What's Next on the EAS Front?
WASHINGTON — At
least some Emergency Alert System observers sound encouraged by the
FCC’s plans to address EAS shortcomings before the commission and
FEMA conduct another national test.
This table lists EAS
participants’ receipt of the EAN based on EAS designation.
A report from the
commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, released
in April, identified steps that it believes are necessary to
improve alerting. This follows the first national EAS test, conducted
in November of 2011. Overall, a large majority of EAS participants
successfully received the Emergency Action Notification, the live
code for the national EAS, the bureau report noted. “The test
demonstrated that the national EAS distribution architecture is
Gary Timm is
broadcast chair of the Wisconsin State EAS Committee and an alerting
subject matter expert for SRA International in Washington. Timm said
the greatest value of the report is the PSHSB urging the commission
to move forward with new rules to improve EAS.
resolution of the many items deferred for ruling in the EAS Fifth
Report and Order will allow states to finally complete their revised
EAS plans, and the recommended rules to improve [Emergency Action
Notification] performance will pave the way for an even more
successful next nationwide EAS test,” Timm said.
Asking the states to
revise their EAS test plans to update monitoring assignments is
important; the FCC found that many stations did not know which
stations to monitor to receive the alert. In the report, the bureau
said a lack of consistency among state plans made it difficult for
the commission and FEMA to create a national propagation map after
The FCC analyzed
test data from more than 16,000 EAS participants and held discussions
with EAS stakeholders to dissect the results. It acknowledged
widespread poor audio quality of the test and the inability of some
EAS participants to receive or transmit the Emergency Action
Notification message, the live message that a president would use to
address the nation in times of crisis.
FCC List National EAS Test Faults
The PSHSB said in its report on the first national EAS test that it uncovered several problems that impeded the ability of some EAS participants to receive and/or retransmit the Emergency Alert Notification.
• Widespread poor audio quality nationwide;
• Lack of a Primary Entry Point (PEP) station in the area to provide a direct connection to FEMA;
• Use of alternatives to PEP-based EAN distribution;
• Short test length;
• Anomalies in EAS equipment programming and operation.
“The type of
national emergency that would justify a presidential EAS alert would
be a catastrophic event, where access to electrical power and
communications systems may be significantly degraded or even
eliminated,” the bureau states in the report.
conditions, the one communications media platform likely to continue
operating is broadcast radio, accessible from battery powered
consumer receiver sets and other means, such as car radios and
In addition, the
bureau found that a decision by federal planners to shorten the EAS
test length — from around two minutes to 30 seconds — meant that
some broadcast stations and cable systems were unable to deliver the
The report did
conclude that “a large majority” of broadcasters and other EAS
participants reported receiving the EAN.
However, not all
reaction from EAS stakeholders was congratulatory in tone.
“The FCC was under
a lot of pressure to say something,” Washington State SECC Chair
Clay Freinwald told Radio World. He believes the report is “short
on what went wrong” with the first test.
“There also needs
to be better ongoing communication with all the stakeholders.”
On the FCC’s list
of improvements is a call for a rulemaking on proposed changes to EAS
equipment rules to ensure that alert encoders/decoders operate in a
‘Possible Further Action’
What about stations or cable systems that didn’t turn in EAS national test results? A “significant number” of stations appear not to have filed, according to the FCC.
A bureau warning was buried in Footnote 22 of the PSHSB report:
“Although the commission received thousands of reports from EAS participants, many entities did not submit the required filings. The deadline for filing these reports was Dec. 27, 2011. Since that time, the bureau has reached out, primarily through industry organizations including the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the American Cable Association, to encourage those EAS participants that had not filed their mandatory reports to do so. As a result of this effort, PSHSB received numerous additional filings in November 2012. However, there are a significant number of EAS participants that still appear not to have filed the required reports. Accordingly, the bureau plans to confirm cases of continued non-filers and refer them to the Enforcement Bureau for possible further action.”
“We now have some
encouragement from the FCC that they will conduct conformance testing
beyond the extensive IPAWS OPEN testing that FEMA conducted to make
sure all authorized EAS devices will play nice together when it
counts,” said Richard Rudman, core member of the Broadcast Warning
Working Group. IPAWS is FEMA’s Integrated
Public Alert and Warning System platform.
Rudman would like to
see standardized feature sets and behaviors for all authorized EAS
equipment, but “since enhanced EAS equipment has already been put
into service,” that may not be possible.
Nevada EAS Chair
Adrienne Abbott said the FCC report revealed nothing new, “at least
nothing that EAS state chairs hadn’t figured out.”
“However, at least
we now have the information officially from the FCC and FEMA and we
can only wonder why it took them so long to put out the report,”
The bureau gave no
explanation for the amount of time it took to issue its report,
though it did note the delay by some participants in filing mandatory
And it recommends
that the commission consider requesting that the White House
reconvene the federal EAS Test Working Group to address issues raised
by the test and plan the next nationwide EAS action.