For Immediate Release
Monday, July 17, 2000
Contact: Ranjit de Silva (202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky (202) 482-0019


Discussion highlights need for new communications technologies to improve emergency

warnings to protect public

WASHINGTON-Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, today called on the private sector to join the government in exploring ways in which new communications technologies can be used to develop emergency warning systems that would give the public more timely alerts about natural disasters and chemical spills.

Rohde, who is Administrator of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said the roundtable discussion was intended to spark a dialogue between industry and the government on how to "bring the best of technology to the highest purpose-protecting the public in dangerous situations by providing emergency warnings."

"Today, there are new technologies that provide for more opportunities to provide warnings to the public," Rohde said. "We can expand our network beyond hurricanes and storms to include chemical spills, floods, or even the worst disasters that hit in the Washington area-the dreaded snowstorm," he said.

Rohde said the roundtable discussion will explore how the private sector together with the government can build on an already excellent foundation by looking at new situations and new technologies. Wireless communications, the Internet are just some of the new technologies that could be used to develop a highly efficient early warning system, Rohde said.

"The beauty of the flexibility of today's technology is that more people will have more chances to be given a warning," Rohde said. "Today's roundtable is a start of a more comprehensive process that will aim to stimulate discussion between the private sector and the government over the use of other technologies to protect the public," he said.

James Baker, administrator of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also participated in the roundtable. The roundtable is co-sponsored by the All-Hazards Interagency Working Group.

NTIA announced the roundtable in a Federal Register notice. The notice asked for comment by Aug. 18 on a series of questions, including whether it is technologically feasible to deliver hazard warnings through wireless devices, over the Internet, via telephones using call warnings and through other means. The notice also sought comment on the roadblocks to using these technologies and what public policies need to be changed to foster broader dissemination of new technologies.

NTIA serves as the principal adviser to the President, Vice President and the Secretary of Commerce on domestic and international communications and information policies and represents the Executive Branch before Congress, other Federal agencies, foreign governments and international organizations.