WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday adopted an updated wireless emergency system that includes photos, maps and phone numbers.
Also, the agency voted to allow longer messages from 90 to 360 characters, require wireless providers to support Spanish-language alerts and more specific geographical areas.
The 4-year-old system allows authorities to send mass text messages to alert people to severe weather, missing children (Amber Alerts) and other dangers.
The FCC also approved a new class of alerts -- called "Public Safety Messages" -- to convey essential, recommended actions, including emergency shelter locations and boil water notices.
"Now that stakeholders have four years' experience with the service, and in light of its real-world use and technological advancements since the FCC adopted technical and procedural requirements for WEA in 2008, the agency has updated its rules," the FCC said in a release.
The changes come after millions of New Yorkers last week received a text alert seeking information on Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspected in bombings in New York and New Jersey. "See media for pic," the alert said and no photo was provided. Also, the alert was only in English.
"Vague directives in text about where to find more information about a suspect, just as we saw in New York, are not good enough," said Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner. "As we move into the 5G future, we need to ensure that multimedia is available in all of our alert messages."
But another commissioner, Michael O'Rielly, said adding images could jam cell networks during emergencies.