<b><center>Senate Commerce Committee Approves WARN Act</b></center>

October 20, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today reported by unanimous consent S. 1753, the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2005. During the Committee’s Executive Session, Members adopted a substitute amendment offered by Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to replace the bill originally introduced by Disaster Prevention and Prediction Subcommittee Chairman Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) with Ranking Member Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Senators David Vitter (R-La.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) joined as original co-sponsors of the legislation. As reported, the WARN Act will establish a network for the transmission of alerts across a broad variety of communication technologies, including wireless communication devices such as cell phones and Blackberries, the internet, digital, analog, cable, satellite television, and satellite and terrestrial radio, as well as non-traditional media such as sirens and “radios-on-a-stick.” The legislation would require that alerts provide individuals with instructions about what to do in response to the threat. The National Alert System, created under the WARN Act, will ensure that regardless of where an individual is or what kind of communication technologies they are using, they will receive a life-saving alert. Alerts would be transmitted in response to all threats to public safety, including natural disasters, man-made accidents and terrorist incidents. Alerts would only be allowed for hazards that pose a grave risk to public health and safety. The WARN Act also would establish a grant program to help remote communities install sirens and other devices, particularly in areas where telecommunications infrastructure is insufficient. The substitute amendment co-sponsored by Senators Inouye and Stevens, unanimously accepted by the Committee, created a second title comprised of the provisions in the Tsunami Preparedness Act of 2005 as passed by the Senate in July. Given the similar, disaster preparedness goals of both bills, Members agreed that the two should be paired together. Additionally, $50 million to fund tsunami warning and coastal vulnerability assessment programs created in the Tsunami Preparedness Act were included in the digital transition legislation approved earlier in the mark-up. A Manager’s Amendment to the WARN Act passed by unanimous consent. Senator DeMint’s Manager’s Amendment incorporates a number of important amendments offered by Members of the Committee. The Amendment ensures that tribal governments are included in the national alert system; includes the needs of older Americans in the system; provides for the utilization of the non-commercial sustaining announcement program to publicize the national alert system; provides greater integration of the National Alert Office and the research and development and testing programs; and will better integrate communications infrastructure needs into the disaster planning process.
Click here for a copy of the bill as reported.