The author is executive director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.
The Federal Emergency Management has confirmed a date for the next national test of the Emergency Alert System, this summer. For the last month or so, there has been chattering about a 2021 EAS test. FEMA says this year’s test will happen on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 2:20 p.m., Eastern. A backup date on Wednesday, Aug. 25, has also been rolled out.
For radio stations, it is time to prepare, and even catch up on things you may have forgotten about during the pandemic.
[Read: Community Broadcaster: Reopening Radio]
Blanked on the EAS test? You’re likely not alone. With remote work taking over radio everywhere, surely some of you may have wistful memories of that old EAS gear. Consider the next few months as your time to get reacquainted.
What do stations need to do in the months leading up to this summer’s test?
Updating firmware for your EAS equipment is a top priority. Sage and other manufacturers have posted firmware updates over the last 12–18 months. In a few instances, getting the newest version may require your station to be current with its support subscription. However, no one can blame you if those subscriptions lapsed during the shutdowns brought on by the pandemic. So, it would be prudent to skim your email archive and office mail bin to ensure your relationship with your equipment provider is current.
Your next step will be to dust off and review your EAS processes and policies. For some stations, EAS tests are automated, but others prefer, or have by circumstance, manual runs of weekly tests. Does your staff need a refresher of how to run its test? Or has your studio setup changed, as many stations did in tweaking their facilities during COVID-19? Especially as stations are welcoming back staff and volunteers, you may want to update your operations guidance.
[Read: Aug. 11 Is the Next National EAS Test]
Finally, and most importantly, proper education and messaging with staff and volunteers about the upcoming EAS test is critical. The test is more than tones over your broadcast. The national EAS effort is a chance for radio stations to remind audiences about our valued role in the nation’s media infrastructure. Where internet access remains spotty, radio is there. Where communities search for trust, radio is present. The national EAS test is our time to remind listeners of our place in their lives.
No matter who you are in radio, the EAS is your obligation. Community radio stations, low-power FM stations, everyone is required to participate and complete the appropriate reporting once the EAS test is over. You have a few months to resolve any issues before you.
Don’t wait until August.