FCC Releases Flurry of EAS News

Among them is new state EAS plan online filing system called ARS and results from the 2017 EAS test
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A flurry of new emergency reporting updates have come from the Federal Communications Commission.

Among them are the creation of a new state EAS plan online filing system, the release of the commission’s formal report on the false EAS missile alert in Hawaii in January, results from the last nationwide EAS test and an upcoming public roundtable to share lessons learned from that false alert.

In a report and order, the commission established a new online filing system called Alert Reporting Systems, or ARS. This online filing system for EAS alerts combines the existing EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) with a new electronic system for the filing of state EAS plans.

ARS will replace paper-based filing requirements and by doing so, will ease the burdens on state emergency communications committees as well as give the FCC and FEMA better access to information about EAS. Data from state EAS plans will now need to be entered into a preconfigured online template designed to standardize monitoring and other common elements of an EAS state plan while avoiding concerns about establishing a one-size-fits-all template, the commission said.

[Read: FCC Releases Results of 2017 EAS Test]

The commission said the template will address all elements of a state EAS plans, including a monitoring assignment matrix similar to the one used by the Washington state SECC so that state emergency committees may input monitoring data into the ARS in a structured and consistent manner.

The requirement will go into effect one year after the Report and Order is published in the Federal Register.

“In this order, the [EAS] system gets some needed care and attention,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel after the order was released. More work remains, she said, saying that the FCC needs to take action on aspects that this order does not address, including false alert reporting.

On the same day, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released its report on the investigation into the false alert sent on Jan. 13 by a warning officer with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA).

The report details how the alert was deemed to be false, how certain groups were impacted by the false alert, the difficulties that arose in interviewing the HI-EMA employee who trigged the false alert as well as a set of recommendations moving forward.

“Neither the false alert nor the 38-minute delay to correct the false alert would have occurred” if the state had implemented reasonable safeguards to minimize the risk of a false alert and devised a plan for correcting a false alert sent to public, the group said in the resultant “Hawaii Preparedness Report.”

The bureau also announced a public roundtable to share lessons learned from the Hawaii false missile alert. That roundtable, to be held on May. 15, at the commission, will be open to the public and will be streamed live at www.fcc.gov/live. Additional details about discussion topics and workshop participants will be announced in a subsequent public notice.

The bureau also released the most recent results from the Sept. 27, 2017, nationwide EAS test.

On April 13, the Homeland Security Bureau also held a public workshop to improve communication and response efforts during a crisis. The meeting was attended by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, members from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, members from the Department of Homeland Security, members of state departments of public safety, and groups like the National Association of the Deaf and American Council of the Blind. A recorded presentation of the meeting is being uploaded to the FCC website.

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