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< Back to overview page: "BEREC Consultation Platform"

Guidelines on how to assess the effectiveness of public warning systems

Starting: 11 Dec Ending

4 days left (ends 31 Jan)

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BEREC guidelines on how to assess the effectiveness of public warning systems transmitted by different means

BoR (19) 255




Stakeholders are invited in particular to answer the following questions related to the minimum operational requirements a public warning system should be able to fulfil in their opinion:

1) What are the minimum operational requirements that you would expect from a public warning system operator with regard to the criteria of coverage and capacity to reach end-users? In particular, what are your expectations with regard to targeting concerned end-users in a specific geographical area (required minimum geographical granularity)?

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2) In your experience, what is the ratio (in percentage) of the number of events that trigger a public warning message that can be assigned to each of the following size of targeted area?

  1. targeted area with population up to 5 000;
  2. targeted area with population up to 50 000;
  3. targeted area with population up to 500 000;
  4. targeted area with population up to 2 million;
  5. targeted area with population up to 10 million;
  6. targeted area with population above 10 million.

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3) If your Member State has already rolled out a public warning system using means of electronic communications services (ECS-PWS), how well does it meet your expectations in terms of geographical coverage, population coverage and overall capacity to reach end-users?

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These guidelines are provided by BEREC in response to the task set in article 110(2) of the Directive (EU) 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11th December 2018 establishing the European Electronic Communications Code[1] (hereinafter EECC), to assist member states in assessing the effectiveness of alternative Public Warning Systems (hereinafter PWS) using means of electronic communications services (hereinafter ECS-PWS).

The document has the following structure:

- Chapter 1 sets out the relevant background on ECS-PWS and a detailed description of the task provided by article 110 EECC, focusing on BEREC’s requirement to publish guidelines on how to assess whether the effectiveness of public warning systems under article 110(2) EECC are equivalent to the effectiveness of those under article 110(1) EECC.
- Chapter 2 illustrates BEREC’s interpretation of the scope of article 110 EECC, including legal considerations as well as information on the relevant ECS-PWS’ (Cell Broadcast, Location-based SMS and ECS-PWS using an on-device application making use of an internet access service, hereinafter IAS-PWS).

- Chapter 3 describes the methodology BEREC proposes, which is essentially a guideline of steps to conduct an assessment of the equivalence of effectiveness of ECS-PWS. It is divided into three main sections.
- Section 3.1 describes the criteria derived from the EECC the methodology proposes to assess the performance of each type ECS-PWS in order to make them comparable. It does so by describing the two main-criteria mentioned by the EECC (coverage and capacity to reach end-users) and a set of sub-criteria which can be summarised under the main-criteria, and in BEREC’s view help to substantiate them.

- Section 3.2 describes how competent authorities may establish a benchmark for the assessment of the equivalence of relevant ECS-PWS falling under article 110(2) EECC (IAS-PWS). To create the benchmark BEREC proposes analysing the performance of the relevant ECS-PWS falling under article 110(1) EECC (Cell Broadcast and Location-based SMS) by assessing them against the proposed criteria and sub-criteria established in section 3.1. For the assessment by the competent authorities BEREC has compiled an initial assessment for each sub-criterion. The level of detail in the assessment of each sub-criterion varies as for some sub-criteria the performance of an ECS-PWS depends on national circumstances like the network-structure or the geographic dispersion of end-users in a Member State.

- Section 3.3 then describes how competent authorities may assess their envisioned IAS-PWS against the benchmark created in section 3.2. In this section BEREC provides general information for the consideration of competent authorities when assessing the performance of their envisioned IAS-PWS against the criteria and sub-criteria[2] and for the final step of the methodology - when assessing the envisioned IAS-PWS against the benchmark[3].

The document is supported by the following annexes:
Annex 1 sets out an overview of desk research / NRA questionnaires

- Annex 2 sets out a glossary of terms.

