House Bill 259
151st General Assembly (Present)
Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 7, TITLE 16, AND TITLE 20 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EMERGENCY ALERTS.
This Act requires Delaware to use the Wireless Emergency Alert (“WEA”) system to notify the public of emergency alerts and requires that the emergency alert system be used when a catastrophic release occurs. A catastrophic release is a major uncontrolled emission, fire, or explosion that presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health. This Act also requires that emergency alerts be broadcast in Spanish, in addition to English, when possible. The WEA system is a federal public safety system, currently used by the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), that allows customers who own mobile devices to receive geographically targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. Delaware still uses reverse 911 notifications to landline phones for environmental hazards, but only 6.5% of U.S. households use landlines as their only form of phone communication. In contrast, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that during the first 6 months of 2020, 62.5% of adults and 73.8% of children lived in wireless-only households. To ensure that Delaware’s cell phone users receive WEA alerts, DEMA asked cell phone users to manually register their cell phones with the Delaware Emergency Notification System ("DENS") to receive WEA notifications. After numerous years of marketing campaigns, and encouragement from public officials, private entities, and advocacy groups, only 3% of Delawareans have manually registered their cell phones with the Delaware Emergency Notification System to receive wireless emergency alerts. In addition, because the WEA system targets geographic areas, emergency alerts are sent to all wireless devices with service provided by participating carriers. Thus, emergency alerts are provided to wireless devices in the geographic area affected by the hazard, regardless of whether people register their phones, live in the area, or have phone numbers with a local area code. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.