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FCC Scrutinizes EAS

FCC Scrutinizes EAS

The FCC is reviewing the Emergency Alert System. Up for discussion is whether the FCC should mandate broadcast participation in state or local alerts.
Past reports indicated the commission would issue a Notice of Inquiry on the topic this month, but Thursday, the commissioners unanimously issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, seeking comment on how EAS can be improved to be a more effective mechanism for warning the American public of an emergency.
The action stems in part from recommendations of the Media Security and Reliability Council, an FCC Advisory Committee, and the Partnership for Public Warning, a private-public partnership.
The agency is coordinating efforts with the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service.
The commission seeks participation of state and local emergency planning organizations as well as all communications industries involved in alert and warning.
FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief David Solomon said during the FCC meeting that when the system was created, it was conceived primarily as a national warning system. Now, an action that would generate a warning message is more likely to be a local event.
“Since 9/11 the FCC and others have been considering ways of strengthening EAS. This NPRM, important to the future of EAS, should help local emergency planners and the private sector work together.”
FCC officials said one of the questions the agency seeks input on is whether it should require broadcasters to make their facilities available to local emergency officials during an emergency. The commission is also trying to figure out ways to bring EAS warnings to personal digital devices, disabled listeners and viewers and non-English-speakers.
Several commissioners said EAS is “from another era” and “antiquated.” Commissioner Kevin Martin said, “We need to either upgrade this system or to replace it with a more comprehensive and effective digital warning mechanism.”