- Annex 3 contains the text of article 110 EECC

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PWS’ are systems which authorities may use to notify citizens regarding imminent or developing major emergencies and disasters.[4] Such warnings may be transmitted e.g. through sirens, publicly available electronic communications services, broadcasting services, mobile applications relying on an internet access service, or any combination of the above. In these guidelines sirens or TV/radio broadcast are referred to as “legacy-PWS’” and PWS’ using means of electronic communications technology are referred to as “ECS-PWS. Article 110 EECC (see Annex 3) introduces an obligation to roll out ECS-PWS’ where PWS’ are already in place.
There is a wide diversity of practices in Europe regarding ECS-PWS’. Member States appear to have taken different approaches as to which systems to implement (see Annex 1). Also, NRAs are often not the competent authority in relation to implementing PWS and in many cases there are multiple stakeholders involved like ministries and public safety authorities.

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According to article 110(2) subparagraph 2 EECC BEREC shall publish guidelines on how to assess whether the effectiveness of ECS-PWS according to paragraph 2 of article 110 EECC (hereinafter – 110(2)-PWS) is equivalent to those according to paragraph 1 (hereinafter 110(1)-PWS). This means that BEREC is asked to provide guidance on an assessment to be made by the competent authorities in the respective Member States, which in most cases will not be a NRA. BEREC interprets this task as to provide a toolbox to support Member States in fulfilling their obligations arising from article 110 EECC. The purpose of this document is not to rank ECS-PWS’ according to their performance but to provide Member States with the means to compare the effectiveness of the relevant systems keeping in mind their respective national circumstances and envisioned purpose for the ECS-PWS.

After national ECS-PWS’ are deployed, the European Commission will be responsible for the assessment of Member States compliance with article 110 EECC where Member States have rolled out a stand-alone 110(2)-PWS for a specific purpose. These Guidelines could serve as an input to the Commission’s assessment of a Member State’s compliance, however the Commission is not bound by these guidelines. In this regard, the guidelines may assist Member States to identify reasons to support a decision to roll out a certain 110(2)-PWS.

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According to Recital 293 the aim of article 110 EECC is to approximate the diverging national law in the area of the transmission of public warnings by electronic communications services regarding imminent or developing major emergencies or disasters. Diverging national law could lead to big differences regarding the effectiveness of rolled-out ECS-PWS. To counter such a development article 110(1) EECC prescribes a common level of minimum effectiveness – the performance of the ECS-PWS mentioned in article 110(1). However, because the article 110 EECC is technologically-neutral article 110(2) EECC provides for a Member State to roll-out alternative ECS-PWS as long as they are as effective as the systems mentioned in article 110(1) EECC, thus ensuring Member States compliance with the envisioned level of minimum effectiveness of ECS-PWS’.

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Article 110(1) EECC requires that Member States “ensure that, when public warning systems regarding imminent or developing major emergencies and disasters are in place, public warnings are transmitted by providers of mobile number-based interpersonal communications services to the end-users concerned.”

Therefore, article 110 of the EECC does not place any obligation upon Member States without existing PWS, to develop or deploy a legacy or ECS-PWS.

However, article 110(1) EECC obliges Member States with existing PWS (be it legacy-PWS or an early version of ECS-PWS) to implement an ECS-PWS. Whether or not a Member State has to perform such an update is beyond the scope of the BEREC guidelines.

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Article 110(2) EECC states that Member States may determine that public warnings can be transmitted via alternative publicly available ECS (including an IAS-based mobile app) as long as it has equivalent effectiveness “in terms of coverage and capacity to reach end-users, including those only temporarily present in the area concerned” and is “easy for end-users to receive”.

With regard to the roll-out of ECS-PWS’ the EECC considers the obligation of article 110 fulfilled when a system according to article 110(1) EECC is rolled out by a Member State. It does so without requiring further prerequisites recognising the effectiveness of 110(1)-PWS as a benchmark for alerting the population in case of imminent or developing major emergencies and disasters. With regard to the roll-out of “stand-alone” systems according to article 110(2) the EECC prescribes prerequisites because Member States have to assess these systems against the effectiveness of 110(1)-PWS’, measuring the equivalence in terms of coverage and capacity to reach end-users.

BEREC considers that Recital 294 EECC explains what is meant by “easy for end-users to receive” when it states that “where a public warning system relies on an application, it should not require end-users to log in or register with the authorities or the application provider”.

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