on the same device that receives the Wireless Emergency Alerts [WEA] message will enhance the recipient’s ability to receive complementary alerting messages,” it said. At the same time the group also thinks local broadcasters should be encouraged by the FCC to provide “more information about the alert for the duration of the alert,” noting music-based stations often stick with their format and leave it to news or talk stations to help the public.

The task force also points out that new digital technology is giving radio stations the ability to move beyond only audio to piggybacking visuals on their signals, a feature that would have come into play in a situation such as the police manhunt which played out yesterday.

The report acknowledges more wireless carriers and device vendors are enabling FM radio capabilities—Verizon Wireless and Apple remain the last major holdouts—and the task force thinks the FCC can play a role in bringing all companies onboard. “It’s recommended that the FCC encourage the ongoing volunteer efforts between the device manufacturers and the wireless industry to enable FM radio in smartphones to the extent that it’s commercially viable for all parties,” CSRIC cochair Francisco Sanchez, a liaison for the Harris County, TX Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, said during last week’s meeting when the recommendations were adopted. “Local broadcasters should also be encouraged to complement the Wireless Emergency Alerts broadcast by providing more information about the alert,” he added.

National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith welcomed the Council’s recommendation for the voluntary activation of radio chips in smartphones. “Local radio plays an invaluable role as ‘first informers’ during times of emergency, providing communities with lifesaving information even when wireless networks go down,” he said. “Allowing access to this lifeline information on mobile devices should be a crucial pillar of our nation’s emergency alerting system in order to keep all Americans safe when disaster strikes.”

In a statement, the NAB points out that Federal Emergency Management Administration administrator Craig Fugate has previously expressed support for the role radio-enabled smartphones can play in providing the public with critical emergency information when other communications networks fail during times of crisis.

Sanchez said the task force is also recommending the FCC convene a panel of experts to look at ways to leverage emerging mobile television technology to supplement the emergency alerts sent to smartphones.