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FCC Lays Out Path for EAS Future

In the long-awaited report on the first national EAS test, the commission lays out what needs to be done before the next test

The first-ever nationwide EAS test was a success in that it demonstrated that the national EAS would generally perform as designed, if activated. A majority of the EAS participants successfully received the Emergency Action Notification, the live code for the national EAS, and, if required, retransmitted the EAN to other stations. At the same time, the test shined a bright light on several areas — systemic and local — requiring improvement.

That’s according to the FCC’s report about the November 2011 test. In the document, the agency says it will continue to work with FEMA and other EAS participants to improve and strengthen the system.

However the first national test of the EAS uncovered several issues, like poor audio quality nationwide. Some places had no Primary Entry Point station in their area to provide a direct connection to FEMA, while other stations could receive but not retransmit the test, according to the just-released report.

The feds also criticize themselves for the short test length; the decision to shorten the test from around two minutes in length to 30 seconds was made just before the November 2011 event. Some EAS gear couldn’t handle the short turnaround.

The document summarizes much of what we’ve already reported, and indeed, since it was the first national test of the EAS, many problems were anticipated. The test was a chance to document what had been up to then — anecdotal — issues with the system.

While EAS experts have said there should be another national test, the Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau finally puts that in writing in the report.

However, the bureau recommends that several steps be taken before there’s another national EAS test. Those include initiating a rulemaking to review equipment performance during an EAN activation and seek public input on proposed changes, if any, to EAS equipment rules as well as encouraging states to review and update their EAS plans, especially regarding EAS monitoring assignments. FCC officials have said they discovered during the test that many stations didn’t know which facility in their market to monitor to receive the EAS alert.

The bureau encourages the White House to reconvene the federal EAS Test Working Group to ensure accountability as federal partners and other stakeholders work to implement the lessons learned from the first test and to plan for future nationwide tests.

To prepare the report, the bureau collected and analyzed thousands of reports, some that came in as late as last November, regarding the national test.