Public safety officials in Washington say the FCC’s advent of the Alert Reporting Service (ARS) presented an opportunity for them to create a new state EAS plan. ARS is an online system adopted to modernize state plan submissions. All 54 SECCs – states and territories – are required to meet the July 5 filing deadline to submit their state EAS plans.
Washington SECC participants were involved in testing the new ARS software and providing feedback to help the system become more user friendly and effective, according to state officials.
With the July 5 deadline approaching, we invited Ted Buehner, state chair of the Washington SECC, to share ideas and suggestions on how states can prepare.
Radio World: Describe the organizational leadership of the Washington committee?
Ted Buehner: The SECC is a consensus unit led by the Chair, Vice-Chair, and state emergency management representatives.
RW: What major changes were made to the Washington State EAS plan?
Buehner: The evolution of the state EAS plan from existing written plan to involving the FCC’s new Alert Reporting System (ARS) led to our development of our Washington Public Alert and Warning System plan (WA-PAWS), which includes a suite of state and local authorities, broadcast organizations, and even amateur radio.
ARS is the state EAS plan but is not available to our partners and stakeholders, plus it does not fully meet the needs of the state’s public alert and warning system.
WA-PAWS not only includes the elements to fulfill the requirements of ARS, but also helps meet state, county, local and tribal public alert and warning needs as well as provide guidelines by all broadcasters across the state.
RW: Do you have any thoughts or recommendations for how other states might improve EAS?
Buehner: One of the keys before and after the development of WA-PAWS was the ability of emergency message originators and those who receive and relay those emergency messages to have multiple paths of message dissemination and receipt.
[Related: “Nevada is ready for the FCC’s EAS deadline“]
A major weakness with EBS was the daisy-chain process involving single points of failure. For broadcasters, having several resources to receive EAS messages helps ensure the system works as well as possible.
RW: Do you have any thoughts or recommendations for improvements to the national system?
Buehner: One big area for improvement is training. The Washington SECC has created a training outline that involves three audiences. Those who generate and transmit emergency messages, those who relay them, and finally, those who receive those emergency messages, the public. We all saw these three components failed during the January 2018, Hawaii false ballistic missile warning. Before and since then, there have been many other warning dissemination failures such as for wildfires, flash flooding, and more.
The Washington SECC training outline has been offered to FEMA as a part of their overall on-line training program and we hope the concept will be accepted so subject matter experts across the country can collaborate and create an interactive training program for all three audiences, including tabletop exercise scenarios that can be tailored by local authorities and organizations to best meet their needs.
RW: What else would fellow broadcast engineers or managers find interesting about your state’s plan or alerting infrastructure?
Buehner: The development of WA-PAWS involved a lot of listening to our partners and stakeholders to better meet their needs and requirements in public alert and warning. Many volunteer hours were used to create the plan’s tabs on a suite of topics.
Our SECC also recognizes that WA-PAWS is a living breathing document that will always be reviewed and updated as technology, policies and needs arise over time. If topics are not addressed or fully addressed, WA-PAWS is flexible enough to include any new or adjusted topics within the plan.